chance me/dream schools but idk if i'm their dream applicant

Hey! I’m a rising senior at a high school in Kansas. I’m working on my applications and essays for colleges now, and I’m applying to all of these schools, and more, but these are the ones I had questions about. I was hoping to get some advice on where I stand as an applicant and how I can strengthen my application.

I want to study public health and/or psychology in college on the pre-med track. I’m very passionate about journalism and public health, as well as community service, which is why I want to go down the pre-med track.


  • Tulane (number one choice, shown lots of demonstrated interest, applying EA or ED)
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Southern California
  • New York University
  • University of Wisconsin Madison
  • UC Santa Barbara + San Diego
  • Emory University
  • Wake Forest University
  • University of Kansas (Honors?)
  • University of Nebraska Lincoln (Honors?)


  • rising senior in Kansas, well ranked high school.
  • indian girl, middle class.
  • both parents went to college.
  • was in a total loss car crash and suffered from severe mental health issues sophomore and junior year which, in part, caused the downward slope in grades (I want to discuss this in my essays or on the commonapp, but idk how to without seeming like I’m making excuses).


  • 3.4255 unweighted GPA, 4.0208 weighted GPA → OVERALL
  • 3.2857 uw, 4.1429 w → JUNIOR
  • 3.4286 uw, 4.0 w → SOPH
  • 3.7143 uw, 4.2857 w → FRESH
  • ACT: 29 (highest composite), 33 (highest english), 27 (highest math), 35 (highest reading), 22 (highest science), 10 (writing) - RETAKING
  • SAT: 1340 (highest composite), 700 (reading), 640 (math), 17 (essay) - RETAKING
  • APS (end of junior year): Human Geography - 3 European History - 3 Psychology - 5 Language and Communication - 5 US History - 3 Physics - didn't take the AP test
  • Honors Classes (end of junior year): biology, geometry, ELA 9, ELA 10, spanish 4, chemistry, algebra 2, pre-calc + trig,
  • Senior Year: newspaper, AP Spanish Language, AP English Lit, Elections (social studies elective), International Relations, AP Calculus AB, AP Biology, AP Macroeconomics, AP US Govt + Politics


  • VP of school’s community service club since sophomore year, member since freshman
  • presidential service award freshman year
  • 500+ hours of community service during high school
  • online editor-in-chief of school’s newspaper as senior, staffer since sophomore
  • editorial assistant for international medical journal, edit for technical standards, communicate with research teams who submit them, working since sophomore year (ex of my passion for public health)
  • on medical research team to pass state legislation to make CPR hs grad requirement
  • hoping to work as a barista during senior year (put on application or no?)
  • organize and volunteer at Special Olympics events few times a year since third grade
  • violinist: seated in school orchestra freshman year until i dropped the class, took outside classes and performed at private events, since second grade
  • singer: traditional indian music (Telugu), take outside classes and perform at private events, since eighth grade
  • member of school science olympiad team, attended invitationals and competitions, not national or regional qualifier, since sophomore year (put on application or no?)

Calculate your UC GPA’s (3) and post using this calculator:

As an OOS applicant to UC Santa Barbara and San Diego, you can only get extra honors weighting for the UC GPA with IB or AP classes taken 10-11th grades. A UC Capped weighted GPA below a 4.0 will make these schools a difficult admit.

Also are your parents willing to pay $65K/Year for you to attend since UC’s give little to no financial aid to OOS applicants (need or merit based).

