Brutally Chance a Rising Senior From the Midwest

Hey guys! I want to make sure I’m being realistic in my college choices this upcoming college app season so if you have any help or insight on my college list, that would be amazing.

What are my chances of getting into Stanford, MIT, UChicago, Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia? (I have safties I promise haha)


  • Female
  • African American
  • Ohio: uncompetitive catholic school (sends about 3-4 to T20s each year)
  • Hooks: URM, Low Income, First Gen, Woman in Stem
  • 18-20k income

Intended Major(s): Double major in Chinese Language/Linguistics and Data Science or Engineering


32 (30M, 29S, 35E, 32R) - taking again this June since I isn’t prepared for this one (currently getting 35+ in practice tests)

Didn’t take the SAT, but might take it in August if my ACT doesn’t go well

UW/W GPA and Rank: 3.95/4.3 (one single B on my transcript from a DE software class I took at OSU; the rest are high As), ranked 1/230, 13 APs, 4 DEs

Coursework: AP Calc AB (5), AP CSP (3), AP Enviro (4), AP World (5), APUSH (4), the rest of my classes are honors

Junior yr: AP Lang, AP Calc BC, AP Euro, AP Chem

Senior Courseload: DE Calc III, DE Calc based Stats, AP Gov, AP Physics C, AP Chinese, AP Lit

Also took 2 DE classes for Software engineering, Got a B in my class this semester due to having to work to support my family. The class took place after school hours so it was hard to attend (not sure if this grade will hurt me that much??)


  • Gold Presidential Service Award - 250+ service hours
  • Horatio Alger National Scholar - one of 106 chosen nationally to receive $25,000 scholarship to uni of choice
  • STEM Innovation Award - $1500 award given by my state for my research project
  • National Chinese Speech Competiton - 2nd place nationally
  • Chinese Bridge Competition - 1st place in Eastern region. Won $5000 scholarship; one of 2 in the US to be chosen to participate in the international competition in China in the fall
  • ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) - Won 1st place regionally for Engineering/CS category. Will participate in national competition in summer
  • Mandarin Seal of Biliteracy with distinction - displayed near fluent proficiency in Mandarin. Awarded by my state
  • NCWIT Aspirations in Computing - National Honorable Mention
  • National African American Scholar - for PSAT score
  • Questbridge College Prep Scholar
  • Alexander Hamilton Schola - one of 40 chosen nationality to receive $1000 cash scholarship award and participate in 5-year college access program
  • National Merit Scholar Commended
  • National Cybersecurity Scholar
  • and a lot of national scholarships and awards I have yet to hear back from, so fingers crossed!

Extracurriculars: not ranked in any particular order

  1. Paid Research at UPitt Bioinformatics Center - Used Machine Learning and AI to predict the clinical outcome of chronic pain patients. No publications, but did receive national recognition and awards at some science fairs. Worked there for 2 years.
  2. SOBE (student organization for black empowerment) Leadership Committee- Organize monthly meetings, chosen to be on equity board at school, started scholarship fund for POC students at my school, helped plan the schools first ever BLM celebration/assembly
  3. Code Club President and Founder - Received $1500 grant to teach engineering and programming using Arduinos at my school. Spent entire summer creating curriculum to teach 50+ students programming and engineering fundamentals. Expanded club to local library to teach middle school girls to code as well.
  4. Bank of America Student Leader - One of 4 chosen in my city for the program. Paid internship at local nonprofit that works to provide college access to underserved communites.
  5. Kode With Klossy Instructor Assistant - Started out as a KWK scholar, but asked to come back as an instructor assistant. Helped teach summer program with over 150+ students in Mobile App development.
  6. Google Code Next Student Engineer - Chosen by Google Engineers to participate in year long CS access program. Created projects such as a 3d chess set and worked with Raspberry Pi
  7. Student Council Student President - Was also Junior class president this past school year. Hosted a ton of fundraisers, planned events, etc.
  8. City Youth Council - hand-picked by city government leaders to represent the 40,000+ highschool students in my city. Meets monthly for 6 hours at city hall to discuss and bring up suggestions on how to make the city a more equitable and safe environment for teens.
  9. Family Restuaraunt - Literally my most time-consuming EC. I work here for like 40+ hours a week to support my mom in her business since she can’t afford to hire workers right now. Helped code and design a website for her and keep track of finances. My grades have slipped a few times due to the stress of balancing it, but I love it nonetheless.
  10. Chinese Language Stuff - President of my schools Chinese language club. Worked with my Chinese teacher and the international students at my school to spread Chinese culture. Participated and placed well in national and international Chinese speech/ language competitions. Worked with well-known Asia-based companies to volunteer to help subtitle Chinese media from C-dramas to variety shows to news into English that over 200k+ people have utilized (have done this for 2+ years).


