Brutally chance an Asian dreamer for T20's, esp Harvard

International living in US- not citizen/prmanent resident- i’m a dreamer- moved here when I was a few months old


Going to keep it vague, but here goes:

Demographics- public high school with a few thousand kids; rural state; suburb high school; Female, Asian; Income range: 150K ish. Gonna apply for aid though.(btw what do you think is a good estimate for how much my efc should be?)

4.0 GPA, 35 ACT, (not going to talk about courses, but I’ve done some 8 AP’s so far- all sciences, a mix of 4 and 5’s)


-usabo semifinalist

-biology olympiad: (not gonna say the name) but was named top 5 percent worldwide

-science fair- did some independent research; got 4th place at state science fair; didnt get into ISEF lol
-qualified for this national history competition(one of 2 people in my state)

-several state(1st, 2nd place) scienceolympiad awards; one top 10 national award

-some decent leadership/clubs- science club officer, officer of another club, will be president of a few things next year

-developing this app thing with other kids at my school

-i’m waiting on a bunch of summer programs. Rejected from RSI, TASS, MTSI… But I’m hoping to get into some other ones

-Got into Girls who Code Summer Program- will attend this one


-so Im probably gonna ask my biology teacher from a past year. their letter is average,(i’ve seen it because I applied to programs that wanted me to submit the LOR) but he includes a strong statement “best kid in my decade of teaching” which I’ve heard is looked at favorably by AO’s

-I’m not sure who else to ask; My current biology teacher maybe? Her letter is really long+ paints me in a positive light, but this is her first year of teaching do will it be looked down on?

Essays- Now, I’m not so sure… but i have some ideas about being a dreamer/hardships faced,etc. does this seem too insensitive?

thanks iin advance!!!

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Congratulations on your achievements. You should be a competitive applicant for any college. HOWEVER, the top colleges must be considered reaches for ALL unhooked applicants. Simply put there are many more very well qualified applicants than there are spots available. For example Harvard (since you mentioned it specifically) had an acceptance rate of 3.19% this year (and it is likely lower for internationals).

What you should do is expand your horizons and build a well balanced application list that includes some reaches (absolutely give some top schools a shot) as well as match and safety schools that: 1) appear affordable and 2) you would be happy to attend. I would also recommend that if possible (if not restricted by any REA application rules) you apply to one or two match/safety schools that have non-binding EA or rolling admissions – getting an acceptance or two by December can take some stress off the process. There are so many amazing colleges and universities out there so don’t limit yourself.

FWIW I would not get LORs from two biology teachers. If you feel this year’s teacher will give you a better letter nobody will care (or even know) that it is her first year of teaching so use that teacher. Remember, the LOR is about you and your qualifications, not the teacher’s. If possible one STEM and one humanities teacher is often considered preferable as it shows academic breadth.

In terms of the essay I recommend people either write a draft or outline for an idea or two and see how the essay shapes up.


You will not have a FAFSA efc as you are not qualified to file for federal aid. It’s hard to say on the CSS as different schools take into consideration different things - owned real estate and other assets including savings. You won’t have just one EFC for CSS schools.

You might do some research on which states give Dreamers state aid. I think California does but only for its residents. I think NM does.

Not all the T20 schools meet full need for Internationals. If your family can’t afford the full COA you might consider schools that you can afford with no FA. Your state flagship or a neighboring state that has tuition reciprocity might be your most affordable options.


People asking for brutal honesty don’t usually mean it.

  • Your odds are low, because everybody’s odds are low. That’s just how it is. I’m sorry about this, but pretending things are otherwise is unhelpful.
  • Next issue - the odds are even lower for international students. They may accept zero or one students from your country per year, but a thousand Americans. Are you the best student from your country? In the top 10?
  • Focusing on “T20’s” will not help you. Harvard and MIT are very different places. Brown and Chicago are very difdferent places. Caltech is just plain different :innocent: If you can’t articulate why you are picking one over another, you will not interview well. And in this competitive environment, you sure don’t need a bad interview. (And don’t think you can bamboozle the interviewer. That seldom goes well.
  • “Gonna” is not a word.

Apply to T20’s? Sure. But you also should apply elsewhere.


Just a note- I have several “safety” schools(instate colleges that give me in state tuition, one of my safeties will even give me a full ride(GPA, ACT based) )… I just wanted to know how competitive I am/ my chances at a top uni in general

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Do you have DACA status? If not, you will be applying an an international student, I’m not sure any states give international students in-state rates even if they graduate from an in-state HS. What state?

I’m not daca- i’m a “documented dreamer” on a h4 visa, don’t want to say the state(privacy reasons) but i personally contacted the university and they told me about this


Are you pursuing permanent residency/citizenship?

Please make sure you get good advice legal advice on managing your visa status. Your h-4 visa will runout when you turn 21 (sometime junior or senior year) and you will need to start the process of changing to an f-1 student visa (a few other visa types work too) well before that (2 years ahead of time). @SJ2727 @collegemom3717 Do you have more detailed info on this process?

I can’t chance you but you are relatively strong candidate. Really work to identify the reaches that make most sense. Will you be happy to attend the in-state school? Is it a full ride or full tuition? What can your parents pay for college per year?


