Chance a nontraditional, homeschooled then community college sophomore for reach schools

Nervous about these and looking for some input! Haven’t submitted all the apps yet.

Primarily, I’m applying to SUNY colleges. Because I am a SUNY transfer student, acceptance to SUNY with my GPA is practically guaranteed. Those are my backups (and most likely, financially). But I have three private schools I’m applying to: University of Rochester, Hamilton College, and for funsies even though I know it’s impossible, Columbia University. U of R is my best bet.

I’ve been homeschooled my entire life, so don’t have any official institutional grades and such. I graduated at 16, took a gap year to travel the world with my family (wrote an additional information essay to explain to the admissions) and then entered a community college. It’s a SUNY school, decent but not outstanding like most community colleges. I’m a sophomore now and will graduate this semester with a Biological Sciences associates degree.


  • US domestic: US citizen
  • State/Location of residency: New York (not the city)
  • Type of high school: in SUNY community college
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: Female, half white (German) and half Asian (Singapore)
  • Other special factors: homeschooled

Intended Major(s)
Biology, intend to go into medical research or premed

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • HS GPA: N/A, homeschooled
  • College GPA: 4.0
  • Class Rank: not given
  • ACT/SAT Scores: none


  • I’m taking the standard courses for the first 2 years of college: English Comp I&II, General Chemistry I&II, Precalculus, Calculus I, Calculus-based Physics I&II, Biology I&II, Organic Chemistry I&II
  • Electives: Anatomy & Physiology I&II, U.S. Healthcare, General Psychology, American Sign Language
  • Never taken more than 16 credits in a semester, unfortunately, but they’ve also been science/math heavy


  • Most Distinguished Chapter Officer 1st place - New York Region of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society - March 2022 - The PTK is a honor society for community colleges
  • Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society member since Spring 2021 (obviously, considering the above)
  • Jack Hallgren Memorial Scholarship - Spring 2021 - given by my college’s scholarship foundation
  • Published an essay in my college’s writing publication
  • President’s list at college
  • NYSMTA Evaluation Distinction and Honors Recital - NYSMTA does performance evaluations for music students (I play piano) and I was selected in my senior HS year to perform


  • Treasurer, then president of my PTK chapter where I led meetings and organized several events, focusing mostly on community service combating food insecurity; recently attended the Regional Conference for NY, where I got my award
  • Writing tutor at my college
  • Martial Arts: 1.5 years, advanced level, performed with the demonstration team during this year’s Chinese New Year performances organized by a cultural center
  • Modern dance with yearly recitals for 8 years (not in my Common/Coalition app, in CV only)
  • Piano student for 12 years, with bi-yearly student recitals and participation in the NYSMTA performance evaluations
  • Member of a organization that supports girls in STEM, which had monthly events and organized the following exploratory summer internships during HS
  • Internship: App programming in Python, 73 hours, helped ID bugs and organize data from test runs for an app in development to help off-the-grid residents get emergency alerts; worked with a university professor
  • Internship: Research on maritime cybersecurity with a university prof, 84 hours, wrote a literature review on major breaches in maritime cybersecurity, how they occurred, and why
  • Internship: Helper at a small local science museum, helped on the museum floor, with kids summer science programs, and in the archives for an upcoming exhibit
  • Historical reenactor for around 8 years


  • I think my essays were pretty strong and I’m a good writer, but I have no way to measure for sure; I emphasized my nontraditional education and world trip a lot
  • Did the optional interview for U of R, interviewer seemed impressed by my work with my PTK and for food insecurity, we took up the entire 30min; will do the interview for Hamilton
  • LORs from my chemistry lab prof and anatomy & phys prof; my A&P prof really likes me and my chem prof is also the advisor for my PTK chapter and she also loves me
  • Also an optional LOR from my girls STEM program mentor during high school years, which was probably more run-of-the-mill, not terrible but not outstanding

Cost Constraints / Budget

  • Applying for financial aid, family has an income of slightly over 100k a year
  • Need financial aid for all, hoping for whatever grants/scholarships they can give me


  • All schools are Reach
  • University of Rochester, transfer admission (will enter junior year); they have a PTK merit scholarship I’m really eyeing
  • Hamilton College, transfer as a junior
  • Further-than-Pluto-reach: Columbia College (not General Studies), entering junior year
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I’ve read your profile several times, and it has appeared stronger on each reading. Most favorably, your overarching presentation is one of a complete student with diverse interests and accomplishments. Nonetheless, even some very specific aspects support you, such as your choice of calculus-based physics.

Regarding your chances, you will be likely to see acceptances from all the SUNYs to which you apply and potentially the University of Rochester as well. Hamilton or Columbia will be less likely, but not impossible.

Best of luck!


Given your 1 year gap, its likely that Columbia would ask that you apply via GS. Your chances are actually pretty good at GS. But know that the financial aid would need to be considered.

