Chance me for T20s, and maybe match me too

Demographics

  • US citizen
  • State/Location of residency: Texas
  • Type of high school: Public, but rather large and competitive
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: White Male

Intended Major(s)
I’m torn between majoring in C.S. and minoring in math, and the other way around. As I’ll discuss later, I’m leaning towards the former since it looks my application favors it.

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: My napkin math yields 3.96 (my school’s grade portal only shows weighted).
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 14.146, ACA Weighted
  • Class Rank: 14 of 830. I anticipate this to drop a bit since I’m taking a few unweighted courses this coming year.
  • ACT/SAT Scores: I scored a 1580 SAT and have yet to take the ACT (will most likely do so this fall).

Coursework

  • I’ve taken eight AP courses at my school. I scored three 5s, one 4, and have yet to receive the scores for the rest. I’d guess that I scored mostly 4s and 5s, but maybe a 3 as well. (I may be able to edit this post tomorrow with some of this years scores if it matters.) I am also taking one more AP course this coming year.

  • In addition to those, I’ve also self-studied and taken three AP exams sans instruction. I scored a 3 on the 2020 Calc BC exam, a 5 on that year’s government exam, and am waiting for one score from this year. Honestly, that last one was a bit of a Hail Mary, and I don’t expect to score high. That being the case, I’ll probably not report that score and just actually take the course this coming year.

  • I also took two higher level math courses last year through my school’s dual credit program. I finished with a 93 in Calc III and a 76 in linear algebra. I know, yikes.

  • By the end of this year I’ll have completed two years of Spanish.

  • I’m not sure if this is notable or not, but I’ve taken computer science courses all four years (beginning with AP Comp Sci) in accordance with my endorsement.

  • Again, not sure if it’s particularly relevant, but I’ve also taken dual credit Comp I and II at another college over this summer.

  • A concern that I have is that my senior year schedule doesn’t come off as particularly rigorous—I’m only signed up for one AP class, and I’m taking two off periods. The problem is, it’s either that or sign up for some random science or history class that I have little interest in; I’ve already completed my core requirements. I am taking AP Physics 4 and will be working my internship for two of those periods. Is this enough? Will colleges understand me taking more electives my senior year seeing that I’ve nearly run out of courses to take, or should I bite the bullet and register for AP Biology or European History?

Awards

These next two areas are probably my weakest spots. I’ve browsed ChanceMe forums before, and I swear every poster placed first nationally in NSDA debate, runs a non-profit that nets $100k annually, founded a nationally syndicated club with millions of members, and still, all the comments are like “ehh the Ivies are a reach.”

Anyway:

  • I’ve won area and competed in state in a few competitions: HOSA Biomedical Debate (Freshman-Junior), FBLA Parliamentary Procedure (Sophomore & Junior), and a handful of events in TSA (Sophomore year only, as our chapter shut down last year due to the pandemic).

  • I, along with my team members, have placed in a few (three) small hackathons, two of which were run by our school.

  • I’ve won and placed in a few invitational debate meets, placed first at UIL Debate District, and qualified for Region.

Extracurriculars

  • I am president/captain of my school’s debate team.

  • I served for one year as secretary of Computer Science Club (probably isn’t very relevant, but hey, leave no stone left unturned).

  • I marched drumline my first two years of high school (I had to leave because of schedule conflicts).

  • As mentioned above, I am a competing member in HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America), FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), and TSA (Technology Students Association).

  • I’m interning (C.S./software) at a Fortune 500 company this year.

  • I have a few miscellaneous side projects I’ve worked on over over the years—mostly coding and software, none of which were groundbreaking, but I feel that they’re novel ideas/implementations and that they show my interest and skill level. I also have a website where I occasionally post writeups of said projects.

  • I’ve also published a book that performed decently, which may be a bit random, but I did use a lot of scripting in its compilation.

Essays/LORs/Other
Honestly, I’m pretty confident in my essay, as well as my LORs.

