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Do I have a chance at the Ivies? & Next steps for Senior Year

clipper1301clipper1301 21 replies2 threads Junior Member

First time posting. I'm currently a high school junior, and I'm wondering whether I should make a reasonable push to apply and pray that I get into an Ivy League school. I'll start by listing everything, just like typical "wHAt aRE My ChANceS?" threads:

Non-Hispanic White Male
Mediocre Public High School in the Detroit Suburbs, C.O. 2021
-Nobody has ever gone to an Ivy from my H.S.
Planned Major of Political Science
Parents are public school teachers, attended state schools
Income: a tad over ~100k a year

SAT: 800 Math/780 R/W 1580 Composite, school record apparently
ACT: Haven't taken yet*
SAT Subject: Haven't taken yet, plan to take in June (not sure which ones**)
GPA: Plan to graduate with W 4.32, UW 4.00 (Currently W 4.14, UW 4.00)
Class Rank: 1st, no competition
AP Scores (so far):
AP Gov: 5
AP Stats: 5

Coursework Highlights***:
10th Grade: AP Stats, AP Gov
11th Grade: AP Psych, APUSH, AP Lang + Comp
12th Grade (planned)****: Four (maybe five) APs, guaranteed to include Calculus but not sure about others
(my school only offers Stats, Gov, Lang, and Calc in class, so I'm taking Psych and APUSH online. I could go to a nearby school that offers more options part of the day)

1. Internship with State Representative (since 8th grade)
-At one point had knocked 4th most doors in the state, ~5000 doors cumulative since 2017, I hope to take a paid position on the 2020 campaign, duties include letter/tribute writing and planning fundraisers, etc.
2. Student Council (9th-12th)
-President of entire council (11th, plan to run for second term)
-Executive Board member (10th-12th)
3. National Honor Society (11th-12th)
-Hope to take up some sort of leadership position senior year
4. Quiz Bowl (9th-12th)
-Captain (9th-12th)
-Led team to states in 9th and 10th
-Broke points record for school
5. DECA (11th-12th)
6. Science Olympiad (11th-12th)
7. Key Club (11th-12th)
-Tied plastic bags into yarn to make blankets for animal shelters
-Hope to take up some sort of leadership position senior year
8. Church Youth Group

So anyway, I'd like to know what my chances could be in Ivy League Admissions. I'll probably be applying to all except Cornell and Dartmouth come next fall (unless someone on here convinces me otherwise). As for other schools I'll be applying to, the "Dream 14" includes those Ivies I mentioned and Georgetown, NYU, U of M, UChicago, WashU, Northwestern, Duke, and Vanderbilt. For safeties, I'll be applying to Michigan State, Kalamazoo College, Case Western*****.

At this point, I'd say my biggest weakness is probably my ECs, assuming I get 5s on APUSH/Psych/Lang coming up. The problem is really that my school doesn't offer many other options—we have no math or science clubs, no language clubs, no additonal honor societies besides HOSA, no other interest clubs (except Anime), no debate team, no Model UN, no political clubs of any sort. The only things I'm not involved in are Anime Club, GSA, Book Club, and Drama.

As for the asterisk-ed questions...

*: Should I bother taking the ACT? I read somewhere that admissions officers don't like to see "test-crazed" students who took both more than once. But then again, this is just hearsay and opinion, like just about everything on this forum.

**: What subject tests would be beneficial? I'm pretty set on taking US History, maybe Language and Math II.

***: My school only offers two years of Spanish. I've read that this may be a problem for specific Ivies that require four. Would I need to take a Spanish subject test to compensate? I would take AP Spanish but I've read that this is usually a Spanish V course which I would be ill-prepared for with just Spanish I and II.

****: What APs to take for next year? I can take Calc at my school next year which I will be taking—would self-studying for BC set me apart? We may offer Physics next year if we can manage 12 kids to sign up, but would this be worth it if I'm planning to major in Political Science? Other than that, I'm thinking about taking Euro History at a nearby school and then possibly an AP Econ course or perhaps AP English Lit—speaking of that, how different is English Lit from English Lang and is there any overlap?

*****: Looking for more safeties in the range between NYU/U of M and Michigan State.

Thanks in advance! I'd appreciate any advice I can get.

60 replies
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Replies to: Do I have a chance at the Ivies? & Next steps for Senior Year

  • jym626jym626 56226 replies2931 threads Senior Member
    No ACT.
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  • joecollege44joecollege44 219 replies17 threads Junior Member
    1st off, you have a 1580 SAT? don't waste your time with ACT- it adds nothing to your application. Honestly, you probably don't need subject tests either, unless you are dead set on Georgetown.
    And look at Pitt as a safety- really underrated school.
    I will leave the other questions you posed to people who are smarter than me.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 5855 replies1 threads Senior Member
    Your SAT is excellent, even for Ivy League schools. I don't see any point in taking the ACT.

