Being a female applicant does enhance your chances at schools (or their CS departments) where applicants are disproportionally male, as all of them are aiming to be more gender balanced. However, being also Asian may offset some of that advantage at many of these schools (except perhaps Caltech and the UCs on your list) since their applicants are disproportionally Asian. So the key to success is to distinguish yourself among a group of similarly highly qualified applicants. Applying broadly isn’t a good strategy. Instead, focus on the schools that you’re better matched (from the perspectives of both you and the school) and make sure your essays reflect that match.
Are you applying early to any of these? RD round is brutal. Your chances are much higher if you pick a top choice and apply there early.
You might even be able to combine an EA + ED app together. For instance EA MIT + ED Cornell. And then ED 2 to CMU.
Have you considered schools outside the US? Imperial College London and University of Waterloo have top CS departments. You can complete a degree in the UK in only 3 years.
I agree with others that you need to come up with a rationale for what seems to be an eclectic list in terms of academic strengths, geography, population density, political leanings, etc.
But for the rest of this post, I will ignore that and just evaluate the colleges on your list and some suggestions from others.
As others have said, there is no school out of your reach. But your profile, while impressive, is similar to thousands of others that get rejected each year from the most elite colleges.
To me, the most important decision is where to apply early. Are you willing to commit to a school ED in order to get the admissions bump? Here is how I would classify those colleges in terms of early applications. Usual caveats apply, including good recommendations and compelling “Why Us” essay when applicable.
- CalTech EA (visit if you can)
- CMU ED
- Cornell ED
- Harvey Mudd ED
- Brown ED
- Duke ED
- MIT EA
- Harvard EA
- Stanford EA
I have skipped some colleges on purpose because their admissions seems unpredictable. For example, from our school there are multiple instances of kids getting deferred from Ga Tech but getting 2 or more HYPSM acceptances, while in the same year Ga Tech admits kids with considerably weaker profiles.
GATech routinely rejects kids with perfect stats. The school has plenty of overachieving valedictorians and award winners, and a ton more to choose from the applicant pool. When GATech Admissions says they are running a holistic admissions operation, they mean it. They’re looking for diverse interests, demonstrated leadership capability, and community involvement in addition to strong essays. You’d be shocked how many seemingly top GATech applicants bomb their essays.
The Ga Tech cases I am talking about are high school kids that go well beyond perfect stats and being valedictorian. One in particular had national awards AND published papers in peer-reviewed journals AND had multiple other ECs where he was a leader. He was accepted to Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, but deferred from Ga Tech. I guess it’s possible this kid bombed his Ga Tech essay, but it’s not the type of thing he would do.
And in the same year, Ga Tech accepted someone else who was also unhooked but perhaps somewhere in the top 15% of the class. She had other offers as well from places like CMU and Rice, but nothing in the top 10. It was just odd.
Clearly some yield protection at play. UMich is more pronounced, but I didn’t know GTEch practiced it as well
Without evidence, it’s possible, but I wouldn’t say it’s clear. Maybe that student made an error on their application. Publics tend to be a little more rigid about the rules. It was speculated for years that Cal Poly exercised yield protection, but it turned out applicants were leaving out high school level math and language classes taken in middle school. Their algorithm score took a substantial hit as a result.
Michigan has been predictable for kids from our high school. Both my kids were accepted there, but went elsewhere. I think showing interest in terms of a visit certainly helps, as does some students from your school accepting their offer of admission each year.
Anyway, getting a bit off topic, so I will stop this digression.
Given your academic record and other accomplishments, you should be cognizant of “The Tulane Effect” where schools reject high stat students because the admissions officers believe the student is using them as a safety, and will attend a more prestigious/highly ranked university if accepted. To counter act this, you should demonstrate interest in the schools to which you apply by visiting the campus, meeting alumni (if available), and writing a tailored essay for each school that shows you have done your homework and are really excited about the institution. After visiting campuses and finishing your research, apply ED to your top realistic choice.
That would be Tufts
I would add that although not as common, some kids get in with no APs! My daughter’s private school offers no APs, she was admitted to Stanford REA (class of 2025). She did take a 4 advanced classes her senior year but none were officially “AP.”
Number of APs taken by the top students in high school seems to be a regional thing. It seems like TX and GA (among others) are high-AP states. In other states it’s uncommon for students to take a lot of AP classes.
However, there is a point beyond which more AP classes are not useful at all for college admission.
Private schools are a different breed
Time to refocus on OP?
Haven’t toured any of the schools, my parents don’t see the point in going and visiting an out-of-state school. I have, however, signed up for the mailing list and read all the emails and letters.
Visiting is expensive, but very helpful. First, it will give you a sense of how the school would work for you. Our son eliminated multiple schools after seeing them. Second, it shows the schools that you have a commitment to them.
If you can’t visit in person, sign up for virtual tours and virtual info sessions. Besides getting better insight into each school, will also help with demonstrated interest (at the schools where this matters).
I’ve heard yield protection called “Tufts Syndrome” and “Tulane Syndrome”.
Schools will be looking for demonstrated interest, and visits would greatly help your cause. Could you at least visit your top two or three choices? I see several schools in CA on your list; could you wrangle a flight to see three schools in one trip (UCLA and CalTech are 30 minutes apart)? I assume you are going to visit Austin. Do any schools on your list offer alumni interviews? Are schools still offering Zoom information meetings? Are any holding recruiting events near you?
You are applying to the most competitive program at some of the most selective schools in the country, and while your achievements are impressive there will be many other applicants to these schools who are equally accomplished. You have two goals during the application process: 1. make the school want you, and 2. make the school think that they are your top choice and you will attend if accepted.
eye speaks the truth. My son included CWRU on his list because it met his requirements for programs offered, distance from home, etc., but at the beginning of the process it was near the bottom of his list. After touring the campus and speaking to students there, however, it jumped to near the top of his list and he is a freshman there right now.