Chance and Match a Rising HS Senior?


  • US Citizen
  • Lower Middle Class
  • Denver, CO
  • Traditional Public High School (around 400 students in my grade)
  • Cis Female
  • Both my parents are biracial - I’m Filipino, Black, White & Hispanic

Intended Major(s) : Poli Sci & possibly Journalism

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.9/4.0
  • Weighted HS GPA: 5.0/5.2
  • Class Rank: Unknown atm but within the top 10
  • ACT/SAT Scores: I plan on retaking the SAT in September, I didn’t do as well as I hoped initially


  • All Honors/AP classes/concurrment enrollment classes taken for all 4 years

  • Courses tied to my major (Not AP):

    • Student Government Honors (mainly a planning committee, only done junior year, but will do senior year)
    • Student Voice/Leadership Honors class (more action-based, only done junior year, but will do senior year)
    • Planning to take a Concurrent Enrollment PoliSci class senior year
  • AP Scores :

    • AP Computer Science Principles - 5
    • AP Human Geography - 4
    • AP Literature - 4
    • AP US History - 4
    • AP Language - 4
    • AP US Government - Haven’t received yet but I’m guessing a 4 or 5
    • (I also took AP Physics & AP Spanish classes, but I didn’t take the AP tests - Will this look bad? Although, I do plan on taking the Seal of Biliteracy in my senior year)


  • Super Citizen State Award
    • I earned this in 8th grade but it’s a pretty significant award in the schools in my area so I’m hoping to include it
  • Appreciation Award for Varsity Cross Country Team
  • AP Scholar with Honor


  • Chair of state student-voice NPO
  • Member/Coordinator/3-Summer Intern of another state student-voice NPO
  • Co-Founder & Director of Chapters of national student-created NPO/PAC
  • Co-Creator of Youth City Council with a city councilwoman
  • Co-Creator of district student voice NPO
  • School ambassador for district student voice program
  • Campaign Intern for prominent Senate candidate in another state
  • Youngest member of City Climate Council
  • Recruitment Lead for climate-change NPO state chapter
  • One of the only student members of school’s general operations committee
  • Member of Youth Advisory Board for national youth-voting NPO
  • Poll volunteer for 2020 Election
  • Chair and founder of Mock Trial Club at school
  • Leadership Team of Speech & Debate club
  • Member of Student Government (it’s a class at my school not a club)
  • Member of National Honor Society

I initially wrote some descriptions/accomplishments for each activity but it was getting pretty lengthy. Some big accomplishments I had with these orgs were leading a bill through committee, teaching an “equitable youth-adult partnerships” lesson to adult orgs and a university here, conducting interviews for district superintendent candidates, and being featured in a couple state-based news outlets and podcast, but I can give more info if that’s helpful!


  • Essay: I have my Common App essay draft but I’m still editing it - topic on how I’ve confronted my anxiety through advocacy work and want to uplift other voices who may not be heard like mine was - I’d say it’s fairly good so far maybe a 6.5/10
  • LORs: I have an idea of who to ask and I’m guessing they’re all going to be pretty strong because I’m asking ppl I’ve worked closely with for years

Cost Constraints / Budget

  • Honestly, I’ve accepted that my college debt is going to be terrible and I kind of have the mindset of “If I’m already going to be in debt, I might as well go all out”. I definitely would love to go somewhere with an awesome financial aid program, but I’m not entirely ruling the school out if it doesn’t have one. - says the naive rising senior (I may change my mind about budget later haha)


  • Preferences

    • Good financial aid
    • Out-of-State
    • Medium population size but not too concerned with population size
  • School List so far

    • Denver University
    • Colorado University
    • American University
    • Georgetown (I really love Georgetown so far)
    • Columbia University
    • University of Michigan

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I’ve heard so much about starting college applications the summer before senior year which is why I’m trying to get advice right now. I’d love to know the weak/strong areas of my application, ideas of how to improve, and also some college recommendations!

  1. 8th grade award out. Sorry

  2. Debt…I might as well go all out is the silliest thing I’ve heard. You don’t want to destroy yourself debt wise.

Fortunately the government limits you to $5500 unless your parents want more. So you can’t fulfill your foolish notion of going all in, especially because your two majors are both notoriously poor paying.

Gtown has its own app so its own essays and letters required. They do not have merit aid. So run the net price calculator. Talk to your parents…can they afford it ? It’s a lot of work to apply is my point.

The logical answer is CU or CSU or any other Colorado public.

Look at U of Arizona for great merit as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Ms State, U of SC, Florida State (although you’ll need a strong test for aid) Also SMU and if you want to be in government, W & L and the Johnson Scholarship. Their connection to DC is impeccable. At Arizona you will be cheaper than in state. And you can do the Honors College. For journalism ASU and their Honors College will be a great fit too but not quite as aggressive merit wise.

I’m sure you know this but of the three you list GTOWN, Columbia (also no merit aid) and Michigan are reaches.

