Chance a white male debater for Harvard REA and other T20s!

demographics: white male from florida

  • hooks (first generation to college, legacy, athlete, etc.): none

intended major(s): sociology or international relations

sat: 1560

gpa: 3.87UW, 4.64W; class rank is in the top 5-6% of a pretty big class size


my course rigor pretty much consists of the hardest classes that you can take at my school. by the end of my senior year, i’ll have taken 18 APs

  • so far, my AP scores have been all 5s, bar one 4


  • various awards in speech and debate; state champion, won numerous major national tournaments
    • ranked first in my event in the country by nsda
  • runner-up at an international competition related to international affairs
  • exclusive school awards for leadership and community service
  • chapter of the year award from the large political org discussed below
  • national merit semifinalist (most likely)


  • speech and debate
    • team captain for a pretty large and successful program (ranked t10 in the country)
    • created a website that provides free online resources to people in speech and debate, had approximately over 550,000 visits last year from all 50 states and around 30 countries
  • really large student-run political organization
    • high-level leadership position
      • directly manage over 500 people across the US
      • helped raise over $350,000 for the organization in just one year through fundraising campaigns
      • initiated a campaign that registered over 75,000 people to vote in the run up to the midterms
    • school level position
      • increased membership by a ton
      • was named chapter of the year by the organization
  • did a month-long language immersion program in two different countries for two different languages
    • i’m quadrilingual (i don’t know if this is actually unique/impressive)
  • created an international relations blog that has gotten over 230,000 views in the past year
    • featured in several local news sites and by a couple national activism organizations
  • spoke at a ted-x conference about my interest and impact for international relations
  • formed a district-wide advocacy group to foster social change in my school district
    • promoted covid-19 and campus safety reforms
    • featured in several local news sites
  • ranked in the top 150 in my state for tennis (not school-affiliated)
  • did a month long service/volunteer project at a refugee camp in the us
  • on student advisory committee for my HoR representative
  • intern @ major law firm
  • volunteer @ immigration legal clinic every week

essays: going to try to create a compelling story about my love for international relations

letters of recommendation:

  • teacher #1: (8/10)
    • good relationship, but it’s mostly academic instead of personal
      • we have long conversations about politics/current events
  • teacher #2: (8/10)
    • more of a personal relationship, as i had a really fun time in her class
  • coach: (10/10)
    • known him for five years, he loves me and will gush about me and my skills in speech and debate
      • he said he will write me an excellent rec, so…


  • harvard (rea)
  • the rest of the ivys, stanford, uchicago, duke, johns hopkins, georgetown, notre dame, usc, northwestern (rd)


You have a chance which is all anyone can ever say about Harvard. Harvard admits plenty of kids that look like you but also rejects plenty of kids that look like you. And applying REA means you can’t play the ED card at one of the other schools on your list. But you have enough of a chance that it isn’t silly to REA. Also I am sure many will post to warn you to have some safeties, I assume you have schools other than the reaches you list in your post.

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Congratulations on your achievements. I can’t chance you but you will be a competitive applicant.

It takes a lot of time and effort to apply to 16 reach schools, some of which are quite dissimilar. I encourage you to cull your list as I am concerned the quality of your essays likely won’t be as good as they could be with a greater focus on fewer schools.

Of course you may have some additional essays among your match and safety schools…do you have those lists complete? Are all the schools you listed affordable per their net price calculators?

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Hope you have an in state safety. And that it’s not UF.

What the previous poster wrote is true for each school on your list - and yes being white from Florida will impact. Look at the racial makeup of each school.

Also look at your list - every Ivy makes zero sense other than prestige. You will set four years on campus. What do you want in a school? There are many differences between schools on your list. You need to cull the top and add to the bottom. But you will be on campus four years day after day. Prestige doesn’t bring happiness so figure out what you want and then apply to schools, Ivy and otherwise, that fill the need.

I assume you discussed finances with your folks ? If you are full pay you are looking at $340k plus vs FAR LESS than $100k in state. Are they ok with that, given your non pre professional majors and that your state offers the nations top financial program for smart kids ?

If doing IR, where is Tufts?

Look at the Jan 6 hearings. I see prominence from Christopher Newport and Kent State. Earlier prominence from College of Charleston.

