Chance a CS major for top schools with a low math ACT subscore

:point_right:MODERATOR NOTE: This post combines several posts asking the same question. :point_left:


  • State/Location of residency: Wisconsin
  • Type of high school: Competitive public, one of the best schools in Wisconsin, not a feeder school at all though, most students end up at UW Madison/lacrosse/eau claire and few go to top schools
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: White female
  • Other special factors: legacy at Notre Dame. Female in CS?? (not a hook but might help idk)

Intended Major(s)
Computer Science

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.97
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 4.46
  • Class Rank: school doesn’t rank, but i’d estimate top 10%
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 34 (30M, 33S, 36R, 36E)

Freshman year: AP HuG (4), as many honors classes as i could take

Sophomore year: AP Gov (3), AP Psych (5), again all honors when possible

Junior year (this year): AP Comp Sci A (predicted 4), AP CS Principles (predicted 4), AP Calc BC (predicted 4), APUSH and AP Lang (predict 3 for both)

Senior year courseload: AP Physics C, AP Lit, AP French, AP Econ, Calc 3/linear algebra


*NCWIT women in computing Affiliate Winner
*very small, local engineering competition winner (designed a crosswalk that i felt should be added near our high school) - you’d be surprised how much goes into putting in a crosswalk haha

  • NHS
  • AP Scholar

Cross Country (3 yrs)

  • active member

Debate (2 yrs)

  • active member
  • qualified for the State competition in 2020

Best Buddies (2 yrs)

  • active member
  • selected for leadership board, was one of 4 people of 70 in the club to help plan and lead meetings

Destination Imagination (8 yrs)

  • Team Co-Captain
  • Qualified for States 3 times
  • Competed at Global Finals twice
  • Created a DI team for students with special needs to compete on
  • Ran the first meme account for Destination Imagination memes

Student-Athlete Leadership Council (2 years)

  • active member
  • led discussions about making good choices for middle schoolers

Part-time job (2 years)

  • helped build the store
  • often put in charge of customer service

Community Service

  • 200+ service hours
  • worked extensively with kids with special needs


  • extensive knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • self taught through codecademy
  • created several personal websites from scratch

Summer Programs

  • Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Camp (2020)
  • Notre Dame Summer Scholars: Computing Track (2021)


  • self-taught at photography
  • self-taught at photoshop

It’s always tough to predict how good these will be, but i’ll try.

Essays: I’m a good writer, although a little lacking in interesting life experiences but I do think I can write a decent, but not mind blowing, essay

LOR 1: my comp sci A teacher. I got an A+ in his class and he wrote my letter of rec for the notre dame summer scholars program that i got into. he likes me a lot and will definitely testify on my abilities in comp sci. so maybe 9/10?

LOR 2: my calc bc teacher, honestly it’s been hard to form deep connections with teachers this year but he likes me pretty well and has seen me grow in math this year, so maybe 6 or 7/10? nothing spectacular most likely

I think for this post id like to focus more on my chances than on expenses. obviously i know budget is absolutely crucial, but for now I’m more interested in opinions on my chances so just assume i can afford it haha.


I have some good safeties and matches, so no worries there, but I want to know if I even have the slightest chance at any of these schools, especially with my low math score on the ACT. I know they’re all insane reaches, but is it at least worth an application??

Rice University (RD)
Cal Poly SLO
Carnegie Mellon (RD)
WashU (RD)
Tufts (RD)
Notre Dame (REA)

I’m just worried that my math ACT will be a dealbreaker.

The math ACT isn’t the only issue, the AP scores in computer science and calculus seem low for a computer science major, particularly at a place like CMU. Can you apply as undecided major instead?


I mean I guess, but CS can be hard to switch into, I’d rather take the chance of being rejected if I can major in what I’m actually interested in if that makes sense

Then candidly, I think you need to aim lower. Many cs majors will have stronger scores as those programs are usually more competitive than overall admission to that college.


OP- nothing is a deal breaker but the combination of your GPA and your AP scores suggests that your HS has a lot of grade inflation. You’re getting mostly A’s but scoring 3’s on AP exams?

Having outstanding math prep (arithmetic through calculus) is going to be the basis of success in CS at Rice, CMU, etc.

What are your match schools?


If you don’t apply, your chance of admission is exactly 0.0; but having stated that, I wouldn’t bother applying to CMU.

1 Like

I disagree. You haven’t listed your safeties but you are a very good candidate. Could you be better? Yes. Will you get into Rice or CMU. unlikely but you never know if you don’t apply.

Just make sure your matches and safeties are indeed matches and safeties. Reaches are such for a reason. Being female will help. And you can take the ACT once or twice more.

You should list your matches and safeties for review. I assume Wisconsin is one.

1 Like


  • uvm
  • u of arizona
  • college of charleston
  • u of utah
  • colorado state


  • uw madison
  • virginia tech
  • santa clara
  • u-denver

I don’t think Madison CS is a match, even in-state…although I will defer to your HS’s GC for that assessment.

Virginia Tech is probably a reach too, maybe a high match…the 30 is going to be an issue there IME.