Have your parents run the net price calculators. See what they say. Knowing you can borrow $5500, can you make it work ? If not remove them from consideration. And don’t fall in love with any school !!!
For American, demonstrated interest is key. So open emails, attend a few webinars, etc. they do have merit. UMD and George Mason, location wise, can get you near DC.

Of the majors you list AU and W&L would be best. But honestly you can go anywhere.

Debt is not your friend. Many schools have DC semesters. Just google the school name and Washington DC or DC semester.

Good luck.

Ps there are private schools, such as Hendrix, that have programs to match your state flagship in cost.

Good luck


You really don’t want to go into debt for a degree. The long term costs of the debt can be crippling. Debt has opportunity costs because you must make the loan repayments. So, you forego getting married, having kids, buying a house, buying a car, taking a vacation, saving for retirement, etc. In the long term you are better served finding a good degree at an affordable cost.

You are lucky. You are in-state at Colorado and Colorado State. You should seriously consider both. Other schools, Arizona, Arizona State, New Mexico, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Alabama, and Mississippi State. You need to compare whether these out of state schools are better costs than your in state choices. Compare the relative strength of the departments you are interested in. Look at the honors college in each.


Lower middle class+URM + activist = Oberlin, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Macalester, Skidmore, perhaps Brandeis, Wellesley? Denison for Lugar+ non fiction writing?
For near safeties, Willamette, Kalamazoo, Dickinson.
Run the NPCs.
Express interest at all of them now: create a email account, use it for all of these colleges’ Request info form/join the mailing list, click on the emails they send you, read the links you clicked from the emails. (It all countd as “interest”).
(CU and CSU may be very expensive, even instate. Do apply to the Honors college bur you’ll likely fare better with meet need colleges than with merit based aid).
The Cornelius Vanderbilt scholarship may be worth looking into but you may well qualify for enough need based aid anyway.
Finally, see if your family’s income might qualify you for Questbridge.

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This is the first step - running the NPCs on a few schools - because when you say you’re lower middle class, that could mean lots of things and the OP may or may not qualify for aid - and unlikely QB - although until you check the calendars, you never know.

Strictly speaking, lower middle means a family of 4 with an income 45-65k, so borderline Pell and above. (65k is middle-middle, that’s why it’s the typical cap for Questbridge).
Of course people usually estimate without these references and often just base their estimate on people around them, ie., a family with two parents working full time making $15 an hour would consider themselves middle class if many people around them are hour workers paid $7.25-11 an hour but would say working class in a town where average income is above 100k…
As we all know, almost everyone in the US feels they’re middle class. :wink::grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Who you just described would not be middle class of any sort to me - but yeah, when people throw out terms - everyone has a different idea of what that means. And often kids have no idea of what their parents have.

Personally, I think I’m pretty cute…but not sure anyone else thinks so :slight_smile:

You seem very impressive! I would just echo what @tsbna44 said, which is to look into the Johnson scholarship at Washington and Lee University. W&L is a selective school, looking to increase its diversity, with strong ties to Washington. I am persuaded that, despite its troubling history, it’s making big efforts to overcome the past. That said, it is not for everyone. But, worth a look.

Have you run net price calculators? From what you’ve written you would qualify for financial aid, so focusing on schools with good aid (let alone merit) would seem to be a good strategy.

Not sure what the “cute” reference is, but otherwise, those are basic cut offs.
(Below 30k a year are the working poor – 40 hours a week, federal minimum wage= about 20k a year, not subsistence wage nor sufficient to rent a one bedroom apartment anywhere, pay utilities and buy food. Above 100k and you’re in the top 30% households or upper middle class. This of course doesn’t take into account whether your household is in Jackson or in San Jose.)
If OP’s family income is ~65k that’d be middle class but could be understood as lower middle depending on the area.

I was being a dork. That’s all. Just saying when a person uses a term it’s definition is up for debate. There may be formal terms but many may not know them.

The other thing is assets. It’s not just income.

And not all parents share their financials with their kids. So the parents should be filling in the NPCs.

That’s a big fallacy to begin a career with, and it won’t end well, I promise. Adult life has a way of making you regret taking out large sums of debt. Here’s the catch…the college has zero responsibility if the mountain of debt from their inflated tuition messes up your future. All they care about is the paid tuition bill, and that you come back for more. I wouldn’t expect generous financial aid either. If universities offered generous financial aid to everyone, they’d go bankrupt. I’ve seen cases where the university is generous, but those are very rare exceptions.

My advice, find something you can afford within a range of 30k total debt for all 4 years. If the list doesn’t meet that criteria, you shouldn’t go there, because the cost will outweigh the rewards for a bachelors degree. And, NO…prestige is NOT a path to big money. Big money comes from marketable skills, and marketable degrees are abundant in most any university, especially if you earn top grades.


hmm … I think the LOR’s should have been asked for during May? I think the best time would have been before summer as teachers usually will put more time and effort into the letters if you ask them before the break.

Don’t worry about the past. Move forward.

Mine asked in the Fall and it was fine.

Nonetheless, look ahead, not back.

Are you in the running for the Boettcher or Daniels scholarships?

Colorado public schools no longer require test scores.