Chance a junior for Premed-based T20s


  • US domestic : US Domestic
  • State/Location of residency: somewhere in the south but not the deep south
  • Type of high school: Title I, kinda bad
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: Female, Asian
  • Other special factors: Nope

Intended Major(s)
Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, something along those lines

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • GPA: 4.0/4.0 Unweighted, 4.8/5.0 Weighted
  • Class Rank: 1 or 2/300+
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 1560 SAT: 760 ERBW, 800 Math | 1490 PSAT: 740 ERBW, 750 Math


Currently in IB diploma. Here are my courses:
HL: chemistry, biology, history, and English
SL: math applications and spanish B

Past AP Courses taken include

  • 9th Grade/4 APs: CSP (4 lol), HuG (5), Psych (5), and Macro (5)
  • 10th Grade/3 APs: Gov (4), Calc AB (5), Micro (5)
  • 11th Grade/2 APs: Calc BC, EnvSci
  • 12th Grade/2 APs?: Art History, something else

hopefully my decrease in AP rigor is justified through my IB course load :frowning:

will reach up to calc 3 (MTV calc) in senior year

Awards - will keep these somewhat vague

  • Two-time ISEF Finalist
  • Statewide award for STEM excellence (100 per year)
  • Poster presentation at international bio conference + many more
  • Many regional science fair awards (8+) inc. 3x 1st place
  • 2nd place at states (science fair)

trivial stuff I could include/replace:

  • National Merit
  • Regional FBLA awards
  • AP scholar with distinction (lol)

do conferences count as awards/honors??


  • Top-three STEM summer program
  • Significant research involvement
  • Several conferences w/ 1st author - international, national, statewide
  • Intern for a political organization
  • Editorial Board of a statewide undergraduate research journal
  • President of 3 clubs
  • Volunteering, tutoring
  • Developing a girls in STEM organization (partnering w local elementary school!!)
  • Student leader/planner at rallies

Trivial stuff I could include:

  • Semi-competitive local leadership program with 30% acceptance rate
  • Ex-STEM ambassador for a girls in STEM organization
  • NHS, StuGo
  • Might work as a sushi employee if I have time over the summer?
  • Might hold a social-justice job (paid)


I think most people have a tendency to overestimate their essay-writing skills? I’d rather underestimate myself than overestimate, so I’ll put myself as …

  • Essays: 7.5/10
  • LORs: 9/10 combined (from 2 teachers + mentor)
    Counselor LOR is probs a 5/10? She likely uses a template

I think one of my teachers can attest pretty well to my personality, but I don’t want to assume anything

Schools - I’m very fortunate to not have cost as a limiting factor

  • Safety
    Smaller in-state schools, maybe a BSMD program or two?

  • Match
    Emory, Villanova, flagship in-state school, Georgetown

  • Reaches
    Yale, Brown + the rest of the Ivies
    UChicago, WashU, NYU, Georgia Tech, Duke, Stanford, Northwestern, Hopkins (maybe), MIT (not sure if I’ll apply), UMich, UVA, BU?

  • I swear I’ll whittle this list down - I know not all schools are overly appropriate for premed due to grade-deflation

Thank you so much for your time!

  1. BSMD programs are not safeties for anyone. They have very low admission %ages. These are reaches for everyone.

  2. Your list is very top heavy.

  3. You can do the required courses for medical school applicants at any four year college in this country (arts conservatories excluded). Why do you require a top 20 school for a pre-med intention?

  4. Folks hate when I ask this…but is cost a factor? Will you qualify for need based aid? Have you run Net Price Calculators for these colleges? Have your parents given you an annual money amount that they can and will contribute to your college costs? If not…get this info…it’s important.

You have a very nice list of accomplishments, grades and standardized test scores. But really…nothing is guaranteed based on that. The elite schools you have listed have very large numbers of students with similar high achievements…and they can’t accept them all.

If you are happy with your choice of sure thing applications…sure apply widely elsewhere. I think you have a decent, but not guaranteed, chance of acceptance someplace on your list.


You are an excellent student …but…

  1. Your list is reach heavy
  2. BS/MD is not a safety for anybody. They are reaches.
  3. Emory and Georgetown might look like a match on paper, but they are not matches in reality
  4. What do your parents say about cost?

Every school you’ve listed is probably a reach, not because you’re profile isn’t good enough, but because they have low acceptance rates and even good candidates get rejected. I don’t know what your state flagship is but that could be a reach or a safety depending on your state. You need to look at less selective schools to put together your list.


If you are being self-deprecating, you aren’t helping yourself.

  1. you rate yourself for top-name schools- ones who reject 95% of their applicants- but you don’t think that you can write anything more than a mediocre essay? IF that is true, cut all your reaches and matches except your in-state flagship.

  2. You are #1 or 2 in a low achieving rural school, taking an over-full IB load (even wasting your time* self-studying an extra subject). You have had time to be 1st author for international-level conferences. And you have NO teachers who think that you are an academic superstar? None of them think of you as more than a very average kid? IF that is true then knock off every one of your reaches. The 5% of applicants getting offers from your top reaches are students who seriously impress the people around with them with their level of achievement / drive / commitment / passion, etc.

