Chance Me Aerospace Eng or Comp Sci

One the visit trail with my mom. We’ve been thinking some of the schools we’ve seen are safeties but I’m feeling unsure about that after doing more research. My grades and scores are great but my EC are slim. Am I out for the elite schools? It feels like a 36 on the ACT isn’t worth what it once was with so many schools being test optional. I have a strong interest in becoming an astronaut.


  • US citizen
    *From Kentucky
  • Rising senior at highly ranked Independent School
  • Male, Caucasian

Intended Major(s) Aerospace Engineering or Computer science/engineering, possible double major

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 4.0

  • Weighted HS GPA : 4.5

  • Class Rank: HS does not rank but top 5%

  • ACT: 36 across the board

AP GoPo, AP US History, AP Comp Sci A, AP AB Calculus, AP Bio, AP Psych, AP Physics, Multivariable Calc, 4 years english, 3 years Latin, Advanced Physics, Advanced Chem, Advanced Bio, Advanced precal, Advanced Geometry, Advanced Alg 1&2

Physics Award, Best Technician (tech for plays)

Robotics Team—state competition three times, Thespian Society—tech (sound), math team—top scorer, train and coach parkour

Recs and essays will be strong

Cost Constraints / Budget
Cost not an issue


  • Safety *UK, UT-Knoxville, UAB-Huntsville
  • Likely *VA Tech, Purdue, GA Tech, UMichigan, UI-Urbana, Colorado School of Mines, Penn State, Cornell, Columbia, UT-Austin
  • Match
  • Reach* MIT (dream), Cal Tech, Stanford, UCLA, Harvard

I think - which do you want - Aerospace or Comp Sci.

I do think your 36 is a positive. Yes, so many kids today are applying T/O and yes a substantial amount getting in are TO - especially at private schools. I’m sure that’s about the $$. A 36 shows you did it - those other kids aren’t submitting because they didn’t.

At the publics, your essays and LORs in many cases don’t matter.

I like your safeties - you’ll get a sweet deal at all 3. You might take a look at Embry Riddle (Daytona Beach) and Florida Tech as well. These two school are aerospace focused.

Rose Hulman - very small - but likely a safety. CSM is a safety for you, not a likely. It’s a great school, not so hard to get in. Penn State is also a safety.

Your likelies - I like the list but not the description. VA Tech yes. Purdue for engineering yes. CS might be a stretch. GA Tech is not a likely…for anyone, nor is U Michigan. Illinois - for CS is a stretch but for engineering is likely.

Cornell and Columbia are Ivies - they are not likely or match for anyone - and nor is UT Austin out of state - so those are reaches. Then your last four are reaches. You can get into anywhere however.

Did you have a job, etc? So your extracurriculars, you show two. If you can show depth which means longevity, leadership, and accomplishment, you’ll be ok. I think your list is fine but while you say money isn’t an issue, you can spend a lot less than you need to. I might add - if they are a fit for your size/campus wise - in addition to my recs above a Case Western, Colorado (rated higher than Mines in Aerospace), and Auburn. Arizona will be near free tuition for you and has a wonderful Honors College. ASU is another great one. And WPI could work well for you too. Rice too might be of interest - it’s a reach - but so what? And UMD, another great engineering school that would be a target. Great for CS too.

The question i have for your safeties - ie UAH - if you ended up there, would you be disappointed? Or UTK or UK? If so, take them off your list and find other safeties. Safeties need to be something you can be happy with.

Also, you have to decide - CS or Aersopace/MechE - that will impact where you apply.

I like it - but check out some of the names I mentioned. Make sure they fit what you seek - size, urban/suburban, etc.


U of AL Huntsville, University of Central FL-known for engineering. Did you take the PSAT? Will you be National Merit Scholar? Both of these schools offer merit $ for high stat students.

@Collegemom31 Agree with @tsbna44 to pick CS or ME (Aero) just for the purpose of defining your application with a “story.” You will have to write very specific essays for some of the schools on your list and it will help you to create a direct link between what you’ve done, what you’re interested in doing, what the school offers, and what kind of impact you’ll make at the school. The more specifically you can write, the more you will make your case for admission.

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Test Optional is not Test Blind. A high standardized test score is still quite meaningful to TO schools.

My oldest daughter just graduated in Engineerign and my younger is looking at CS with a 4.0/1580. Your list is pretty much a match of their lists. CMU and Georgia Tech are the only conspicuous absences, along with Ohio State, Maryland, and Wisconsin as potential safeties.

Thanks so much for the comments. Very helpful. I’ve toured CMU and it just didn’t click for me. GATech is high on my list for sure. Great tour and school. Was just at VATech today and really liked it.

I did really well on the PSAT so I anticipate being a National Merit Semi-finalist at least.

I also have played soccer for four years at school and run on the cross country team for two. My job is at the parkour gym where I train.

I said AE or CS with mane a double major because I’m just not sure yet which way I will decide to go. Great advice to pick one for application purposes so I can tailor my essay answers. I want to go to a strong engineering school that offers aerospace in case that’s the way I want to go. I also want my school to be strong in CS in case I decide to go that way.

This is all really helpful information. Thanks for your comments.

Good luck. Btw for my money Va tech is one of the nicest campuses anywhere. Large bit gorgeous!!

Supposedly great food too !!

You’ll be great no matter what !!

I think you want CU-Boulder, not Colorado school of Mines. Both good schools, but CU is better known for astronauts than Mines. A new engineering building has some kind of space capsule built into the building. There is a CS major in the engineering school and in the A&S school.

Buzz Aldrin really does walk around Florida Tech campus talking to students, sitting in on classes. And there are a few others around too. It is fun to be near the launches. I was at the stadium watching my daughter play a game, and I swear just as the music got to ‘And the rocket’s red glare…’ a launched rocket flew right overhead. It was daylight, so not so red, but still very cool.

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