  • Chinese Teacher (10/10) - She helped me prepare for my speech competitions and I’ve been really close with her for the past 3 years
  • CS teacher (10/10) - Work with him outside of school in Code Club. Taught me in my AP CSP class.
  • Mayor? (8/10) - I’ve known him throughout this school year through my city’s youth council program. He’ll definitely write something strong but I’m not sure if I should ask him since I’m not interested in public policy…
  • Research Mentor? (8/10) - We’ve known each other for 2 years through the research I’ve done under her mentorship. English isn’t her first language, though so I’m not sure if she’ll be a good writer. I absolutely adore her, though and thing she’ll write a decent letter if I decide to ask her.

Essays (9/10) - I’ve written so many essays for all the summer programs and scholarships I’ve applied to and have had extremely good luck. I’m hoping that my writing will be as good for my college writing as well.

These schools are reaches for everyone, and you definitely need matches and safeties that you could be happy with, just like anyone else. But I would be very optimistic about your chances of getting into at least one of these super-reaches, if not more.

It appears that you would qualify for Questbridge, and that could be the ideal route to applying to these schools and others on the QB Partner School list.


You seem like an excellent candidate for pretty much anywhere (though keep in mind top schools are hard for everyone). I would certainly apply to the schools you listed, but also have some safeties lined up - where you can get in and afford.

Have you looked into the Questbridge program? With your income I think you’d qualify and it’s a full ride to top programs.


Yes, I have looked at questbridge! The only thing I’m worried about is having to compete with so many people of the same demographic as me. I’m not sure if that will hurt my chances.

I don’t think there’s any scenario where QB hurts your chances. Colleges see Questbridge applicants as pre-screened for excellence, so even in the RD cycle, being a QB applicant is an advantage, although I don’t know any way to quantify how significant that advantage is.

The only possible disadvantage IMO is that you don’t get to weigh multiple offers if you get Matched. (And it’s a matter of opinion/preference whether that’s an advantage or disadvantage.) OTOH, there is no financial aid better than a QB Match offer.


Thank you so much for clarifying! I’ve just heard so many stories of people saying QB “screwed them over” and it made me anxious about the process. I’ll definitely consider applying through QB now

The thing with QB is that the rate of getting Match offers is fairly low. So there’s a certain amount of bitterness among students who don’t get an offer in the Match cycle, after getting their hopes up.

However, most of these students do very well in the RD cycle, and they can still apply RD through Questbridge to as many partner schools as they like. Some schools also allow unmatched QB applicants to convert to ED.

For the most part it’s a win, but you have to be prepared that you may not get that slam-dunk Match offer, especially if you only put T10 schools on your Match list.


Also, have you looked at Pomona at all? It could be a great choice for your interests. Linguistics and Cognitive Science are housed in a joint department, and the CogSci degree allows a range of concentrations Designing a Concentration – LGCS FAQ so this is a school where your linguistics/computation interests are already concentrated in a single department, within which you could fine-tune your focus. The Chinese department is excellent as well. And Pomona is ranked #1 in ethnic diversity among liberal arts colleges on USNWR’s latest list As part of the Claremont Consortium, Pomona has about 1700 undergrads but is part of a larger community of about 7000 undergrads, with seamless cross-registration among the five colleges. (FWIW, students at Scripps College can also major in Linguistics, CogSci, and Chinese through Pomona.)

The schools of the 5-College Consortium in MA could also be worth a look. UMass Amherst, the public flagship of the consortium, it a top schools for linguistics, CS, and Asian languages. Amherst, Smith, and Mt. Holyoke are all excellent full-need-met schools that provide cross-registration access to UMass, and to one another. They don’t have the same degree of physical proximity and integrated infrastructure as a the Claremonts, but they still provide a larger student community and broader course offerings than non-consortium LAC’s.

Of the above-mentioned consortium schools, Amherst, Pomona, Scripps, and Claremont McKenna are Questbridge partners.


As others have said, the odds aren’t good for any applicants to the schools on your list, no matter how well qualified. Some individuals’ odds are better than others’, and I think you would stand as good a chance of acceptance as anyone.

You indicate you have safeties. Would you be happy to attend them? Would they be affordable for you? If not, you need different schools on your list. Also, do you have any schools that have more than a 10% admit rate apart from your safeties? If not, you might want to add some of those, too. If you need help thinking of possibilities, let us know.

