Am I going in the right direction? Chance me?

Alright I haven’t used CC much before so I hope this is in the right place. I’m looking for advice for this year/senior year especially since I’ve felt so lost with the pandemic and since I’m interested in so many things and I don’t know if I should cut down and focus more.

I’m interested in HYPSM, Caltech, Harvey Mudd, UC type schools but please let me know what would be realistic. I’m kind of liking the small school vibe right now, but that might change, and I’m definitely looking for schools with strong STEM fields and/or great STEM research. Also, if I’m interested in pure or applied math, physics, and neuroscience, what kinds of majors or programs would be recommended, especially interdisciplinary ones?

Background: Asian-American girl, junior from California, public school, both parents went to university, don’t need to apply for financial aid


Rank: my school doesn’t do rank, but definitely in the top 5%

Grades: GPA is kind of a mess because of pandemic, but 4.0 UW and almost all honors/AP weighted classes for 10th-12th grade

SAT/PSAT/ACT: 1480 PSAT in 10th grade, 34 ACT in 8th grade, will take PSAT to try to get NMSQT this year, probably also another ACT (I don’t know if I can use an 8th grade score) or an SAT, and possibly subject tests, all depending on pandemic situation


  • 10th grade: Calc AB(5), CSA(5), Physics 1(5), Stats(5), Music Theory(4)
    -11th grade: taking APUSH, AP Bio, AP Chem, AP Physics C (both), AP Calc BC classes, will take all of these tests
    -have college credit for 2 courses, audited 2 including linear algebra (all science/math courses). Taking Calculus III right now for credit at a UC, planning on taking several more college math courses.


Science Olympiad: Club founder, president
-currently only in our second year, but have grown to over 40 members
-I medaled in an event at regionals our first year
-During the summer we held frequent community workshops for younger students and other high schoolers; we do outreach to help jr high clubs during the school year.

Research: Currently doing computational neuroscience research with a lab at a university- not sure yet how that is going to turn out.

Science Bowl:
-current: district head coach/mentor coordinator for jr highs, will continue competing if possible virtually
-10th grade: 4th in regionals, head coach for a junior high
-9th grade: B team captain

Women in STEM: Officer- other than WiSTEM opportunities for high schoolers, we do a lot of community volunteering/tutoring and host a annual math competition/STEM fair for younger girls. I lead the logistics for the math comp including test writing.

Math/Science Competitions: I do a lot of math competitions- it’s kind of hard to quantify, but- I’ve made AIME, went to ARML/ARML local in 9th-10th, and was invited to Math Prize for Girls
-volunteer to help write problems for a local university (a UC) math circle
-school math club - write problems for competition we host (separate from WISTEM)
-will take F=MA, likely also USACO, Brain Bee, not sure what to expect out of those

-Cross country 9th-10th- medaled in sections/subsections in frosh/soph division both years, team got 1st in 9th and 2nd in 10th
-Swim 9th grade, made league finals
-Track 10th grade, once school opens, will continue cross country and track.

-local jazz band, used to do more concert band as well and have been in honor bands
-finished ABRSM piano exams
-executive officer for a NPO that helps students start music tutoring programs and organize events among programs- just founded this year but already is helping several schools.

-camps, took classes/college science courses in summers before 9th and 10th
-research (still continuing) during summer before 11th
-I’m looking at some math camps or research camps for summer before 12th - not sure what my chancing would be for more competitive camps like RSI, Ross, SUMAC, SSP, PROMYS etc, but they sound really fun. Advice for this too?

-Volunteer with some other nonprofits- mostly have to do with STEM education, developing curriculums, hosting competitions, tutoring, etc, mostly in neuroscience
-Writer for a magazine about girls in STEAM
-CSF 9th-11th
-ASL club 9th-11th
-Math and Science tutoring club 11th
-AI club at local university (a UC) 10th-11th

I think I mentioned most awards above especially regarding competitions, the only other thing would be AP Scholar with Distinction in 10th grade

Sorry I wrote in such huge blocks, but I tend to chunk related things together. Please be as honest as possible :] and any input is appreciated. Thank you!!!

Yes I think you are on the right track, and that it would be worth putting in applications at some of these reach schools.

That said, make sure you have fabulous match and safety options too!

Case Western and RPI type schools for a match. Rose Hulman as a safety.

Focus on the ECs that you care about and that matter to you. The fact that you founded a club that is doing well and has grown to 40 members is very good. Helping this club continue to grow and to be a good club that people want to participate in is a very good accomplishment. Being in a band suggests that you have stuck to music for rather a while, which again shows the ability to stick with an activity and do it well.

To me it sounds like you are doing very well. When it comes time to apply to universities, make sure that you apply to at least two safeties and keep your budget in mind.

For very strong students such as you, the reaches are often easy to pick out because they are famous. Safeties are usually either in-state public universities, or can be more difficult to pick out because they are less famous but also because there may be a lot of schools to choose from. Safeties are however very important.

Yes, you are “going in the right direction”.

Impressive resume. If you’re in CA you can probably look at some instate publics as safeties ( @Gumbymom would probably have good suggestions there). You have the stats for the reaches, but you’re up against the 5%-ish admit rates there so having some solid matches that you’d be happy to go to is also a good idea.