Contrary to what someone opined upstream, I can’t think of any T20 schools that don’t meet full-need. I think the poster was confusing “meet full-need” with being “need-aware”.

As to what constitutes a T20 college or university, you have to be flexible. If you add up every college or university in the United States that has ever ranked in the top twenty of one poll or another, you would probably come up with a list of 50 schools. (Hint: Add a bunch of LACs. They are the best kept secrets of higher education; many of them are very wealthy and your dreamer status might not be an obstacle.)

Secondly, play the geographic card. You sound as though you may live in the mid-section of the country. If so, you have the advantage of applying to colleges on both coasts looking to maintain diverse student bodies.

Most importantly start thinking seriously about what sort of “vibe” you are looking for in college. Get beyond the T20 characterization and understand what makes each one different from the other. If you find yourself drawn to one over all the others, chances are there are other colleges you’ve never even heard of that resemble it in important ways.

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thank you, I do not want to get into too many details for privacy reasons, but I have a good plan for all possible outcomes… my state school isn’t like the UC’s or umich or anything but it is still a T100, and I actually really like the place, so I’d be able to go there. The instate option is quite cheap there


yes, definitely will play the geography card lol. By t20’s i meant ivies, lacs, every “top” college- kind of t50 actually…
I really love the LAC’s and even got into a fly in at one, so they are definitely on my radar

I thought that “Dreamer” applies to undocumented students. If you are came in on an H-4 visa, then you are not ‘undocumented’. You already have many of the important elements of the DACA program)

Did the university say students here on visas qualify for whatever considerations they give DACA kids? It’s not clear to me why you would not be considered a straight up international student here on a visa with your family.

But- I am not a DACA expert

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not really, being a “documented dreamer” is actually kind of worse than having DACA- mainly because daca gets you a work permit, whereas H4 kids don’t get that. also, H4 means you will age out at 21, but daca does not really have any such limits…
so from what I have learned, colleges really do not anything different for daca students(except for a few lacs, which I think consider daca students as domestic)- most unis consider daca kids to be international, just like H4… regarding these lacs, I am not so sure what position I would be in- I think pomona and swartmore do this? I haven’t reached out to them yet, but I should…
the only benefit both H4/daca kids share is the instate tution at some states colleges- we can get in state benefits if we graduate from a high school here, which really helps
-dreamer is a really ambiguous term and people are starting to refer to us H4 kids as " documented dreamers" not the best term yes, but it is the same premise as daca- we both came here when we were really young, difference is legal/ not


‘Introduced’ is a long way from ‘passed’ but there is this: Bill introduced for grant of automatic right to H4 visa holders to work in US - The Economic Times

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Ohh that is pretty cool, did not know about that, thank you

Does that 4.0 put you at the top of your high school class?

Get one letter from a humanities teacher, one from math or science. Don’t get two letters from science.

Your status as H4 will leave you ineligible for federal aid, but you will be competing against others from your US geographical area for admission to top private colleges that consider int’l students for fin aid. You won’t be seen by the committees as coming from the country you were born in. As such, I think you will have an easier time with admission than if you hadn’t lived here for the past 17 years, but you won’t be eligible for federal fin aid.

I don’t think you’re going to get Harvard, or other tippy tops, but you might get into other T20 - I think your chances aren’t great. I do think that you should apply to your state flagship U, and I’m hoping that they’d give you in-state tuition, even though you’re not a permanent resident.

I think you should consider applying to the southern/southwestern schools that are known for giving high merit money to people with stats like yours. Alabama, ASU/AU, and there are others, too. You’re probably going to find that the fin aid award that you might get from top private schools (if you get in) is going to leave your family paying more than they can afford.

yes, I am rank 1.

-I will definitely request letters from a humanities teacher, I wasn’t sure which science teacher to choose

-Yes, I’ve kind of accepted that I am not going to get any Ivy’s, but I will apply anyways.

-A lot of people from my school are getting into really good colleges(NYU, Umich, UC’s) but they aren’t getting much fin aid(even though they are citizens) so I think the chances of me getting good offers from top schools are really low

-my state uni is pretty good(it is a T100-borderline, but still) and I think I’ll probably end up going there
-if the cost of an Ivy is significantly greater(like 10k more) than instate(it is 11k)- then I will go to the state U instead

Those colleges are not known for giving good merit aid (UCs and Michigan in particular). Generally it’s no merit aid to out-of-state students.

If you’re looking for substantial merit, I would consider possibilities where that could happen. Places like Vanderbilt, Duke, Swarthmore, Rice, U. of Richmond, Emory, etc. You might also go slightly down the ranks a bit and consider places like Rhodes where there wouldn’t be as much competition for a top merit scholarship, but that is still super strong academically.

If you need help thinking of other possibilities, let us know.

thank you for the suggestions, I’m really looking at the lacs because I love the environment they offer(not many people from my school go to the lacs)

I have not looked into schools like Rhodes but I will. thanks!

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In admissions lingo, you’re whats known as a Rural Val. Valedictorian from a rural state/area.

Getting into Harvard is going to be a longshot, but you might get lucky. I personally would apply ED to somewhere where you have a better chance. What LAC school offered you a fly-in? That is a sure sign of interest. If they have ED you might consider applying there.

During the RD round the chances of success at T20 are much much lower.