*from an admissions point of view that is- it’s not going to help you even a little bit


that’s totally fair!

okay, yes, I am being self-deprecating. I know my essay ability is at LEAST a 6.5 out of 10 because I wouldn’t have gotten into this summer program without it (I’d rather refrain from saying the name but I’ll be happy to DM it to you)

my LORs are probably 9/10, then - both teachers really like me and can write really deeply on my personality/passions/interests. I just didn’t want to overrate myself. I’ll edit my post to reflect this!

You are certainly qualified for any of the schools on your list. The problem is that there will be thousands of other equally qualified candidates also applying.

IMO, you are better off trying to figure out what you want in a school and then building your list from the safeties up. Start with budget first and foremost. Run the Net Price Calculators with your parents. Then try to figure out what’s important to you in terms of type of program, location, school size, student vibe, etc…There will be safety schools and matches, that will fit most of your preferred criteria, you’ll just need to research a bit harder to find them (and this board is happy to help with suggestions once you can relay those criteria).

I echo what others have said that there is no BSMD program that is a safety. They are all high reaches. And your matches as reaches too although your instate school might work depending on your state.

Share what’s important to you in your college experience and you’ll get lots of suggestions! I see nothing cohesive about your list of schools other than prestige and that’s not a way to build your college list.


I would also suggest you fine a rolling admissions school (maybe Pitt?) where you will get an admissions decision very quickly.


got it, I’ll keep this in mind about the BSMDs. cost isn’t a factor for any of these schools

These colleges have a LOT of differences. I would suggest you start by making a list of characteristics you want in a college…and not rankings. All of the Ivies? What is the common characteristic that attracts you to schools as diversely different as Dartmouth and Columbia? Or Columbia and Brown. When I see a list that says “all the Ivies” it lets me know that the student really hasn’t considered the unique traits of each of these colleges.


You might want to consider some purely undergraduate-focused colleges. For example, Swarthmore is strong in cognitive science, and Amherst is strong in neuroscience. With respect to your premed interests, both of these schools appear in this site:

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You might find the thread “Chance a nervous girl who applied to northeast schools + Stanford!” interesting, especially the OP’s last post in which she talks about her final choice. This line stuck out:

What your current list says is ‘schools my friends & family will be impressed by’- so start there: how important is the prestige of the name of your UG school to you? That answer is for you, not us- but it’s a real question, not a snark. There’s no point pretending that prestige doesn’t carry weight, but thinking (and rethinking over the next year) just how important it is to you, relative to other things is valuable.

But then- keep thinking. What else is important to you? Posts above have asked about things such as large/small, rural/suburban/urban, sporty/greek/intellectual, core curriculum vs open curriculum, etc- all of which are proxies for environments in which you are more likely to thrive.

Just as HS is more than a way station on the path to college, college is more than another box to tick on the way to med school. It is a meaningful time in your evolution into adulthood. So stay as open and flexible as you can, and push yourself to see past the HS prism of what ‘success’ looks like. Try on the different hats of the various types of schools you have listed and see how they really suit you - not somebody else’s expectations or ideas of you.

…and, keep coming back here for support/encouragement/ideas. It’s a process!


First of all, you are a very strong student. I think that you will most likely do very well wherever you end up.

My first concern is that the eight Ivy League universities are quite different from each other. You should figure out which schools are a good match for you. Do you want a tiny school in rural New Hampshire with real winters? Do you want a large university in the middle of a big city? Do you want to experience several feet of lake effect snow over a long weekend in upstate New York?

I do not think that you are all that far off from the average accepted student, but I also do not think that you are all that far off from the average applicant. For example Stanford sends a magazine to alumni occasionally (I think that we get it once per month). Several years ago they included an article on admissions that said that 80% of applicants are fully qualified to attend. They accept closer to 4%, and this includes athletes, legacies, and URMs who taken as a group probably takes up something like half the slots.

I was wondering about grade deflation at MIT and a few other highly ranked schools.

U.Michigan, UVA, and BU are very good, but two of them might be expensive for out of state students and the third is just expensive (for us BU was way above the budget, our daughter went somewhere else).

I guess I have five main points:

You have been doing great up to now. Congratulations and keep up the good work!

You can find a very strong premed program at any one of a very long list of universities. You do not need to attend a “top 20” undergraduate school to get into a very good medical school.

Medical school is expensive. Costs keep going up. By the time that you get to medical school you probably will not be paying much less than $400,000 for four years of medical school. It would be better if at least most of this is paid by your parents with a check from their bank account and NOT taken on as debt.

Medical school admissions is largely based on GPA and MCAT (and you have shown the ability to do well with test scores). Where you get your bachelor’s degree is not as important. You will find very strong students, good professors, and very tough premed courses at any “top 200” university. There will also be a few bad professors at any university (I still remember one from MIT and one from Stanford – if these schools can have a bad professor then anywhere can).