I do not think you can use an eight grade ACT score—you would likely have to retake the test as a junior (your school may pay for this, or the SAT, as a graduation requirement.) If you’re planning on applying to CMU, keep in mind that their Admissions website states that they do not prefer ACT/SAT test scores earlier from Junior year, and will take when you took the test into account. However, a 34 is a strong score, so you might try contacting a few schools and asking.

CMU Testing:

If you become a NMF (most do, barring failed classes, not filling out the application etc.) there are many, many schools that will offer you major scholarships. You can find lists on Google, but off of the top of my head (based on 34+ ACT/SAT:)


  • University of Central Florida: Automatic admission to Honors w/full-ride.
  • Alabama: Full-ride of first-year, full-tuition for the remaining IIRC.
  • UT Dallas: Essentially a full-ride, though it doesn't explicitly state this.
  • Texas A & M: ~Full-tuition


  • FSU: Full-ride


  • UF Honors: Full-ride, though funding's dependent on the state-legislature. Apply and evaluate the situation once decisions release. --- I was also admitted into the University Research Scholars Program here. There's no separate application, but my admissions letter said it was awarded to the top 5%? of applicants. The program helps you find research opportunities, and you receive a notation or medal or something at graduation.
  • USC: Automatic half-tuition, chance of full-tuition.

Now I’m obviously biased since I go here, but have you considered Brown? The Open Curriculum’s perfect to pursue multiple interests while having the resources of an Ivy-League research university (and a relatively small graduate population to boot.)

Hope that helps!

@schrodingerscat3 It is a bit early to start planning to which colleges you should apply. Although your academics and ECs have been excellent until now, you are still in the first semester of your Junior year. You will only start applying to colleges in about a year.

Although, based on your past two years, I expect that you will do very well, there’s many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip. Your GPA and the rest of your profile only include 4 of the 7 semesters that are included in applications, and for the UCs, only 2 of the 5 semesters that are included in the calculations.

You should focus on continuing your excellent work, rather than wasting time on creating exact college lists.

So long as you keep up your great work, you will be highly competitive for any college out there, including the most popular ones with the lowest acceptance rate.

PS. Isn’t finishing AP Calc BC a prerequisite for taking Calculus III?

I definitely think you are heading in the right direction to be a competitive applicant for the UC’s.

UC’s only use 10-11th grades for their GPA calculation and will give extra honors points for UC approved HS Honors classes, AP, IB or DE courses taken 10-11th grades. The Capped weighted UC GPA gives a maximum 8 honors points (8 semesters) and the Fully Weighted UC GPA gives an unlimited # of honors points for these courses 10-11th grades. Freshman grades will be evaluated to determine if you passed all a-g courses. Senior year courses will be evaluated to determine if you will the meet the a-g courses by end of Senior year and also your HS course rigor.

Here is the UC GPA calculator:

So end of Junior year, calculate your 3 UC GPA’s and see where you stand. The UC’s do publish their admit ranges based on Capped weighted GPA and test scores to help you gauge your chances.

The UC’s goals are to become completely test blind and develop their own admission testing by 2024. Currently they are test optional for the majority of campuses and some campuses have already stated they will be test blind due to the pandemic. I would still consider testing since everything can change by the time you apply.

Here is an example:
2019 Freshman admit rates for UC GPA of 4.20 or above capped weighted and **not major specific: **
UCB: 38%
UCLA: 35%
UCSD: 71%
UCSB: 73%
UCD: 84%
UCI: 55%
UCSC: 85%
UCR: 97%
UCM: 98%

**2020 UC capped weighted GPA averages along with 25th-75th percentile range: **
UCB: 4.22 (4.13-4.30)
UCLA: 4.25 (4.18-4.31)
UCSD: 4.18(4.04-4.28)
UCSB: 4.17 (4.03-4.27)
UCI: 4.11 (3.96-4.26)
UCD: 4.11 (3.97-4.25)
UCSC: 3.94 (3.71-4.16)
UCR: 3.88 (3.65-4.11)
UCM: 3.68 (3.40-3.96)

2020 Data:
25th - 75th percentiles for SAT totals:

UCB: 1320-1560
UCLA: 1350-1550
UCSD: 1310-1520
UCSB: 1290-1510
UCD: 1230-1490
UCI: 1280-1510
UCSC: 1170-1440
UCR: 1110-1380
UCM: 980-1260

25th - 75th percentiles for ACT composite + language arts
UCB: 29-35
UCLA: 31-35
UCSD: 29-34
UCSB: 28-34
UCD: 26-33
UCI: 27-34
UCSC: 24-32
UCR: 21-31
UCM: 18-27

Not sure where you are doing research but these are my recommendations for California schools. Applicants need to start from the top down so first find 2 safety schools that you are willing to attend no matter what.

Safety: Cal Poly SLO (very good Physics program), UC Riverside and Santa Cruz (Neuroscience/Math or Physics)

Target: UC San Diego (excellent Neuroscience program), UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine.

Reach: UCSB CCS for Math and Physics, UCLA UC Berkeley, Stanford, Cal Tech and Harvey Mudd.

Best of luck and keep up the excellent work.