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments so far, and keep up the good work!

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I think you have reasonable chances in the list you are targeting. They are not low.

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Thank you so much! I’ll look into these schools. I really appreciate it

Hi! I was thinking of OSU (Ohio State) and UPitt as safties. I’ve been to those campuses a lot and I would be extremely happy to attend as well. I assume I would also receive decent aid as well. As for targets, I haven’t really thought about it. I know I want to attend a school that’s closer to the city and has study abroad/research opportunities for undergrads. Case Western, maybe? Let me know if you can think of any.

In addition to the normal aid you could get as an in-state student at OSU, you’d be a great candidate for the Morrill Scholarship, which is a full ride and comes with a great community of high-achieving and social-justice-minded Morrill Scholars. (I’m guessing you’re probably aware of this, yes?) I’m not sure if there’s a source of full ride aid for Pitt OOS, is there? UMich could be a possibility - worth running the Net Price Calculator, since they do give need-based aid to low-income OOS students. UVA and UNC Chapel Hill are the other two flagships that meet need for OOS students. UVA is also a Questbridge school.

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Make sure you apply to UPitt early. You are a shoe-in if you apply by September, but if you look at this year’s CC thread, CS filled up fast and Pitt waitlisted candidates with 1550ish SATs who applied later. It seems crazy, but there are limited seats in that program and once it is filled, it’s filled.

A B usually isn’t a big deal, but because you go to an “uncompetitive” school and the B was in a class in your field of interest, tippy top schools may wonder if you are prepared for the rigor, especially if you apply TO. Your application is spectacular, and as you said you have already had success with elite scholarships and summer programs so you clearly can present yourself well. I might consider having your guidance counselor mention the time conflict with the DE class. It probably won’t be an issue, but the combination of a high school that might not be considered rigorous and it being in your major does worry me a little. An AO would need to be looking for a reason to exclude you, though.


The B wasn’t from I class I took at my high school, I took the class at OSU and was required to commute to campus everyday. Since the was already fairly difficult and it wasn’t taught at my HS I don’t think the fact that my school isn’t competitive will play a role in how AOs look at that grade, right?

You need financial safeties. Net Price Calculators aren’t going to be accurate for you because your mother owns a business. Do you know what your mom’s gross income is and how she’s getting the $18k-20k income estimate? I think that colleges that use the CSS Profile add back in expenses that can be written off for taxes, so your income for financial aid could end up being higher. If you can commute to OSU from home, that might be a financial safety.


My point is that they may discount your stellar grades at an uncompetitive high school to some degree because you weren’t able to perform at the same level in a college course. There is a lot of grade inflation right now in high schools, so your DE grade may matter because it can sometimes be hard to gauge an applicant’s true skill level when high schools give all high grades.

I am not saying this will be the case for sure, but it could be the perception, especially if combined with an ACT score that is below the expectations of the schools you mentioned. You have several hooks that will likely mitigate these issues, but it’s something to consider.

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Ok, that makes sense! Then I’ll definitely try my best to make sure that my ACT score falls in the range of my reaches. Thank you for your input!

Is your father in the picture?

Most of the colleges in your list require both parents’ financial information for financial aid, even if they are divorced (Chicago is the exception; Princeton also if the custodial parent is remarried).


These schools meet full need and have Chinese majors as well as ABET-accredited engineering programs. They are very competitive, but not quite as competitive as the schools on your original list.

  • Tufts (MA)
  • U. of Notre Dame (IN)
  • Boston University (MA): meeting full need is a recent change and this university is much larger than some of your other ones

These colleges are very selective colleges that seem to hit your desired size, majors (with ABET accreditation), and meet at least 90% of financial need.

  • Union (NY): Selective university with a 43% acceptance rate; met 100% of need
  • Lehigh (PA ): Selective university with a 32% acceptance rate; met 97% of need
  • Case Western (OH): Good suggestion of yours! Met 98% of need and has a 27% admission rate
  • George Washington (D.C.): Selective university with a 41% acceptance rate; met 92% of need.

These colleges don’t meet at least 90% of need, but I think you’d stand a good chance of getting of getting very good merit, and when combined with financial aid, could make these possibilities. Again, these schools all have Chinese majors and ABET accreditation.

  • Drexel (PA )
  • Temple (PA )
  • Hofstra (NY)
  • Southern Methodist (TX)
  • U. of Kentucky

And one school where I think you are extremely likely for acceptance and substantial merit aid is U. of Akron (OH). The Driving Opportunity Scholarship would cover tuition and fees, and if the university stacks scholarships, I think you would be eligible for even more to cover your living expenses.

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