Chance me for Mechanical Engineering - White Male, NoVA [3.794 GPA, 32 ACT (26 math), 1390 SAT (640 math), <$30k]


  • US Citizen
  • State/Location of residency: Northern Virginia
  • Type of high school: Public 9-12 HS
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: White male

Intended Major(s)

  • Mechanical Engineering (Aerospace focus, if school has it)

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.794
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 4.1596 on a 5.0 scale (Honors are 4.5, AP/DE are 5.0)
  • Class Rank: School does not rank, but estimated top 10%
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 32 ACT (26 Math, 34 Science, 33 English, 36 Reading), 1390 SAT (750 ERW, 640 Math)
    Retook ACT for final time on 9/9. Waiting on scores

(AP/IB/Dual Enrollment classes, AP/IB scores for high school; also include level of math and foreign language reached and any unusual academic electives)
Honors Spanish 4 (Highest level of foreign language, 1 year past advanced diploma requirement)
AP Computer Science Principles - 4 (Will report)
AP Computer Science A - 4 (Will report)
AP English Lang - 4 (Will report)
AP Physics I - 2 (Not reporting)
DE College US History (A)
AP Micro/Macro - In progress
AP US Gov - In progress
AP Physics II - In progress
AP Calculus AB (will be highest level of math) - In progress
DE College Composition - In progress

Took Probability/Statistics, Aerospace Technology, Astronomy, and Electronic Systems as electives; TA’d for APCSP teacher last 2 years.


  • Dean’s List Semifinalist for FIRST Robotics Competition (2023)
  • National Honor Society (2023-present)
  • Math Honor Society (2021-present)
  • A-B Honor Roll (2020-present)


  • President of my school’s 40+ member FIRST Robotics team (2023), Programming Lead (2022), joined in 2021
  • Student Advisory Council to the Superintendent (Application; 2-year-term; Along with other students, met with Superintendent to advocate student’s perspective on policies)
  • Lead Counselor for Robotics Team Summer Camps (volunteer; designed & carried out week-long cirriculum to teach middle schoolers Java programming)
  • Junior Docent at local historical tavern-museum (Applied in 4th grade, participated as Junior Docent until 8th grade, promoted to Peer Mentor to train new docents, then promoted to paid Intern this past summer)
  • Works at the local in-school afterschool program (Assistant Group Leader at elementary school January-June 2023, promoted to Program Specialist August 2023-present writing & carrying out cirriculum to teach robotics to underserved middle schoolers)
  • Run my own freelance lawn care business since 2020
  • Assist with IT work around Synagogue for Sunday School

(Optionally, guess how strong these are and include any other relevant information or circumstances.)

  • Teacher letter #1 - AP Physics I teacher. Loved me, watched how I grew as a student in challenging coursework. 7/10
  • Teacher letter #2 - DE US History Teacher. Loved me, excelled in class, super active in class. 8/10
  • Other letter - Robotics team mentor. I’m discussing things with her almost constantly, she really knows my work ethic & leadership. 10/10.
  • Essays. Common App personal statement is about my desire for structure in everything I do and how I’ve always had it since I was little. How I’ve grown into it in a way that helps people. 8/10. Still working on supplementals.

Cost Constraints / Budget

  • 30k a year max

(List of colleges by your initial chance estimate; designate if applying ED/EA/RD; if a scholarship is necessary for affordability, indicate that you are aiming for a scholarship and use the scholarship chance to estimate it into the appropriate group below)


  • Safety (certain admission and affordability)
    James Madison University, West Virginia University
  • Likely (would be possible, but very unlikely or surprising, for it not to admit or be affordable)
    University of Delaware, University of New Hampshire
  • Match
    University of Vermont, Virginia Tech (??), University of South Carolina - Columbia
  • Reach
    Georgia Tech, Purdue, University of Michigan, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Consider RPI. They might give enough fin aid to match your in state public cost.and if you are reaching for mich, add u va

I love how you have some longevity with several of your extracurriculars with increasing responsibility and leadership over time. Also, I really like that you’ve had your own lawn care business for years. It seems like you’ve chosen extracurriculars that you’re genuinely really interested in, which is awesome.

In terms of your class ranking, I would speak with your high school counselor. I do not live in northern Virginia, but from what I have heard, it can be extremely competitive academically. With nearly a 3.8 unweighted GPA, it seems that you’ve mostly gotten As, but if honors classes are weighted at 4.5 and AP as 5.0, then it seems as though you haven’t had very many of those classes in comparison to many of the applicants at some of your reach schools.

You have good standardized test scores. It’s unusual, however, for someone interested in engineering to have their math scores be so significantly below their other subject scores. You can absolutely still become an engineer, but I would be very careful about trying to find the right environment for you to be successful. I would suggest looking for schools where there’s a lot of academic support for students and where the regular classes are not going to be going at tremendously great speed and depth from the get-go. If you attend a school where most engineering freshmen scored at least 100 points higher than you on the math SAT or 6 points higher on the ACT, the instructors are likely to start at higher-level and continue accelerating, and it appears as though you may need some additional time to build up to that level. There are many excellent engineering programs that might be more appropriately-paced for you where you could find more success.

