Chance me for Harvard and Yale

  1. Nonprofit Director that made neighbourhood libraries for struggling communities and also raised funds for bookmobiles in developing countries
  2. Teaching Palestinian Children English
  3. Author of a book
  4. Student Researcher for Law Professor
  5. Legal Intern
  6. Advocate to change laws/bills with a Civil Liberties Association
  7. Advocated for ASL courses for the 200,000 students
  8. Various school clubs (Model UN, student government, languages, International Student Association, feminism club)
  9. Taekwondo (national awards)
  10. Had an online asian bakery because I just like asian culture

Chance me for Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and UCLA! Also is there a spike with my extracurriculars? Based on my extracurriculars, what do you think my intended major is?

I have a 3.98 GPA and my test scores are all good.

You have a good chance at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford but these are reaches for anyone. UCLA is a match I would guess if you have good grades, but UCLA is very unpredictable especially if you’re an international(looks like you are). I would add Berkeley along with UCLA as it is the same application. For your major I am guessing public policy or international relations or something in that ballpark with a pre-law track maybe.

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How strong are your grades?

Your ECs look very interesting to me. If you get into Harvard, Yale, or Stanford as an international student then you will get to attend the welcome event for international students. You will be amazed at who you get to meet at these events.

What I would guess is “law school”. However, you can major in almost anything and then go on to law school.

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UCLA is a Reach for all applicants. Can you afford $65K/year to attend with little to no financial aid?

Also UCLA is test blind through the 2024 admission cyles.

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According to your other posts, you are still a Sophomore in high school, so the grades that your will have when you apply in another year are what will be sent to colleges.

Based on your other posts, you have a C and an A-, meaning that your present GPA would be closer to 3.9. You translate your GPA by translating every semester grade to a 4.0 scale, and then calculate the average of those grades.

It is not a big issue, especially if you grades stay high, but having a good handle on your GPA is helpful to you in figuring out where you stand.

Because you are still a sophomore, there is no point in trying to figure out whether you will be a strong candidate to UCLA or any UC, since they look at GPA only from Sophomore, Junior, and the first semester of senior year. You have not yet finished your sophomore year, so there is nothing to work with.

In general, as I wrote, it is far too early in your high school time for you to be focusing on any particular college, and definitely far too early to attempt to figure out whether you have a chance to any college.

What I can say for sure is that you are far more likely to be rejected from Harvard, Yale, or Stanford than to be accepted, and this will not change unless you are good enough at a Varsity sport to be recruited, or if you achieve international recognition in something.

So please do not waste your time trying to figure out what you need to do in order to be accepted to Harvard or Yale, or any other college. Focus your energy on doing your best at high school and doing things in which you feel pride and a sense of accomplishment.

I will repeat what I always write - for a hard working smart students, “being accepted to Harvard (or Yale, etc)” is a meager, poor goal. College is a means to an end, not an end in itself. You should be dreaming about achieving something of worth, of changing the world, not of receiving an acceptance letter to an “elite” university.

BTW, if you are accepted, could your parents afford the cost of one of these universities?

Unless somebody has a serious hook, has some world level award, or is the kid of a potential donor, they do not have a good chance at any of these universities, especially if the applicant is international. The acceptance rates for applicants without a hook to any of these three is, at most, 3%.We’re talking about an average acceptance rate of around 4% this year, and for applicants without “hooks” it’s likely no more than 2%. For an international student without a “hook”, that drops further.

An international applicant without a “hook” but with top grades and good ECs (including national awards) will maybe triple their chance or maybe even quadruple it, which leaves only 3%-4% of these applicants being admitted.

Better than other applicants, maybe, but around 95% of applicants from Canada with these types of profiles are still being rejected.

To make a long story short - almost no unhooked applicants to Harvard, Yale, or Stanford has a “good” chance without serious international recognition. Not these days.

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I was actually able to resolve my C and get it up to an A after speaking to guidance counsellors about the circumstances that caused it. So my GPA is fine.

I do have some national awards for Taekwondo, and I am also the recipient of various international MUN awards (eg. HarvardMUN)

Would you mind elaborating on what a “hook” is? What are some examples of these hooks?


Recruited athlete, child of alum, child of major donor. One of the biggest hooks - URM - is reserved for US citizens and permanent residents at most colleges.


You have a very slight chance of being admitted to either Harvard or Yale. Odds may be somewhat better at UCLA, but you are not far enough along to know for sure.


I trust the OP knows that there is no FA at UCLA fir internationals.

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What would improve my chances for Harvard or Yale?

Hard to say from what you wrote. I liked your activities a lot, but they would be top 10%, not top 1% - if you know what I mean. 3.98 does not say whether weighted or unweighted and whether you take 100% AP’s and get 100% A’s. You are great, but depends who else applies. Also, test scores “are all good,” does not give me confidence that they are above 1500. Realize they may be. Overall, I see a lot of great kids who sound like you. Only a small percentage get in.