What I am worried about, though, is my transcript. Prior to to my junior year, I was an all A+ student, but in the final semester thereof, I got a B, two Cs and and a handful of lower As (I guess the whole online public school thing isn’t for me). The thing about the Cs is that those classes were GPA exempted, which means that the grade will not affect my GPA and rank, and a letter grade will not be printed on my transcript (though the numeric one will). In my head, this meant that I didn’t have to worry about those classes, but I’ve come to realize that’s probably not the case. Right? Even more, those two Cs are in linear algebra and statistics, hence the reason I’m leaning more towards a C.S. major than a math one. I will note, however, that I feel pretty good about my AP Stats score; I expect a 4 or 5. Anyway, how screwed am I here? Should I even bother applying to more than one or two T20s?

Cost Constraints / Budget
I should qualify for enough financial aid at most of the schools I’m applying to for it to be manageable for my family. I have the ballpark estimate of a $100,000 budget for all four years, but this isn’t a hard limit, especially if I were to get into one of my reach schools.

Schools

I’m in the weird and fortunate position where there aren’t really many schools between my safety and my reaches. Being in a Texas school, my rank qualifies me for automatic admission to UT, which has a pretty good C.S. program (top 20 in the nation, according to some random internet lists I found). If any of you have any other match ideas, please me know because I’ve not a clue.

  • Safety: University of Texas at Austin
  • Reach: Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Harvard, Penn, Yale, Rice, Cornell

Are you going to be a senior? If so, the one glaring aspect of your application is this: T20’s will be extraordinarily difficult to get admitted to because you only have 2 years of foreign language. I know the Texas HS requirement isn’t 4 years and that computer science counts as a FL but that does NOT hold true for T20 schools in the rest of the country. Your application will be in a pile with students who have done the “recommended” (read: mandatory) 4 years. While the rest of your stats are very good, it boils down to AO’s looking for reasons to weed out otherwise qualified applicants because there are way too many for the number of spots.

Ah, yea, I was a bit worried about that. I fell for the computer science as a FL thing as a freshman, and have only just now realized my mistake. I’m doing all I can to fix this—I’m taking Spanish I in summer school right now, and will be taking Spanish II my senior year. I may be able to self study in the next few weeks and test out of Spanish II before school starts, giving me three years of FL if I take Spanish III during the school year, but I don’t think I can get four years worth of credits by the time applications are due. I could sign up to take the AP Spanish IV exam without instruction, but I’m not sure that would carry much weight in my applications given that colleges won’t see my scores til next summer.

Any advice?

If you had 2 Bs and a C you won’t have a 3.96. Are you sure about that…unweighted?

You put way too much on yourself.

Do not take the ACT. It’s a time waste. You got 1580 of 1600 on the SAT. That’s more than enough for any school.

I’m concerned about language. If your school offered only two years it’s fine. But if more it’s not. And your rigor is low and you need to fix that senior year…yes. You could keep as is and right in the additional info section your story but it won’t work.

Are you auto admit to your major at Texas ? If not add another like UTD ? Or if you want cheap Alabama, Arizona, or Arkansas would all work. The Honors dorm at Arizona is awesome and it’s a great school in your arena, or if you moved a bit businessy in MIS.

Have you run ner price calculators for your privates? Make sure you can afford and your parents want to afford.

The problem with your list is it’s too reach heavy. I’d say that even if you were perfect and you aren’t. Every kid applying to those schools is as good as you and they only have so many spots so it’s a lottery and you are taking off senior year…that’s how it will be perceived I believe. Btw just bcuz you add in classes does not move you to likely. But it helps.

So add schools like Case Western, WPI, Rose Hulman, and RPI. Also Rochester and SMU would fit.

How about an LAC? Like Grinnell or Vassar which both have good CS.

You need to get realistic. If Austin is not a ‘major’ guarantee you need to add some targets.

Good luck.

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You’re definitely an auto-admit for UT, but it’s still not a guarantee of getting into the CS program there. You’ll want to add A&M and maybe UT-Dallas just in case.

If your cost constraint is $100k, you’re not going to afford to go to these other schools. The cost is going to be upwards of $300,000. Financial aid will cover some, but expect to walk out with $100k or more in debt. And trust me, you don’t want that kind of debt.

My advice, I would hold out for UT, and A&M as a backup. You have enough to pay for room and board and walk out of college debt free.

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