Chance an apprehensive teenage girl for schools like Columbia, Tufts, Georgetown


  • US Domestic
  • State/Location of residency: midwestern state
  • Type of high school (current college for transfers): Private, single-sex
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity (optional): Female/White
  • Other special factors (first generation to college, legacy, athlete, etc.): No actual hook but single, widowed parent, and immigrant family (I was born here so… first-generation? American), parents went to college outside of the US (dad did MS at a state university in Tennessee and began P.h.D. at State University (continued until he died)),

Intended Major(s)

  • Psychology (on path to clinical psych P.h.D.)

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.9748/4.0
    • Grades dropped during COVID
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): N/A
  • Class Rank: School doesn’t rank
  • ACT/SAT Scores: none substantively until first week of September (working on it)
    • 30 on ACT both times (I gave up on this)
    • 1370 on SAT w/o studying (taken for free at school), 1390 two months later (was getting 1450s-1470s on official practice tests but felt anxious and weird on actual test date in an unfamiliar place)


(AP/IB/Dual Enrollment classes, AP/IB scores for high school; also include level of math and foreign language reached and any unusual academic electives; for transfers, describe your college courses and preparation for your intended major(s))

Freshman: Honors Bio (A-), Geometry (A-), Story Patterns + Archetypal Characters (A), Strings (A+), Honors World History (A), Intro to Comp Sci A (A), Health I (A), Seminar (P), Latin II (A)

Sophomore: Honors US History (A) (5 on AP), Latin III (A), Survey of American Literature (A), Honors Algebra II (B), Strings (A+), Honors Chemistry (A), Music Essentials (A)

Junior: AP Gov (A+) (5 on AP exam), Latin IV (A+), AP Lit (A+) (5 on AP), Human Anatomy + Physiology (A), Honors Physics (A), Precalculus (A), Strings (A+), Health II (A+), AP Psych (independent study: P) (5 on AP)

Senior: AP Bio, AP Euro, AP Lang, Shakespeare and Contemporary Interpretation, Strings, AP Calc AB, AP Latin


  • National JCL Essay Award

    • 5th place in an in-convention essay contest
    • Prompt comparing a modern song
  • AP Scholar with Honor

  • Two awards at state JCL convention

  • First Honors at school

    • No semester or final grade lower than an 82, with an average of 90 or above
  • Teen Ink Editor’s Choice Award

    • 2 poems accepted, one given award
  • MSL Recognition

    • Above a 3.5 GPA for spring semester


  • State JCL central rep (nonprofit org, 22-)
    • Attended national convention representing our state, organizing 4 major service projects this year, coordinating with other executive officers to organize fall forum and big state convention
  • After Hours Program Assistant (school org, aftercare program for elementary schoolers, paid: 21-)
    • Taking care of kids, helping mediate conflict, offering homework help, spreading positivity, etc.
  • Sound Crew Head (school org, on crew (19-), head (20-))
    • Operating soundboard, finding sounds for shows, editing sounds, working with sound engineers, delegating other duties to crew members
  • Thespian troupe secretary (school chapter (international), inductee and leader 21-)
    • Organizing picnics and thespian meetings, promoting troupe and theater participation through publicity, taking minutes for each meeting
  • Latin Club VP (school org, participant (19-), leader (20-))
    • Organizing school participation in State JCL, promoting Latin and study of classics, playing Latin-related games
  • Music Discussions Club President (school org, leader (21-))
    • Generating conversation about music and guiding analyses of different songs and music videos (open forum), popular music history, school Spotify page
  • Peer tutor (school org, senior year 22-)
  • Lacrosse player (19-)
  • Volunteering (19-)
    • Park + Botanical Gardens (21-) (100+ hours)
    • Public Library (19) (30+ hours)
  • Summer jobs (22)
    • Working at Community Center for a few weeks
      • Drama Camp Counselor for a little bit
      • Soundboard Operator for production of Little Mermaid Jr.
  • Shadowing experiments on AI and children’s speech (21-22)
    • State university lab
  • Participant in a psychological study at state university lab (22-25)
  • Violin player (13-22)
  • State University Summer Program (21-22)
    • Cognitive Sciences
    • Virtual last year (mainly lectures and breakout rooms)
    • This year: working on research, meeting profs, utilizing labs, attending lectures


(Optionally, guess how strong these are and include any other relevant information or circumstances.)