What are some examples of activities that would be top 1%?

If i could easily tell you, the activities would no longer be in the 1%. Think not about the what, but what you might actually accomplish.

This year I saw a person who expanded his inner city coding bootcamps through school systems to reach the 10 most depressed cities in America. I saw another person design comfortable clothes for the pandemic, sell on the web and give $1k- $3k donations to 30 pandemic-sensitive charities.

Those are my 2 for 2020. Don’t try those.

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Largest by the number of applicants, perhaps. However, the boost that being a URM is far smaller than those of being a legacy, a recruited athlete, or child of a donor (or of faculty). Those increase acceptance rates 6x-28x, compared to non-hooked applicants, while being URM will maybe provide admission rates are around 1.2x-1.6 X those of unhooked (according to Arciando’s data)

One might have a national, or even international level achievement in a particular talent (Olympic or World athlete, or be a recruited athlete for school’s sports teams), or be a winner of national or international level competitions in academics, music, art, dance, whatever. When it comes to activities, think of something that really stands out for one’s time and place. For instance, children across the world have lost an entire year of schooling, in many instances. Come up with an idea that helps children in your area catch up over this summer - recruit your classmates to help with this. Organize this for the nearest poor neighborhood to help ten kids, a hundred kids, a thousand kids. The bigger the better, the more colleagues you recruit to help with this effort, the better. That’s going to be a big opportunity for service projects this year, I think, just as online service projects were the big thing during the pandemic. You have to think about what you can do that makes a difference, benefiting the most people, recruiting the most classmates to help do it.

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Really? I was under the impression that being the most-needed subset of URM (black male) gave one an approximate 15% boost in credentials, far, far more than just being a legacy. From what I’ve seen, legacy seems to get people tossed the bone of getting wait listed instead of rejected. For URM status, it seems that it’s more a situation of a needed URM who meets the admissions criteria gets accepted, while an unhooked applicant has to be the absolute tops at everything, plus have some incredible EC.

Yes, recruited athlete and child of big donor are getting in, assuming that they even minimally meet the admissions criteria. The school wants that quarterback, and that new recreation complex.


Arcidiacono’s analyses of the acceptance rates of Athletes, Legacies, Donors and kids of faculty and staff is very illuminating. Legacies are accepted at rates that are double, triple and more of applicants with similar profiles.

It is also simply the numbers. How many legacies do you actually think there are applying every year to universities like Harvard? Only 1,600 or so students graduate from Harvard College every year. How many kids will they have in their lifetime, and how many will apply to Harvard?

According to the CDC, the average number of kids born to a woman with a bachelor’s degree was 1, and to a man with a bachelor’s degree was 0.9 ( That comes out to fewer than 1,600 kids being born to 1,600 Harvard graduates. Of course, every double legacy will count as 0.5, so it is fewer than that (25% of all legacies in class of 2023 were double legacies).

There are very likely fewer than 1,500 kids of Harvard College graduates who are graduating high school and applying for colleges each year, and 260-280 are being accepted each year. Considering that it is HIGHLY unlikely that all of kids of all Harvard alumni are applying to Harvard each year, the number of first degree legacies who are applying each year are likely a lot closer to 1,000.

It is really the same for every colleges which considers legacy - the number of legacies who are accepted are a relatively large proportion of the number of legacies that are graduating that year.

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I don’t think it is worthwhile, for yourself or for admissions, to try to mold yourself to what schools want. Find a school that fits you rather than trying to fit yourself to a school. You still have two+ years of high school. Enjoy them, explore your interests, be a good friend, and things will work out.

Also be careful not to overstate accomplishments. If I were reading your application I would want to know the substance below the surface of things like “author of a book” (self-published, online, what is the content, had anyone read it?), “non-profit director,” “advocate to change laws/bills,” “advocated for ASL courses for the 200,000 students.” What does any of this mean?

Authenticity is important. I would not try to do too much and have some depth. I especially like your dedication to Taekondo (I do Tai Chi) and the online Asian bakery is really appealing because it shows something you genuinely love. That may be true of the other things you listed too, and I realize you were just making a quick list on CC.


Be sure to add some match-range schools to your list, because the admit rates for HYS are incredibly low – and most of the kids who apply to those schools were standout high school students.

UCLA isn’t quite as selective, but they aren’t really a slam dunk for anyone, either. Being an international makes it more difficult than their overall admit rate might suggest.

So find some schools you like that are less selective than the four you have mentioned.

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URM may be the largest in numbers, but is typically not the largest in effect on an individual applicant (the highest priority recruited athletes and the kids of the biggest donors typically have the biggest individual hooks).

But note that consideration of hooks differs. For example, UCLA only considers recruited athlete out of the above categories.

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