    You should find out what your budget is, and run the NPC on schools that you are considering. Ivy League schools have very good need based aid, but no merit based aid. NYU has a reputation for being expensive, but I have no idea what it would cost for you.

    Also, take a close look at the schools that you are considering and see if there are any that you can eliminate. Keep at least two in-state safeties.

    Michigan is such a strong school that I am hard pressed to suggest any safety that would be stronger. With your stats McGill would also be a safety, but it is not obvious to me why you would prefer it to Michigan -- both are excellent.

    For ECs my philosophy has always been to do the ECs that you want to do. If you are doing what you want to do, you are likely to do it well. Remember that leadership means finding ways to help others and to help the group that you are leading. Leadership is not about helping yourself. I have a very similar philosophy regarding AP classes and exams -- do the ones that you want to do and otherwise do not worry about it.

    Generally I think that you are doing very well and should end up doing well at a great university in a couple of years.
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  • minimickeyminimickey 69 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Don’t bother with any more tests or worry about what aps to take - marginal effort here will bear no fruit since you are already more than qualified academically.

    Ecs wont stand out but enough to keep you In the mix.

    Your essays and ap will need to be outstanding. Find someone who knows the process and start working on messaging and essays asap.

    Go ed. It will roughly double your chances. Ea will help a little but not as much.

    If you are Rd for ivies you be in pool of applicants where roughly 1-4% are accepted. But you have a shot. Midwestern hs underrepresented at ivies will be a positive.
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1365 replies26 threads Senior Member
    I would be worried about the Spanish. Normally a student is not penalized for a high school's limitations, but it still seems a very weak part of your application for colleges with acceptance rates in single digits. Can you go to the nearby high school during part of the day for at least one more year of Spanish and/or find a summer language program? That would demonstrate persistence as well as fullfilling more of the foreign language expectation.
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  • clipper1301clipper1301 21 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Would SAT II Spanish be enough to strengthen the two-year foreign language weak point? Or would you recommend I take a third year of Spanish senior year either online or at a nearby high school AND take SAT II Spanish? Or drop the SAT II altogether and just go for the third year?
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  • minimickeyminimickey 69 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Don’t worry about spanish. You will not be penalized if your school offers only two years. Just make note if it in your app.
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  • TomSrOfBostonTomSrOfBoston 15068 replies1020 threads Senior Member
    Cae Western Reserve is not a safety. With your stats they may defer you or waitlist you because they figure you are using them as a safety.
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1365 replies26 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    Regarding the Spanish: If the OP does take other classes (such as APs) at the other high school, it might beg the question why he didn't also choose to take more Spanish, since filling in the academic gaps at this nearby school is obviously a possibility. Foreign language is an important core subject, especially for social science and humanities students.

    I have read that adcoms may overlook weak FL for a strong STEM student who opts instead to fit in linear algebra and such, but this is not the case here. No student would expect to be admitted to...say...MIT engineering without having taken calculus even if their school didn't offer it, if it were obviously possible to take calculus across town. So I'm not quite sure how people are so confident that the lack of Spanish won't be a factor in admissions to highly competitive schools.

    Obviously, a college won't penalize a standout student it REALLY wants as a consequence of a high school's shortcomings, but when the school has so many strong applicants that it could fill the school four times over with equally strong freshman classses, why leave ANY weaknesses in an application that can be addressed? U Michigan might be an exception since it is your in-state school and is there to serve talented Michigan students. But privates can choose or reject any applicant, for almost any reason.

    If possible, a Spanish class in a bricks-and-mortar school is best, especially as language is an interactive subject. But if scheduling and logistics for that are impossible, I would imagine doing an accredited online Spanish course would be better than yet another online or self-study AP (especially if it is a non-core or "soft" AP). I don't know if your family's budget can absorb it, but there are also summer for-credit intensive language programs abroad and within the U.S.
    edited December 2019
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  • clipper1301clipper1301 21 replies2 threads Junior Member
    It appears likely then that I will attempt to take a third year of Spanish in some form Senior year. What are the different foreign language recommendations for the Ivies? That is, which ones recommend four vs. three? I don't know if you're familiar with the AP Spanish Lang. curriculum at all, but would it be unreasonable for me to jump in to AP Spanish Lang. at another school next year with a great deal of preparation the summer before?
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  • clipper1301clipper1301 21 replies2 threads Junior Member
    What would you recommend as a reasonable safety then?
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1365 replies26 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    @clipper1301, it's hard to say because the level and quality of Spanish classes vary so much at every high school. A few competitive high schools do AP Spanish as the third year of Spanish, but I'd say the majority place AP in the fourth. My daughter's school moves very slowly with Spanish and AP is done as a fifth year (obviously, for those who started Spanish in eighth grade). She is doing less in her fourth year class than I did in my third year! (I know, because I still have the novel we read in Spanish 3.)