Some UC Admit Data based on the Capped weighted GPA:

2019 Freshman admit rates for UC GPA of 3.40-3.79 capped weighted and not major specific:
UCB: 1%
UCLA: 2%
UCSD: 9%
UCSB: 6%
UCI: 7%
UCD: 9%
UCSC: 40%
UCR: 53%
UCM: 80%

2019 Freshman admit rates for UC GPA of 3.80-4.19 capped weighted and not major specific:
UCB: 12%
UCLA: 7%
UCSD: 33%
UCSB: 32%
UCD: 47%
UCI: 35%
UCSC: 72%
UCR: 87%
UCM: 96%

**2020 UC capped weighted GPA averages along with 25th-75th percentile range: **
UCB: 4.22 (4.13-4.30)
UCLA: 4.25 (4.18-4.31)
UCSD: 4.18(4.04-4.28)
UCSB: 4.17 (4.03-4.27)
UCI: 4.11 (3.96-4.26)
UCD: 4.11 (3.97-4.25)
UCSC: 3.94 (3.71-4.16)
UCR: 3.88 (3.65-4.11)
UCM: 3.68 (3.40-3.96)

2020 Data:
25th - 75th percentiles for SAT totals:

UCB: 1320-1560
UCLA: 1350-1550
UCSD: 1310-1520
UCSB: 1290-1510
UCD: 1230-1490
UCI: 1280-1510
UCSC: 1170-1440
UCR: 1110-1380
UCM: 980-1260

25th - 75th percentiles for ACT composite + language arts
UCB: 29-35
UCLA: 31-35
UCSD: 29-34
UCSB: 28-34
UCD: 26-33
UCI: 27-34
UCSC: 24-32
UCR: 21-31
UCM: 18-27

Based on your posted stats, both UC’s will be Reach schools.

  1. Can you afford all these schools?
  2. You have 7 large state unis, 2 pretty big private in-city unis...and tiny little small town WFU?
  3. Make sure your GC and/or teachers- NOT YOU- is the one who talks about the impact of the car accident on your school work.

To be realistic, your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are below average for the schools on your list. That’s assuming you can afford them. There’s also a downward trend on your grades. So my opinion is this…go to KU or K-State. If you’re going into medicine, you’ll want to keep your debt low, because medical school is expensive. Plus your best chance of medical school is your home state, because med schools favor state residents. If you decide against medicine, you’re still in an affordable school with flexibility to change your major.

I am sorry to hear about your car crash and resulting drop in grades.

Do you feel ready to do better during your senior year of high school? If you want to be premed, then you would be best off getting yourself in a stronger state of mind before you go off to university and start taking difficult premed classes.

Have you talked to a counselor or psychologist, perhaps at school?

At this point I think that you would be better off getting A’s in honors classes rather than B’s in AP classes. You want to get back to the point that you are getting more A’s than B’s. Schools vary in terms of whether or not they will look at first semester grades senior year. However, it would not shock me if some schools asked for your first semester grades before making a decision, and doing well might help you both for admissions and in terms of being ready to do well in university.

Your science ACT score must be a bit disappointing for someone who is interested in Tulane and interested in being premed.

I am not sure that anyone knows for sure, but I am tempted to agree with @coolguy40 that you might be better off at an affordable in-state university in Kansas rather than at a more expensive out of state school where your stats put you in the bottom half of incoming freshmen.

I am so sorry about the car crash! In regards to “severe mental health issues sophomore and junior year which, in part, caused the downward slope in grades (I want to discuss this in my essays or on the commonapp, but idk how to without seeming like I’m making excuses).” there is a section on the common app called “additional information”. I would recommend discussing all of these circumstances here rather than in your actual common app essay. I am also a senior applying to Emory, Wake, and UMich! Are you retaking the SAT (I know this may not be possible)? If not, would you still submit your scores? I can’t really tell you what your chances are, because I don’t really know, especially in this time of chaos, but my sister got rejected from Tulane a few years ago, even though it was her safety. I can’t say this with certainty, but it seems like Tulane chooses applicants who show that Tulane is their first choice. If an applicant seems “overqualified”, they may think that that individual has better choices, so in an attempt to keep their acceptance rate low, they accept people that will likely attend. Anyway, good luck with everything! I believe in you!

Run the net price calculator for all the colleges on your list. Some of those out of state public schools will not give you a dime of financial aid. It just doesn’t make sense to assume loads of debt if medical school is in the cards.

