Applying to UM, UI, CU, UT, and UW Out-of-State, EFC = 0

I am a homeschooled junior in NC graduating a year early to take a gap year in Peru next year. I was accepted to UNC Chapel Hill as a Carolina Covenant Scholar, which basically means I get free tuition because my EFC is 0. I also took community college classes throughout high school and should graduate with 26 or so college credits, in addition to maybe 10-20 AP credits plus credit for finishing the standard calc sequence up through linear algebra and differential equations. I have taken some classes through EPGY and Stanford OHS, and hope to take a few courses through John Hopkins CTY this summer. I am also a QuestBridge finalist.

SAT: 1480
SAT Math II: 800
SAT Physics: 800
GPA (projected, by the end of junior year): 3.90 - 3.93
Volunteer Experience: Youth Ministry, SPCA, miscellaneous “fluff”
Work Experience: CFA, will work at Harris Teeter this summer
“Leadership Experience”: not much

My family has always been moving around a lot and I started homeschooling in middle school, so I have never gotten the chance to stay at one school for more than two years, which is why I have never joined any clubs/school-related EC’s. It takes at least a year for me just to adapt to a new social environment and establish myself. I also had to take out a part-time job to pay for my tuition at OHS, and it is my family’s general expectation that if I want to take some fancy online classe or take AP exams, I have to pay for it myself.

Everything at Carolina works out, and I understand it is an excellent school and know some out-of-state students would consider themselves privileged to go to school there, especially considering it has world-renowned pharmacy, biostatistics, and pre-med programs. The problem is, I would never even consider pursuing a career related to the biomedical sciences. For many years now I have wanted to study applied physics– condensed matter physics in particular. My dream is to get my Ph.D. at either UC Berkeley or U Chicago. After that, I would like to go into academia or R&D in the public sector. Working for Texas Instruments, Intel, AMD, or Lockheed Martin would be nice. Engineering is my back-up– which specialty within engineering, I have no idea.

My point is, I would much rather be a lousy physicist at a lousy university than be the best pre-med/pharmacy student at a top public university. Consequently, I am considering attending one of the following universities OOS instead.

UT Austin
UT Dallas
Texas A&M
UW Madison
UM Ann Arbor
UW Seattle
CU Boulder
Georgia Tech

The plan is to reapply for college during my gap year. That gives me about six more months to improve my application as much as possible. I applied to be a tutor at Paper Airplanes, a nonprofit organization that connects Syrian refugees with American writing and English volunteer tutors for free. I will also be taking classes through Code The Dream, another nonprofit in the Research Triangle Park that offers free software development classes to minority, immigrant, and underrepresented students in North Carolina. I am also applying for financial aid to take coding classes through Coursera.
I understand GTech, Tufts, and Colby would be reach schools for me, but I intend to apply to Colby ED. I got waitlisted this year, which basically tells me that I am academically qualified to go to Colby but they just did not have enough room to accept me. If I apply Early Action/Early Decision, I should get in. Colby is of particular interest to me because they guarantee to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need, and offer a 3-2, dual-degree engineering program in collaboration with Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering, which is one of the top 15 engineering programs in the country. If I were to go to Colby, I would major in Physics and complete my engineering prereqs along the way. Colby is basically my “dream school” in this plan; Tufts, UM Ann Arbor, and Georgia Tech are “reach”; CU Boulder, Texas A&M, and UT Dallas are “safeties”; and the rest are “target” schools.

The issue is, I cannot count on getting into Tufts or Colby, both of which offer fantastic financial aid. The rest of the schools are public flagships, which I have heard are notoriously difficult for OOS students to afford. I understand that attending a community college in Texas, Georgia, Michigan, or Illinois is a possibility, but that is my last resort. Considering that I have already taken community college classes in NC for two years, and that I have worked tirelessly to build up a reasonably competitive high school record, it would feel like taking a step backward. And yes, I have considered the UC school system. I was interested in Cal and Santa Barbara, but I have ruled those out as options because of the high cost of living, high crime rates, crowded classes, poor economy, traffic, etc. in California. I lived around the LA area for ten years, so I know I would not enjoy myself there.