    Is it possible for you to meet and talk with a Spanish teacher from the school you would be attending? Ideally, you would be assessed to find out your general level but, if that's not possible the teacher may be familiar with the Spanish 2 material from your school. I would ask that teacher (and your current teacher) for recommendations about online programs, and whether there's any possibility you could move into AP Spanish, given your grades and motivation level. I'm not that familiar with AP Spanish but I've read that an emphasis is placed on expressive communication; if you could get any experience in conversational Spanish with a tutor, befriending a Spanish-speaking exchange student or volunteering with Spanish-speaking people (a fine EC for a future poli-sci major, BTW) it could be to your advantage.

    You sound like a capable and highly-motivated student who can learn quickly. So much of learning a foreign language is memorization and practice, practice pratice. Listening to recordings, Spanish-speaking movies (with subtitles) on Netflix and such can help get your ear used to the flow of the language. Good luck to you!
    edited December 2019
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  • tgl2023tgl2023 260 replies6 threads Junior Member
    I commend you for taking such early action on your college applications. I dare say that you have already the test scores and GPA to advance your applications at these schools beyond the first reads; the rest, LORs and essays need to be outstanding for your applications to go further in the process.

    Why do you consider your ECs to be "probably the biggest weakness"? Is it because you have not (yet) won the Intel science award? The number and perceived prestige of ECs might catch some attention, however, it is most important that in your essays to show that from what have been available to you and your family, you have chosen meaningful and significant activities, and how these have enriched your life, expanded your horizons and enhanced your academic pursuits.

    You seem to have taken the best advantage from what your HS can offer in terms of ECs, in your participation in the student body government. Furthermore, as you have demonstrated, meaningful ECs need not be associated with a club, your field work for political campaigns is a good example. I second inthegarden's suggestion in post #12, to befriend a Spanish-speaking exchange student to learn about his or her culture and for you to have experience in conversational Spanish. This would be a good (perhaps better) substitute for a bought-experience, say, study abroad in Barcelona.

    LORs are important to successful applications; may I suggest that you help your teachers to write their LORs, for example, help them to recall relevant events (that they witnessed or were part of) that can demonstrate that best of your characters (resilience, perseverance, empathy...), and how these events also attest to the likelihood for your future success in your aspirations. Would they describe you as the most exceptional student? Perhaps show them your essays to induce some resonance in their LORs for you. Note that I am not advocating that you write the LORs and of course, your teachers would not allow it.

    Essays and short answers are of utmost importance; use every available word space judiciously. I recommend reading Alan Gelb's "Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps" and start writing (soon).

    To answer your question of "wondering whether I should make a reasonable push to apply and pray that I get into an Ivy League school", I say, you do have the stats, so go for it, IF these schools are indeed suitable for you. There is plenty of time for you to investigate what these schools offer and see if you like them.

    In terms of other schools to consider, perhaps take a look at the University of Maryland, College Park; its proximity to Washington DC might be of use to students with interest in political science.
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  • clipper1301clipper1301 21 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Thank you very much tgl! I considered my EC's to be my weak point because it seems like a lot of Ivy applicants have engaged in more far-reaching internships or have participated in some sort of academic research; however, this may just be my impression from reading a few posts from STEM students. Moreover, I am a member of quite a few clubs and organizations, but I'm currently only President of one—Student Council (though this is one of the more valuable ones). As for my political work, I'm thinking this may be a good essay topic—how hard it was to start a political internship the summer after 8th Grade with mostly college students. Another potential topic for an essay related to this EC would be the experiences I acquired after talking to hundreds of constituents on the doorstep in my community.

    In addition, I will be able to get a LOR from the State Representative in question, which I presume would be valuable. I know a few people in my congressperson's district office and have done some marginal fieldwork for them, so I may be able to pull a few strings and get another LOR from them.

    As for the Spanish, the last time we had a Spanish exchange student was four years ago and I don't think we will be getting another anytime soon. There is a person in my grade who I'm fairly close with whose parents are from Mexico and speak Spanish at home; they are fluently bilingual but do not write well in Spanish. Perhaps I could ask them with some speaking practice since my school's Spanish curriculum has no focus on speaking whatsoever—we only learn how to read and write.