@uniresearch3 , I find it difficult to conceive of a case in which Tulane is anyone’s safety. A safety is about admission numbers as much as stats, and with an admit rate in the teens (or low twenties a few years ago) and being a private college with holistic admissions, Tulane is no-one’s safety. I mention this only to ensure you are taking a different approach in your college list.

I think it is really difficult to assess OP’s chances because there is no way of telling how much leeway admissions might give due to the dreadful accident. On statistics alone (and combined with state residency where relevant), everything except Kansas and Nebraska looks like a reach. I think OP should consider adding a couple of matches that jibe with her actual achieved grades/scores. I also agree going to a cheaper instate if medical school is a goal is a very rational path regardless of where OP might be admitted.

other schools i’m applying to are: depaul, university of arizona, indiana bloomington, university of wisco madison.
i’m considering adding more to the list, but my number one choices are tulane and then ku honors at this point.
i’m expecting an upward trend in grades for senior year. i spent a lot of quarantine getting to a better place mentally, and i’ve worked with teachers and tutors to prepare for the stem classes i’m going to take.
i also completed an online public health course from johns hopkins university and have a certificate for it, as well as a class about the science of well being from yale and i have a certificate for that as well.
i retook the sat this weekend, and i’m expecting an increased score. i’m retaking the act in a few weeks and i’m also expecting an increase for that. i’ve shown lots of demonstrated interest for tulane.
i’m concerned abt the cost of the schools and i understand the responsible choice would be in state bc of med school, but if i got into tulane or another oos that i rly liked, i think i can figure out a way to make it work.
i’m well aware that grades and scores rly will make or break, and i know i’m on the lower end for a lot of these schools. with that being said, is there anything else i could do at this point to improve my chances?
i feel like my ec’s are pretty strong, especially bc i’m rly passionate abt public health and i have the medical journal and research team, as well as the community service. am i overestimating the weight those will have?
do you have any advice for how to write about mental health issues? i want to explain the situation, but i don’t want to sound like i’m making excuses or complaining.
two of my teachers who i’m asking for rec letters can speak to the effect they had on my grade bc it was so noticeable, but i only told one teacher about the car crash bc i missed a test lol. it was early in the year and i was just uncomfortable talking abt it then. my gc can also speak to the mental health issues and what went wrong junior year, but he changed positions for this school year and i have a new gc who i don’t know at all.
idk i know i’m shooting way out of the ballpark here, but i just want to do everything in my power to improve my chances at this point. any advice is greatly appreciated. thx sm guys teehee<3

  1. Cost is for sure a concern, and in that regard I'm really looking into KU honors, but if Tulane or another school that I'm really interested in accepted me, I think I would try to make it work. I know the responsible choice is in state, but I'd risk it for Tulane haha.
  2. The other schools i'm applying to are: depaul, u of az, indiana bloomington, and wisco madison. I know it's pretty random haha but these are just schools that I feel like are a good fit for me and they're all across the board just bc i like the diff types of college life they have to offer.
  3. i didn't rly tell anyone abt it besides one teacher who i had to tell bc i missed a test in her class. idk i know this sounds dumb but i was just embarrassed idk why but it was early in the year and i just felt anxious having to talk about with teachers. two of my teachers can speak a lot abt the effect mental health issues had on me and my grades, and so can my gc to an extent, but he recently changed positions and idk anything abt my new gc. some of these schools require a letter from a gc. what should i do abt that?

Thank you so much for responding, it really means alot and anything you have for me is greatly appreciated!!!