ETA: What is your budget? You likely aren’t going to get much, if any, financial aid at VTech. Are you sure at least one of your safeties is affordable (safety has to be affordable).

1 Like

As far as I know, Madison doesn’t admit by major and probably half my high school graduating class goes there each year so I think it’s reasonable.

And yes my safeties are affordable

1 Like

You are correct…UW Madison doesn’t admit by major (but it does do direct admits to certain schools). Regardless, it should be a match for CS because that major is in CLS and not COE (which is where I was initially wrong).

1 Like

This is great - you’ll get aid, especially at U of A ($30K of $37K tuition) and it’s a great school. The Honors Dorm is spectacular with a dining hall at the bottom and fitness center/mental health center next door.

Take the ACT once or twice more for your math (for UW) but i think you are well set up - and definitely apply for your dream reaches - assuming:

a) You can afford them - check the net price calculator

b) Your parents want to afford them - meaning if Rice is $75K, the net price calculator says no aid but your parents only want to spend $40K, then don’t waste your time.

I think you’ve created a great list if - and it’s a big if - if these schools work for you fit wise and not just - they look like i can get in wise because they are very different type schools. But if you can see yourself at any, your list is very well put together.

But I will caution you on money - don’t say I’d rather focus on chances than money - because many kids say that and find out they applied places their parents won’t send them - so as you refine and narrow down any schools, always have that in play.

Well done though - in my opinion. Very well done in fact.


Wisconsin CS is not difficult to declare (unlike CS at some other colleges): BA/BS in Computer Sciences – Computer Sciences – UW–Madison

MOD NOTE: Merged post.

Just wondering if I have a shot at Notre Dame REA! The first time I posted this it did not get any responses so going for round 2 lol


  • State/Location of residency: Wisconsin
  • Type of high school: Competitive public - usually sends 1, maybe 2 kids to ND per year
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: White female
  • Other special factors: Legacy - my dad went there

Intended Major(s)

Computer Science

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.97/4.0
  • Weighted HS GPA: 4.46/5.0
  • Class Rank: Not sure, probably top 10%
  • ACT: 34 (30M, 33S, 36R, 36E)

AP HuG (4)
AP Gov (3)
AP Psych (5)
AP CSA (predict 4)
AP CSP (predict 4)
AP Calc BC (honestly no idea how I did)
APUSH (predict 3)
AP Lang (predict 3)

Senior year courseload:
AP Physics C
AP Econ
AP Lit
AP French
Calc 3/linear algebra


  • NCWIT Women in Computing Affiliate Winner
  • Won a small local engineering competition
  • NHS
  • AP Scholar


Destination Imagination

  • Team Co-captain
  • Qualified for States 3x
  • Competed at Global Finals 2x
  • Created a DI team for students with special needs to compete on
  • Created a social media account to share DI memes

Community Service (3 years)

  • 200+ hours working with kids with special needs/bringing them on local field trips

Coding (2 years)

  • Extensive knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • created several personal websites from scratch
  • helped fix up the website for my dad’s apartments

Part-time job (1 yr)

  • 15-20 hours/week
  • helped build the store last summer
  • usually in charge of the register/other general retail tasks

Best Buddies (3 years)

  • selected for the leadership board, was one of 4 people out of 70 in the club to help plan and lead meetings

Cross Country (JV) (4 years)

  • active member, not very good at it but I really had fun with it
  • planned a lot of team bonding activities

Summer Programs

  • Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Camp (2020)
  • Notre Dame Summer Scholars Research Computing Track (2021)

Student-Athlete Leadership Council (3 years)

  • led discussions about making good choices for middle schoolers

Photography (3 years)

  • Self-taught in digital photography and Adobe photoshop, but no significant accomplishments or anything


Essay: I’m a decent writer, but I don’t really think they’ll be anything crazy special, I will try to have fun with it though

LOR 1: My Calc BC teacher, I think he’ll write a pretty good one as I worked hard in his class and he kinda got to know my personality

LOR 2: My AP CSA teacher, he will definitely be able to speak on my skill in Computer Science but didn’t know my personality really well.

Notre Dame places a lot of value on legacy. What exactly do you mean by your Dad “went there”? Did your dad receive an undergrad degree? Or grad? Either way it will be a boost. The rest of your application looks fine.

Are your parents big donors?

He got his undergrad degree there. I don’t think we’re big donors though

I can’t chance you but you did get feedback on some of your other threads.

Have you clarified budget with your parents? Are you thinking of REA at ND for a potential boost in admissions chances, or is it your first choice school? If not first choice (and you do probably have better choices for CS on your list, per the other threads), why give up a potential ED boost elsewhere? Just something to think about.

1 Like

I don’t want to ED anywhere because it’s binding and my family owns real estate so financial aid could be complicated


Run the net price calculator on the ND website before you pull the trigger. Otherwise I think you’ve got a great chance. Good luck.

1 Like

If you want to go to ND and are willing to pay, go ahead. Best I can tell though is they are solid but not top notch in CS. So many cheaper and higher ranked options.