  • AP Lit teacher, Honors Physics Teacher, College Counselor
  • Working on Common App essay about how growing up as a child of immigrants + my dad’s death affected me
    • Might scrap the concept entirely or just be more creative about it while still making it poignant
    • Considering the rest of my stats, there likely is a lot riding on my essay

Cost Constraints / Budget

  • 55k a year income (single parent)
  • About 15k total budget

Schools (might eliminate higher reaches when final SAT scores come out)

  • State U (70+% accept rate EA + multiple interactions) EA
  • UVM EA
  • Columbia (ED)
  • Tufts (ED II)
  • Georgetown
  • Vassar
  • Wesleyan
  • BU
  • Amherst
  • Williams
  • Conncoll
  • NYU
  • Hamilton
  • Any suggestions? (looking for smaller, liberal arts, mainly northeast, access to a city preferred)

I’d add some liberal arts schools that are strong to your list and ED/EA to them. I think your list is top heavy and most are big reaches for all. All have similar stats (GPA), many who submit scores to those schools will also have high/higher SAT scores.
Your record looks great. Filling it in with schools that are very strong but not stretches will give you better options esp if you do EA. Columbia as an ED is a high reach for everyone. So use the ED for something a bit lower reach and you’ll have a better chance. Look at schools based on fit rather than name. Which of these schools is best for psych?


Are you eligible for questbridge?


Wow. Many of your classes sound interesting. I haven’t seen them at our local, large HS.

So it seems either your school doesn’t have a lot of AP science or you avoid them (except bio).

Rereading u r born here so Albania not a huge help.

So schools will calculate your weighted GPA. Most, not all, seem to give +.5 for Honors and +1 for AP.

I like your odds at a few.

Some on your list like Williams won’t work for you. Why ? Access to city. Same with Hamilton and arguably Conn College.

Trinity may work for Conn College although I’m not sure how nice the surroundings are. Bates and Bowdoin instead of Williams I’d guess.

Maybe a Bryan Mawr…easier to get into than Haverford and Swat but u can take classes. Franklin & Marshall…small city. Oberlin…small city. Dennison….ok Midwest but 30 mins from a city. Macalester is in city as is Occidental but not on your geography. Since you have mid size Gtown how bout Rochester and Brandeis (check NPC) ? See what I’m doing. Replacing the best of the best with some a rung lower - yet still great. You have too high an overall list.

But starting at Columbia on your list and down you should apply TO. Gtown is not TO so it’s unlikely but if you’d love to go there and are willing to fill out their lengthy app (it’s not on common), then ok.

Finally - you want to look at Questbridge given your mom’s income. You have done a nice job of picking meets needs schools.

Ps income alone is not all that matters. Assets do too Have your mom run the NPC for a few schools on your list- including UVM….likely unaffordable. There are affordable public flagships but not in the NE that I can think of for someone with your family income. More South, West, and even Midwest.


I concur on Questbridge, here’s the link/info:


If you would like a broad psychology program, look for colleges that offer courses or course elements in the major branches of modern psychology, notably clinical, biological/physiological, cognitive, educational, developmental, personality, sensory and social. Preparation in research methods and statistics should be emphasized as part of the standard curriculum. Look as well for accessible fieldwork opportunities.

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I definitely agree that applying to Questbridge would be the right move if you qualify. You could rank Columbia, Tufts, and others on your list. The aid package if you match is even better than what these same schools normally offer; and even if you don’t match and roll over to RD, being a QB applicant is advantageous.

I don’t see how UVM OOS is going to be an affordable option. They give merit aid but not to the almost-full-ride level that you will need. Have you run the Net Price Calculator for this school and the others on your list? The only public flagships that give need-based aid to OOS students are UVA, UNC, and to a more limited extent UMichigan.

Clark University could be a good one to look at. They’re particularly known for psychology. They don’t guarantee full-need-met aid, but for a high-stat student like you, they’re likely to offer what amounts to a full-need-met package via a combination of merit and need-based aid. Clark has access both to its own city of Worcester, MA, and to Boston (about 45 minutes via commuter rail). Also in Worcester and potentially worth a look is Holy Cross.