What can I do to afford to attend any of these universities? Must I depend on getting into Tufts or Colby? Are there any good scholarship programs for OOS students at these specific schools? Should I just do physics at UNC (it is a terrible program from what I gathered at the tours I went on)? I need to go to grad school and I have heard that it is very uncommon for Carolina students to get good research experience, so what am I supposed to do? If I do not get any research, should I just do a masters in between my undergard and Ph.D.? How am I supposed to fund my masters? Please help.

What is “terrible” about physics at UNC-CH, NCSU, or other NC public universities?

Realistically, for those out-of-state public universities on your list, you should consider them all reaches, since you need large merit scholarships to afford them, and they may not have many large-enough ones (so they are highly competitive).

A student with an EFC of zero should not be looking at 3-2 programs. Sometimes these work out; sometimes they don’t (an extra semester, being out of sequence, getting an offer for a lucrative internship which you need to/want to take but the timing delays you starting at the second institution.)

You need to reboot. I’m not sure why you aren’t dancing on the tabletop at UNC. Why would you major in pharmacy if you want to study physics?

You have a full ride at great school. Run with it, do super, and then go to one of the dream schools for grad school.

You’ve been accepted to a first rate research university (UNC) as a Carolina Covenent Scholar…and you think you should go to one of the others schools on this list? Frankly…I think you need to think about this.

First of all…if you have deferred your enrollment at UNC with the Carolina Covenent Scholars award, are you even ALLOWED to apply to other schools without first letting the UNC offer go. You need to find that out.

Second. How are you going to pay for the public schools on your list? You will be an OOS applicant at all of those public universities. None guarantee to meet full need for all accepted students. UNC DOES have this guarantee to meet full need.

With an EFC of $0 at UNC, your costs would likely be very close to fully covered. All of your costs. You might need the federally funded loan…but that’s it.

Tufts and Colby do meet full need, but frankly, I think UNC is a better choice.

This sounds like a “grass is greener on the other side” post. You are so very lucky to have this offer at UNC.

Read this (I know it’s from 2015, but otherwise very relevant): https://www.■■■■■■■■■/Whats-it-like-to-study-physics-at-UNC-Chapel-Hill

The only public school on your list that promises to meet 100% demonstrated need for OOS is UM Ann Arbor. At the other schools, there are no full rides unless you are throwing long, you have a mean rushing/passing game or you are hitting nothing but net from the 3-point/top of the key.

Even on the off chance you got full tuition (slim), you would still be responsible for room and board. After your Pell grant and loan, you still need $$ for fees, medical (because most likely, you may not have adequate insurance for them to waive the requirement), you need books, start up cost and transportation to get back and fort. You are putting an unnecessary hardship on your family if they don’t have the means to pay.

While Tufts meets 100% demonstrated need, they are need aware/need sensitive, which means your ability to pay will be a factor in the admissions process.

I hope that @katwkittens comes on to this thread. She moved cross country for her amazing accomplished kittens could be in-state at NC. Her children have fared extremely well, even going to med school.

I think that you are beyonded blessed to have this option and that you should run with it. Are you really willing to risk your grear opportunity when you have o guarantee that your "dream’ will work out

Are you really going to tell UNC that you are deferring so that you can try to get into Colby? What will have really changed from last year. They are going to review your old application against your new application, unless you have done something substantial, do not expect to get into Colby ED, where over 60% of the pool is hooked (legacies, Athletes, Developmental admits, Posse, Questbridge, high achieving URMs that they want to lock in, full pay international students or anyone else that meets the institutional mission for next year).

None of the schools on your list are financial safeties, therefore they are not safeties for you. As others have said, they will not guarantee to meet full need for all students, and are less likely to for OOS students.