    My only problem with DC area schools such as College Park is that they seem to be four-year-long programs in which the primary objective is to meet as many important people as possible and build as many worthwhile connections to get a job in the government or a think tank after graduation. I don't want learning to take a back seat to networking; this is a reason I won't be considering Michigan State's James Madison School of Government due to its close proximity to Lansing. The students there are singularly-career-focused and incredibly insufferable in my opinion—though I want to attend an Ivy League or T20 school so I'll likely meet a lot of these types anyway.
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  • so_excited!:)so_excited!:) 14 replies1 threads Junior Member
    As everyone has already said, your stats are outstanding and in the 75th percentile for even the most competitive schools. While some have said not to do any more testing, I think SAT subject tests are either required or recommended (sometimes even highly recommended) at several of the school's you referenced, so it might be worth taking at least 1.

    It's clear that you've taken the most challenging courses offered to you as well. But as others have mentioned, only 2 years of Spanish may be a bit concerning considering it was possible for you take online classes or classes at other schools. But I wouldn't worry too much about it. You're a junior. Take a Spanish class next year. To my knowledge, while some schools will recommend 4 or 3 years of a foreign language, they rarely require it for admittance. By taking a Spanish class next year, you'll be able to turn this disadvantage into a possible advantage; it'll look like you went out of your way to learn which is exactly what these schools are looking for.

    Extracurriculars, like others have said, are fine. They won't set you apart but they hint at your interest and they show that you used some of your time to help your community/advance your interest. They do the job and won't be a weakness.

    But here's what really concerns me about your post. "I'll probably be applying to all except Cornell and Dartmouth come next fall (unless someone on here convinces me otherwise). As for other schools I'll be applying to, the 'Dream 14.'" The only thing these schools have in common is prestige. And it seems that Cornell and Dartmouth were excluded from the list because of some silly idea that they are significantly less prestigious than those other schools (though I may be wrong in assuming). Applying to this many schools plus safeties will be VERY expensive (there are application fees for each school). It will also take a lot of time and trying to distribute that time across all these applications will result in half-baked applications that will be rejected by most if not all of these schools.

    Perhaps your school doesn't offer very good college counseling, especially for schools like this. But I advice you to think a long time about what you want from a school to narrow down your list. Urban/suburban/rural? Size? Location? Strength of PolySci department? Campus? Community? Religious affiliation? etc. Answering these questions will narrow down your list a lot. And perhaps it will even introduce you to amazing schools that aren't part of this "Dream 14." But aside from these concerns, all I and anyone else can say is you're a strong applicant and the rest will depend on the quality of your essays, recs, and interview.
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  • minimickeyminimickey 69 replies0 threads Junior Member
    The state rep letter will be valuable if this person knows you well enough to provide insight into you as a person and a candidate. However some schools will only consider 2 recs from teachers.

    The ecs that can really make a difference in the unhooked rd pool are generally accomplishments or talents that are recognized at a state/national level. At this point it will be valuable for you to start thinking about what you say about your activities (and what they say about you.)
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  • minimickeyminimickey 69 replies0 threads Junior Member
    You are fortunate to live in Michigan, which has one of the best state schools in the country. If you submit a thoughtful application, I’d be surprised if they didn’t take you. That should make the whole process more relaxed for you.
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  • clipper1301clipper1301 21 replies2 threads Junior Member
    The reason why I probably won't be applying to Cornell and Dartmouth is that in 1) from what I've read, my general understanding is that Dartmouth is a party school (which I don't want) and 2) Cornell IMHO has the lowest-ranked political science department of the Ivies; less selective schools with higher acceptance rates like U of M and WashU may have better programs. Perhaps most importantly, both Cornell and Dartmouth have the remotest locations of any of the Ivies, with Princeton and Yale being within breathing distance of NY and Brown Boston.

    As for answering your questions, I'd like an urban school with less than 10,000 undergraduates, a strong political science department, a walkable, fairly compact campus, and located in the Midwest, Upper South, or the East Coast. I don't really know how to answer "community" (close-knit?), and religious affiliation does not matter. Of course, I'd be willing to bend these conditions for places like U of M (larger, more spread out North campus) and others.

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  • clipper1301clipper1301 21 replies2 threads Junior Member
    edited December 2019
    In terms of the sheer number of schools I listed in my first post, it's pretty likely that I'll be taking at least a few of these off my list. I can already predict that NYU will just be too expensive and that Georgetown and UPenn might not have the vibe that I'm looking for. And after touring all or most of these, I'm sure I will knock off a few more.
    edited December 2019
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  • inthegardeninthegarden 1365 replies26 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    What is the vibe that you're looking for? As opposed to what? Is it something you can articulate? If you can, I imagine there are people here who can steer you toward schools you might like that you hadn't previously considered.
    edited December 2019
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