Figure out, besides a pedigree, what you want in a school.

You may get into a school on your list. You’re qualified. But it’s certainly possible you’ll get rejected to all.

Good luck.


I can chance you better with more information:

How many kids from your school get into ivies/duke/NW /similar schools, and what percent of the class is that?

When you say “pretty much” the hardest courses, are there hard ones you have skipped?

What APs have you already finished?

What is your senior courseload?

With your interest in international relations I’m surprised you don’t have more DC schools on your list. What about GW or American? You need some colleges with >20% acceptance rate.

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It is unique but I wouldn’t focus on what is impressive. Do you know the four languages because you learned them or do you use them in conversation on a regular basis? You have quite a few accomplishments. Focus on telling about you and who you are and what drives or motivates you, not what you think will impress the reader. Authenticity is important when applying to top schools.

I think descriptions of your activities and achievements will paint that picture. I suggest that you also share who you are as a person beyond your titles and academic interests. What type of student will you be on campus? What type of roommate or dormmate are you? What will you contribute to the campus community?

Please tell me what is the similarity in these colleges for you beside their rankings. The schools in the Ivy League, for example, some are very different than others. What is the common thing between Dartmouth and Penn (rural vs urban)? Or Brown and Columbia (open curriculum vs strong core requirement)?

Even climate…Stanford has very different weather than Dartmouth. Or Cornell for that matter.

What is the common thread that makes these colleges appealing to you?


Isn’t what you want to see to have a good shot at schools with low single digit admit rates.

Having your best rec come from someone other than a teacher of a core academic subject isn’t optimal.

1560 isn’t great either.

Top national ranking in debate is very good, but…

If you were a legacy or urm, you’d have a decent shot.

As is, your chances aren’t much differant than the average applicant: single digits.

Yes it is!


Less than 2 months ago you were thinking about EDing to Duke. Now you want to do REA to Harvard. Why the switch? (It’s totally okay and normal to switch, but sharing your rationale can help people get a better idea of what it is you want.)

So long as you provide verifiable evidence for all of your accomplishments, you should be a very strong applicant to any of these schools. Being a very strong applicant, however, does not mean you are likely to receive an acceptance. I would guess you would get at least one acceptance, but there are no guarantees and I would definitely make sure you have likely options for acceptance that you would be happy to attend and that your family is willing and able to afford without loans.

Are there any of your activities that you would like to continue in college? What kind of experiences are you hoping to have while at university? It appears as though you’re interested in mid-size schools in urban/suburban locations. Is that correct? How do you feel about Greek life? Sports enthusiasm?


A 1560 is an incredibly good score!


I have a different opinion – I think you have an excellent chance at getting in to one or more of those schools. I would be very shocked if you didn’t. Your grades and SAT scores are great – but as others have said – there will be countless others with those stats. To me, it’s your EC’s that set you apart.Very few high school kids will have the kind of cohesive story you have – your interests show what your passions are, you take action and make the things that you get involved in greater, bigger, and more successful. Your story tells schools you will be a value adder, you will contribute, you are a doer.

Of course, I would add some safer schools to the mix – and I think you are exactly the kind of person that will get into UF – and I would just add in FSU as another state backup. My daughter with much less got into both (in state). I would also add in GW.

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While I suspect you have a chance everywhere, I do think Harvard and other T5 schools are really a long shot. You indicated top 5-6% of your class. Harvard, Yale, etc… Absent a major hook or recruited athlete, they really only admit top 1-2% of a given HS class.

I do think you have a very good shot at many of the T10-T20 schools. Georgetown, Northwestern, etc – I think you’d have a + chance at those.
Mind you – They are ALL “reaches.” But I suspect you’d be a very very competitive candidate at a school like Georgetown.
Your achievements are fantastic. But a school like Harvard has the luxury of looking for virtual academic perfection.

The other thing is many school’s today fill a lot of class via ED. Some over 50%. So when you are RD it’s a lot more difficult.

Not if you’re applying to T20s like Harvard and Yale as an unconnected, unrecruited, non diverse applicant going for one of the 100-150 or so seats at each school that are awarded purely on outstanding academic merit.

I’ll assume we are done debating whether a 1560 is a great score.


Op hasn’t responded other than the initial post.