You have a full tuition offer at UNC, which is a terrific school. It does not seem wise to risk that for a chance at Tufts and Colby when you would not have another backup option.
Getting waitlisted at Colby does not mean you’d necessarily get in ED. You don’t know how many people they waitlisted, but in recent years it’s been 600-700. Schools often say they could have filled another entire class with students they had to turn down or waitlist.

Don’t count your chickens. You should know that Colby does not offer early action. Also, as a $0 EFC student for whom financial aid is very important, the idea of applying early decision should give you serious pause; you won’t have the ability to compare financial aid offers of other schools against Colby if you apply early decision. Finally, I have a hard time believing that the opportunities for an undergraduate physics major will be a whole lot better at Colby than at UNC Chapel Hill.

Michigan doesn’t currently guarantee to meet full need for OOS students. If this student has income below a certain threshold, they would get free tuition…and Michigan might meet their need as an OOS student for,the remainder of the COA…but that is currently not a guarantee for all admitted OOS students.

Tufts and Colby meet full need. But so does UNC for instate students…and this $0 EFC student already has an acceptance there.

In my opinion, a 1480 SAT score is not a slam dunk for Tufts admissions…with a 3.93 GPA. But that’s my opinion.

CU-Boulder does not give significant financial aid to OOS students. Neither does UIUC.

My DH has a PhD in physics from a top 5 physics program. My SIL also has a physics PhD and is currently a tenured physic prof at a top U. Dh’s classmates in grad school didn’t come from “elite” undergrad programs. They came from places that include Drexel, Bucknell, Penn State, University of Maryland, Haverford, Arizona State, New College-Florida, Florida State, Colorado School of Mines, University of North Dakota, Michigan State and OK, there was one guy from Brown…you get the idea.

There is nothing magical about your list of undergrad colleges. In fact the LAC (Colby) on your list is probably a poor choice for an ambitious physics student. (I’ll get to why later.) The undergrad physics curriculum is pretty standardized across the board at all US colleges & universities. So the basic coursework isn’t going to differ much no matter what undergrad you attend. What you should be looking at is research opportunities in your area(s) of interest as well as the breadth of upper level electives offered in math, physics, chemistry and computer science. The opportunity to take some graduate level classes while still in undergrad is also a huge plus.

LACs have limited research options, and they do not offer a variety of upper level specialized electives. Both issues are the top complaints I’ve heard over and over from physics students who have pursued grad studies. (The other issue you’ll run into at a LAC is the limited physics faculty. Upper level elective are only offered every other or every third year. You will probably have the same prof for several classes–which can be a great way to get to know your profs well, but the down side is that it’s pretty much a sure thing that for some of those classes, the prof is teaching outside their area of expertise. Also if any prof is poor teacher–there’s no getting away from them. )

What PhD programs look at when considering grad applicants is: grades in upper level math & physics electives, GRE score (esp the quantitative portion), your research experience and LORs from your physics profs. (The academic physics community is a lot smaller than you think. Seriously the academic physics world is tiny. Everyone knows everyone. So when your research advisor writes a LOR that says “this kid walks on water, best student I’ve ever had,” top programs pay attention–even if you are attending Never Heard of It College.)

You’ve been offered a great deal at UNC. Take it. Do well in your classes, find an interesting research lab and get involved, impress your profs, kill your GRE. Do all that and no grad physics program in the US will be beyond your reach.

Thanks guys. I actually spoke to some of my teachers/counselors around the time I posted this and they gave me there feedback before I got a chance to look back at this. I already decided to stick with UNC and not reapply at all over my gap year.

their feedback*

Terrific. UNC is a great school!

^^^^ Yep!! I am completely biased!! Son LOVED his time at Carolina! And he was there longer than most…MD+MBA!
Take advantage of all the opportunities to be had at UNC. And pre-med is a set of prerequsite classes. Can major in anything. You might be surprised what is happening in the field of medicine. UNC is a great place to discover those even though you are now currently set on physics. UNC is #1 for primary care and public health.