Since you like Vassar and Conn College, I’d look at Skidmore as well. They meet need and have a good psych department, with more clinical practice exposure than most undergrad psych programs. Urban access is limited, but Saratoga Springs is a great town (generally considered more fun than Poughkeepsie, for example).

If you love Columbia enough to apply ED, shouldn’t Barnard at least be on the list? Also, if you like Amherst, Smith and Mount Holyoke are worth considering.

If you like Georgetown, Tufts, and BU, then BC would be an obvious one to consider. Also Wellesley.


With respect to your list, look into Bates, which offers an excellent psychology program, and for which your current SAT score already would place you significantly above average.

Smith and Mt. Holyoke may offer better psychology programs than Amherst.

Based on your criteria and profile, Williams may not represent a great match for you.

Clark, at which Freud spoke, and at which Jung also appeared, is known for psychology.

Maverick American psychologist, and preeminent behaviorist, B. F. Skinner graduated from Hamilton.

Vassar and, to a slightly lesser extent, Wesleyan suit you, and should remain on your list.


Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic
Your land is mostly mountainous
And your chief export is chrome.

(Sorry…old people joke)

A 30 on the ACT is 93rd percentile. That’s pretty much where your SATs put you. It’s hard to put your extracurriculars in context (some, frankly, look like application padding) and of course one never knows what the letters will say. But I would venture a guess that you are in the top 10%, but not the top 1% of applicants - maybe top 5%, maybe a little lower.

That suggests that your list is reach-heavy. You also need a LOT of aid, which makes the list even more reach-heavy. An acceptance with not enough aid isn’t going to be helpoful.

You don’;t say which midwestern state, but Iowa City is not Minneapolis is not Urbana is not Madison. The state flagship may or may not meet your city criterion.

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I agree with the others above. You’re a very interesting candidate, but your list is very reach-heavy. Definitely look into Questbridge.

I will second the recommendation of Brandeis (MA) for you. Also, you may want to look at:

  • Bryn Mawr (PA ), 100% of need met
  • Clark (MA), 91% of need met
  • Gettysburg (PA ), 90% of need met
  • Goucher (MD), 87% of need met; can also use the Baltimore college consortium to take classes at U. of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, etc.
  • Lafayette (PA ), 100% of need met
  • Lehigh (PA ), 98% of need met
  • Muhlenberg (PA ), 90% of need met
  • Simmons (MA), 91% of need met, women’s college
  • Smith (MA), 100% of need met, women’s college
  • Trinity (CT), 100% of need met
  • Wheaton (MA), 96% of need met

Note that “need met” is based on how the college defines need. Run the Net Price Calculators at each school you’re considering, as some schools are more generous in defining need than others. Also, some schools include loans as part of the “meeting need” while others do not. Those are some big differences to note.


First, you might want to re-calculate your unweighted GPA… Based on your reported grades, it should be a tad lower than 3.97, particularly with a B in your history.

Second, you should qualify for a significant amount of financial aid. But research carefully for each school. Some schools with larger endowments give a greater degree of non-loan aid, Not every school meets 100% of calculated need, etc. In some cases, some expensive private schools can be “cheaper” than some public schools because of how aid is awarded.

Finally, your list appears to mostly be “high match.” Columbia and Tufts are reaches but not crazy reaches, you’d have a chance, particularly ED. UVM is probably your “safest” – Not quite safety, but admission is likely.
Schools like Vassar and Wesleyan would be high matches – Very realistic shot at admission but denials wouldn’t be surprising.

You’d be in good shape if you added 3-4 lower match/likely/safety schools.

As to your list, your schools are very very divergent in style, culture, feel. Nothing wrong with having a diverse list, but a school like NYU is in many ways the polar opposite of a school like Wesleyan… Consider the size of school you want, rural vs urban. Now, maybe those factors don’t matter to you (my own son has BU and Wesleyan both on his list).
So try to decide what type of school has the right feel for you.