It’s great that your Physics I teacher loved you and saw how you grew, but physics is an essential component of engineering. Students who have passing scores on their APs (4 & 5) are regularly advised to re-take the classes when they start college because colleges tend to go into greater depth than AP classes. So even though you’re taking AP Physics II right now, I would make sure to start physics at the entry point recommended by the college you end up attending.

With a budget of $30k, I don’t see the out-of-state publics being affordable, outside of West Virginia U. In looking at the net price for Worcester Polytechnic, even families with incomes below $30k have an average price of $30,910, so I am not optimistic about that school meeting budget either (source). I believe that WPI’s net price calculator has also received criticism as not being very accurate.

If you’re not already aware, for mechanical engineering it’s generally really important to choose a school that is ABET-accredited for that field. You can find ABET-accredited programs through this link. James Madison is accredited for Computer Information Systems, General Engineering, and Integrated Science and Technology, but not Mechanical Engineering. Additionally, even for people who want to specialize in aerospace, it’s often recommended to have a degree in ME instead as it provides more versatility in the job market.

The Virginia publics that are ABET-accredited for ME are:

  • George Mason
  • Old Dominion
  • Virginia Commonwealth
  • Virginia Tech
  • U. of Virginia

I think you would be a likely or extremely likely admit for the first three, but the last two would have a lower probability of acceptance.

One school you might want to give a closer look to is U. of Louisville (KY). It has about 16k undergrads and a well-respected engineering program that was modeled after Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo’s, with a big focus on hands-on, practical work. With your stats you should get sufficient merit aid to bring this out-of-state school within budget.

By the way, West Virginia U. currently has a big budget deficit and is in the process of making some programmatic changes. You might want to do a search on some recent news articles. You might want to take a look at Marshall, also in West Virginia, which I’d expect to come in within budget, too.


The reach publics (GT, Purdue, Michigan) are not going to meet your budget and would be super long shots. Both GT and Purdue are test required this cycle and will look closely at the math subscores.

IMO, I would strike any school that isn’t going to be affordable off your list.

RPI was mentioned above, our experience with a student with stronger stats and receiving the Rensellear Medal award scholarship, is that it was still in the low $40K/year range. Run the NPC with your family to see if you qualify for need based aid.


I agree with everything that has been said so far.

We are looking at similar schools for S24 who has pretty similar stats (slightly higher test scores). All the info I can find has shown that University of Delaware and University of New Hampshire are both likely to come in around $42,000 a year for an out-of-state student who gets the maximum merit money they give.

My oldest, S23, is a freshman at WPI this year. The net price calculator there absolutely is pretty bad, and other parents consistently say it is more expensive than they expected and they got less need based aid than they thought they would. I don’t want to generalize too much, but the vibe there is upper middle class kids who didn’t get into more prestigious schools, and their parents were willing to pay a premium for the WPI experience. (not everyone! But that fits my son, and many of the other families I have interacted with.) it might be worth the application just to see, and I think you have a good chance of getting in. But families consistently say it is one of their most expensive options wherever they fall on the qualification for need based aid.

One other thing about WPI – do you know they are on a quarter system? Students take three classes that last seven weeks for four terms a year. Classes move extremely fast! My son had his first two tests only seven class days after the term started. Over those seven weeks there really are no breaks. Students participate in extracurricular activities and such, but they are working all the time. My son is actually one of the quickest workers I have ever known; in high school he took five college classes and spent less than 20 hours a week on his class work, including time in class & he got all As. Even as fast as he is, he’s busy most of the time at WPI. And he said he is the only person he knows who ever has any free time. Again, not discouraging you from applying, but wanted to make sure you knew situation to help you see if it was a good fit for you.


Have you looked at the FIRST Robotics scholarship opportunities. They vary a ton, but you might find a generous one. Congrats on Dean semi-finalist!

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I am concerned about your 26 in math. Engineering is very math intensive with a very high failure rate - some reports say up to 60%.

That said, I don’t see Delaware, UNH, UVM, U of SC, ga Tech, Purdue, WPI making budget.

WVU may. Check their NPC. Iowa State too.

The schools you need are Alabama (under $20k), UAH for smaller and MS State. All will be well under budget. And all have solid aero. And all are safeties. At Bama you get $30.5k off of $33k tuition. $28k for stats and $2500 for the high ACT. UAH will be similar - lower discount, lower rate. so a lot the same cost. Tons of defense companies in Huntsville.

Your list isn’t bad for admission but it’s not at all for merit chasing to the price you need. So you’d end up very disappointed with this list.

Good luck.

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