I think you have a decent shot at all of the others.

Yeah, that’s one thing I’m afraid of-- GS just isn’t as appealing. I’m hoping that my early highschool graduation makes up for the gap year in their eyes. I’m a year ahead of my peers in that sense, as others my age are finishing up their freshman year right now and I’m finishing up sophomore. But they might not like that either…

I think you are an excellent candidate! The truth is getting into selective schools as a transfer is hard, possibly harder than regular admission. My recommendation will be to look through Common Dataset to see how many students get in via transfer admission before you try. You should absolutely try the moonshot. Just make sure you are applying to the program that gives you the best shot.

Another thing to consider is how many credits you can transfer over to a private school. If you have a state articulation agreement then going to a 4 year state school might make a lot of sense given your financial constraints. Believe me when I say this, graduating debt free trumps a lot of other options.

You are a strong candidate. Good luck!

Please use the NPC to calculate affordability. While they “meet full need”, they do not calculate it the same way. The income you state is typically what we call “a donut hole family” because the amount a school says you can pay is often not what parents are willing/able to.

ETA My D attends a different “meets full need” school and their family contribution for us is about half of what UR calculates using the exact same data.

Yep, I’m unfortunately pretty aware that my family is stuck in an awkward position financially. Not low enough for major aid to kick in, and not high enough to cruise by. Like @1dadinNC said, 4 year state school could make the most sense financially, and that’s why I’m considering several SUNYs.

I’ll be looking at NPC, but they say those are most accurate for freshmen, not transfers. At least I only have to pay two years.

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As an opinion, I don’t see much in the OP’s profile that would make her a good match for SGS. At this stage she’s simply a younger than average, full-time community college student who will be moving forward to a four-year school.

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GS is for non-traditional students of all types. Not just the older ones. I’ve heard that anyone who applies to Columbia College or SEAS with a one year gap in education are asked to apply to GS.

Plus there are loads of standard age students in GS – from the combined programs with Sciences Po and Trinity. There is no distinction from GS/SEAS/CC/Barnard once a student enters Columbia.

It is all outlined in the Admissions FAQ FAQs | Columbia Undergraduate Admissions

II. If you have had any interruptions in your schooling of more than one academic year, or if you have been referred here by item I.3 or I.5 above, then you are strongly advised to apply instead to Columbia University’s School of General Studies, Columbia’s college for nontraditional students who want to earn a degree while attending full- or part-time.

GS students take the exact same classes as the other undergrads, and have the exact same degree requirements. The major downside of GS is the financial aid.

You should also consider Barnard. They would have better financial aid than GS, but still not as good as CC or SEAS.

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Financial aid would indeed be a huge downside. I’ve already put my app in for Columbia, so I’ll just wait and see… I think I could still qualify, since GS says an interruption of “more than” one year and mine was exactly one year.

I appreciate the input, though. Columbia’s very far out, so I’m just gonna sit back and see, and really place my hopes on U of R or Hamilton.

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I agree - as long as you’re aiming for Columbia U, you might want to consider applying to Barnard College there.

Your profile has many facets that might make you stand out to Barnard, who look at applicants differently than CC. The downside would be financial aid for a transfer student.

I think it’s too late, though. Deadline was March 1st and I’d have to write new essays. Could be there’s a rolling admission for transfers I can’t find, but also if you miss the priority deadline chance of admission goes down further.

Barnard also allows applications for Spring transfer. Deadlines are later this fall.

Spring transfer isn’t a good option for me. It’s alright, thanks.

Mostly wondering what my chances are for Hamilton at this point.

Hamilton says they have limited financial aid for transfers and that it depends how much of their budget has been allocated to the freshman class. They also say they are not in a position to accept any transfer students right now because they are overenrolled for the class of 2021-2022. I think your chances depend on how many students are looking to transfer out. Otherwise, there might not be room.

I’m not sure what your actual chances are as I have very little contact with transfer students, but personally, I think you’re a very strong student who writes and presents who they are well. I hope you get both admission and finances to make things affordable. Wherever you go, you’ll be an asset to the college and future endeavors.

And on a biased note, I hope #1 turns out to be UR because I love the school as seen via my own son. :sunglasses:

Yeah, I think I heard somewhere that Hamilton had a recent increase in applications, or something like that. Their site says they are still accepting apps for Fall 2022, which is what I’m applying for, but I’m guessing that their usual acceptance of 10-20 transfers has lowered even more…

Oh, I’m glad to hear your son had/is having a good time at UR! Thanks for the support!

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I think you are a great candidate and these schools would be lucky to have you. It is just so hard when the acceptances will depend on factors that are out of your control - like finances or how many students transfer out. It really has less to do with your accomplishments or what you can bring to the campus community. I wish you the best of luck. Keep us posted!