I’m working to get to a better place mentally and academically over quarantine and I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunities to do so. I feel prepared for my senior year classes, I’ve been working with tutors and my teachers to get ready for them and I think I can show significant improvement this fall. My one concern is that I’m sending in some of apps before the fall semester is over, so I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to show them my fall senior year grades before they make their decision.
I’ve talked to my counselor at school a bit abt mental health issues and the effect that had on school, but I was honestly just anxious about opening up like that which I understand won’t rly help in terms of college admissions. I plan on seeing an out of school psychologist soon. Two of teachers who I’m asking for letters of rec can speak greatly to the effect mental health issues had on my grades, but I’m worried that it won’t really make a difference just bc mental health issues aren’t uncommon and I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to justify or excuse my grades.
I’m retaking the ACT soon and I’m expecting to improve pretty significantly in science, but if not, would it be better for me to just submit my SAT scores? I retook that recently too and I’m expecting to get a higher score.
Yeah i know instate is the most reasonable choice, and if i get into KU Honors I might just go with that. Tulane is just my dream school and I kinda wanna shoot every shot I have haha.
Thank you so much for your help, I truly appreciate it so much!!!

“I’m sending in some of apps before the fall semester is over, …”

When you send in your application, you might think that your effort to apply is over. However, the university has only started to consider your application.

I have seen cases at a single university where one applicant is accepted based on their application (with grades only through the end of junior year), but a different applicant got a specific request from the university for their first semester grades senior year. In the cases that I have seen the first student had very high grades, whereas the second student was closer to the cutoff so the university wanted more information. However, not all universities will do this. Some will only consider grades through the end of junior year. The admissions people are each university are just that, people, and they will do things the way that works for them.

Of course for students who take a gap year and then apply, or students who start at community college and then transfer, or students who start at one university and then transfer to a different university, the entire senior year of high school can be considered by admissions.

Regardless it is possible in some cases for some universities to ask you for more information. Again whether the schools you are applying to will do this I do not know since we were applying to different universities (we live way to the east of you). Doing well senior year however will be helpful to you. If nothing else this will let you know that you can do it and get you better prepared to start doing well the day that you arrive on campus.

I think that “I’ve been working with tutors and my teachers to get ready” and “I feel prepared for my senior year classes” are great! Good job at putting in the effort to get yourself ready for senior year!

Top colleges are less interested in why your grades suffered than how grades represent your performance and knowledge from courses. They need to see you’re prepared, at their level. And the level of classroom peers. But also, you need to know you’re truly ready, not rush this.

And when applicants do mention a reason for grade drops, adcoms can wonder what happens when you hit college challenges or stresses. Find the right colleges where you can thrive.

I agree with the above posts mention the car crash in the additional information section you mentioned you hope to be a barista senior year. Don’t mention this unless it is something that is actually happening and you have the position. Your science ACT score did stand out as a bit weird for someone going into medicine because of that I would suggest submitting just the SAT score instead.

Thank you so much, I really appreciate it!
I was thinking abt explaining in the additional info section, i was just unsure abt how to do without seeming like i’m making excuses. Do you have any tips for that?
I retook the SAT this past weekend and I’m expecting to have a higher score and I’m retaking the ACT on sept 19. I’ve shown a lot of demonstrated interest for tulane, i go to a bunch of virtual events, have done an admissions counselor interview and have emailed several counselors, and plan to reach out to a few professors in my interested fields of study. Do you think there’s anything else I could do to improve my chances at Tulane?
Thank you so much, and good luck to you to!!! You’re gonna kill it!!!

@penguins13 I just retook the SAT as well! Good luck for the ACT. I am not entirely sure how else to improve your chances except for writing killer essays, but honestly, once you’ve done that, there’s not much else you can do. I think you just have to recognize that there is a place for you wherever you’re meant to end up. I know it’s difficult, but try to trust that you will thrive where you belong! good luck & pm me if you need anything

retook the SAT and ACT recently. my scores are now: 31 composite, 36 English, 35 reading, 28 math, 24 science. 1410 composite, 740 reading, 680 math, 22 essay. do you think my chances will improve because of this?
i also work as a Starbucks barista and plan to continue working throughout senior year. should i put that on my application or no?

“i also work as a Starbucks barista and plan to continue working throughout senior year”

This is a legitimate extracurricular activity. I would include it wherever they want you to list extracurricular activities.