Some additional notes that kind of apply to multiple comments at once:
*When I mention access to a city, it’s not a huge preference, although I would prefer a place with access to local internships + work. I love Boston and NYC (which are hugely advantageous in terms of location), but then again, I could settle for a college in a more isolated area if it includes a town + suburb and plentiful opportunities on campus. I don’t have a significant preference for urban over rural, but when it comes to making a final decision, that may be a deciding factor. Plus, I just like going out and trying new foods, activities, etc., which may be hard in a rural environment. Hamilton is the most rural school on my list, and Williams was mainly there for its financial aid program (location is a compromise). I toured Hamilton and liked the quaint little city and the general vibe (among actual tangible things), but we’ll see whether or not I’d be willing to commit the next four years of my life to living in Clinton, NY (if I hypothetically got in).
*A more tight-knit and open-minded community is primarily what I’m looking for. Obviously, most of the schools I’m looking at tout intellectually curious, academic, eclectic, and worldly student bodies, but I want all of this AND a kind, caring, collaborative community. I’m definitely more introverted but I want a strong support system: just to be surrounded by other people who care about the well-being of their fellow classmates.
*I also truly value access to research opportunities, but having faculty who actually care about teaching their students is imperative, as well. I’m looking for a place that will provide more closeness between students and professors (which is why I have a bunch of LACs on my list). I’m okay with a larger university like NYU or BU or my state university, if I can still carve out my niche and seek out relationships with professors. Otherwise, I’m kind of wary about the microscopic fish humongous pond situation. While I like having more social options and a wider array of opportunities, big class sizes are a little bit of a minus.
*I am certain about the location of my state university and applying there. It’s definitely more financially feasible, and judging by the amount of history I have with the school, I don’t think it will be a big deal. I’m within the middle 50% range for their standardized testing and hopefully will exceed it when I retake the SAT. I really like the city (the city that I was born and raised in), and I have no qualms with attending the school, especially through the Honors Program (if I were to get accepted). I have been told by my CC that this university is a safety for me, which is good.
*An A- is a 4.0 on our grading scale, which explains the 3.97 (calculated by school).
*I’m trying to avoid women’s colleges because I’ve attended a single-sex institution for 10 years and I am looking for a change. Maybe Barnard or Bryn Mawr for the Consortium, but I’m still unsure about whether I could commit to more single-sex education.
*Also budget may be closer to 25k??? (i think) (running npcs with updated info)-- still unsure about questbridge eligibility


How bout and it’s not NER bit a Vandy or Rice or WUSTL or Emory or schools a notch below - Brandeis, CWRU.

Based on your writing the Williams and Hamilton and Colgate aren’t for you. A school like Macalester would be. Bowdoin / Bates. Occidental, Lafayette, Franklin & Marshall,
But again you need to think lower …Trinity in Texas for example. Tulsa.

You can apply for the high end but you need some easier. Most important, you should not be in the middle of nowhere.

You are going to school for many years. Don’t make four of them tough on you environment wise.

Btw - I just looked at a ranking. Niche. It’s just one but Williams was like #90 for psych and Hamilton lower.

Get in the environment where you can walk off campus and find other cultures. Btw it won’t make cost unless u live in Indiana but Indiana U is known for the variety of ethnic foods nearby.

Georgetown sounds perfect for you. Too bad they don’t have ED.

Although Clinton is nicely offset from the east coast megalopolis, Hamilton offers free hourly access to nearby suburban amenities through its Jitney. Regarding Clinton itself, as was said by a local shopkeeper, “Everybody loves Clinton, it’s like living in Mayberry” (link below, as well a link to an NBC video). In terms of statistics, Hamilton may reside in the safest collegiate location in the nation, with a violent crime rate for its surrounding town of ~10,000 people of literally 0%.

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Check out Clark in Worcester. It is well-known for its Psychology program.

Also: Bryn Mawr. It is well known for its great track record in getting students into grad school.


First - congratulations on doing very well in high school.

Now, a couple of comments.

No, no, no, no. Your essay is your opportunity to show who you are, and why you would be a great addition to the college. It is not a competition top see whose life has been the most difficult. You want their interest, not their sympathy.

It’s difficult losing a parent that young, and I’m so sorry that you have to deal with that. However, that is not a reason for them to accept you. You want to showcase all of the characteristics that will make you an attractive applicant, and family tragedy is not one of them.

Your GPA is excellent, and if you apply test optional, your stats are strong.

As for colleges, you have some good advice there. I will add that, if you are in Illinois, and UIUC is in-state, they have what is considered one of the best programs in psychology. If you are from another state, it won’t be worth it - they are stingy with financial aid for OOS applicants.


Think you should also include some more match schools that give good financial aid (check with npc for your case) – like Univ of Richmond.

that’s so useful thread, education is hard thing, but entering the university is much harder