Look for universities that are a good fit for you, that you can afford with no debt at all (it looks like no debt is possible in your case), and find at least two good safeties. Your safeties may be more important than your chances at the reach schools.

And, once again congratulations on how well you have done up to now, and keep up the good work!


Don’t sell yourself short. You are well-qualified to get into any school in the nation - but that doesn’t mean that you will get into any one specific school. At this point, it’s all about planning how to market yourself, since you have all the elements needed for a fantastic application. You can get a lot of good (and some not so good) advice here about application strategies. I don’t think that you need to go pay a college application advisor, but certainly, if you were to get to a very good one, it might help.

Have a very frank discussion with your parents, and with whomever else in the family is funding your education. Rack rate private could be 400K total by the time that you’re done. Med school that much, too. Do they have 800K available for your education? Would/could that 800K do more good somewhere else, like going towards a house for you, eventually?

I’m not sure that BS/MD applications are a good idea for you, because I think that you might have better opportunities in the future, both academically and financially. If it were a non-restrictive guarantee of admission to MD, but you could still choose to go to a different (better, cheaper, whatever) med school, then maybe. None of the BS/MD programs are easy to get into, but I think that you are a very good applicant for them, too. I also think that if you want it, and if you continue to achieve the way that you are now, an MD/PhD program would be an option for you, too.

I’d definitely apply to your in-state flagship, and try to love it. If you’re in-state for Georgia, then Ga Tech, too. These are going to be your cheapest options, unless you can win a massive merit scholarship somewhere (which could happen, for you).

None of the Ivies will give you merit money, since they just don’t do that. But you’d be surprised, you might get a little bit of fin aid from some of them, if the family income is <200K and the family doesn’t have significant assets.

You need access to research facilities, so I’d say that small LACs are a no-go, in your case. In addition, many people who think that they’re gonna go into medicine wind up changing their minds, so I’d advise you to choose someplace with a wide variety of majors.

I think that you will get into MIT, because you are a woman with a very strong STEM record. Same goes for Georgia Tech. You could qualify for the top merit scholarships at lesser engineering schools.

You could get into other highly competitive schools with engineering programs, IF you market yourself as engineering. The reason is that there are fewer women than men with such strong records of STEM achievement, and the engineering schools want to achieve a more gender-balanced class. Even schools that overall are gender-balanced, are NOT gender-balanced in engineering. For you, engineering could be the “sideways” way of getting in. So if I were in your shoes, for top schools that have engineering, I’d be marketing myself to them as a budding bioengineer, rather than a budding neuroscience researcher. You could get into HYPSM or any of the other T20 schools for engineering, and very easily switch majors into neuroscience (or anything else you want), whereas if you were to apply to their liberal arts schools with the expressed intention of majoring in biology and neuroscience, you might have less of a chance of getting in.

Assuming that your frank conversation with the family financiers yields an answer of, “We can stretch to pay for anything, but yes, it would be amazing if you could get free tuition or a full ride somewhere that meets your academic needs, because then we could help you buy a house, retire 2 yrs earlier, take that amazing vacation we’ve been putting off, etc”, you really should look at applying for full tuition/full ride merit scholarships at slightly lesser institutions that meet your requirements, in addition of course to your in-state options. For example, Tufts has some large science scholarships, might be a good place for you. Brandeis is very good for neuroscience, might give you a large merit scholarship. I’m sure there are even better merit money options for someone with your qualifications, if you’re willing to look for them.

Emory and Georgetown are harder to get into than Boston U, NYU, Umich, GaTech, and UVA …schools you call reaches. If anything BU would be your match school.


Really? Places like Amherst, Williams, Bates etc send students to medical schools every year. And they are small. Some small schools actually have better opportunities for research because students aren’t competing with grad students for those roles. Plus…research is considered by some medical schools in admissions but it’s not a top listed item.


thank you SO much for such critical insight! i’ve never considered marketing myself as an engineer (mostly because i’ve never seen myself as that, haha) but i’ll strongly consider this… i definitely did hear that the gender ratios for non-bio stem fields were pretty skewed at these institutions (if not all institutions), so it makes sense. the main thing keeping me away is my 4 in ap computer science principles and potential 4 in ap calculus bc (i know this is probably trivial… but it seems significant enough).

i heard that tufts’ grade deflation situation was… pretty bad (though princeton/mit/cornell are also guilty of this apparently) so it was never super high on my list, but Brandeis seems cool! i’ll look into it.

also, considering research, i do not plan on parting with it regardless of where i end up. it’s a must-have for me. i’ll look more into lac offerings though!

Based on survey information collected from academic officials by U.S. News, LACs perform quite well when considering by their opportunities for research/creative projects:


But THIS applicant already has a very strong research record. THIS applicant needs access to research facilities. THIS applicant is not your typical, lots of potential but no proven track record, applicant. She needs something like Penn, with Wistar institute right on campus, or the other Ivies that have leading scientific and medical research facilities right on campus, such as Yale.

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@parentologist and what I’m saying is…this applicant can have research opportunities at some LACs.