Chance me for top LACs

Citizenship- U.S. domestic
State- Rural Oregon
High school- Public high school
General- White cishet female
Financials- Family income of 200k-ish per year in a very expensive town. My FAFSA was pretty messed up with an EFC of 150k because my parents recently sold a home that my dad bought in the '90’s. I’m considering marrying a friend to avoid this in coming years.

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores
UW HS GPA: 4.0 (HS doesn’t do weighted)
Class rank: 1/329
ACT (I took the SAT as well, but only submitted ACT scores)-:34 (but a 35 superstore with a 35 in English, 34 in Math, 36 in Reading, and 33 in Science)


  • 10th grade: AP Human Geography (5)
  • 11th grade: AP Physics 1 (score not submitted lol), AP English Lit and Comp (5), AP Calculus AB (4), AP Biology (4), AP U.S. History (4)
  • 12th grade (now): AP Spanish Lang and Culture, AP Physics 2, AP Chemistry, AP Calculus BC, AP English Lang and Comp, AP U.S. Gov and Pol

Dual enrollment: 50ish credits from local community college


  • Academic All American (11th grade, national honor)
  • AP Scholar with Distinction (11th grade, national honor)
  • Gilder Lehrman Rise-Prize Nominee (11th grade, state/regional honor)
  • NHS (10th-12th grade, school honor)
  • APHG Student of the Year (10th grade, school honor)


  • Speech and Debate (9th-12th grade, 14 hrs/week, 42 weeks/year): Run biweekly meetings, mentor new members, do regular research to write and perform speeches; 2021 National Qualifier in Public Forum Debate (wasn’t sure where to include this in CC formatting but I’ve been a captain since the beginning of 11th grade)
  • Summer Camp Intern (summer of 12th grade, 144 hrs/week, 3 weeks/year): Prepared trips off island, facilitated activities for and ensured the safety of cabins of 5 campers at a time, acted as a role model & guide
  • Girls Who Code (summer of 12th grade, 25 hrs/week, 2 weeks/year): Coded an online quiz, two websites in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, fixed problems in code, learned how to promote equity and diversity in STEM
  • Political Volunteer (11th-12th grade, 6 hrs/week, 20 weeks/year): Contacted 450+ unregistered voters, informed about voter registration, and directed to further resources prior to GA runoff and CA recall elections
  • School Volunteer (11th-12th grade, 8 hrs/week, 4 weeks/year): Was selected to introduce new students to school; led and modified activities for distance learning and disabled group members
  • Environmental Volunteer (11th-12th grade, 4 hrs/week, 14 weeks/year): Organize 20+ volunteers for cleanup event each month, clear local beaches of trash, innovate new sustainability options
  • Blog Author (11th-12th grade, 3 hrs/week, 30 weeks/year): Authored a Spanish language-learning blog with regular posts in Spanish about Spanish language and Hispanic culture(s), accrued over 200 followers


  • Common App: 6/10 (I was editing this essay throughout the submission process and would say it ranged from a 4/10 to a 7/10)
  • University of Washington: 3/10
  • Boston University supplemental: 5/10
  • Oregon State University Honors College supplementals: 6/10
  • Reed supplemental: 7/10
  • University of Oregon Honors College supplemental: 5/10
  • University of Vermont optional supplemental:
  • Williams optional supplemental: 6/10

I can expand on my topics if necessary.

Why did I rate my essays so poorly? (TW: alcoholism, eating disorders, other mental illness, general TMI)
Not to toot my own horn, but I’m an excellent writer. I have an impressive command of language. Right before senior year started, I relapsed pretty badly on a restrictive eating disorder, and have been going through frustrating bouts of depression. It’s been difficult to see how much power six-year-old diagnoses still have over me. In November, I also became aware of my parents’ marital issues and my dad’s alcoholism, so I’ve generally been having a difficult time. I wrote basically all of the essays the day or night that they were due with zero or one rounds of editing. I know it was preventable, and it’s not something I’m proud of. Back to the initial bragging: people I trust and respect have said that they’re not bad essays (except the UW ones lol everyone hated those), but I just feel that they represented me poorly and didn’t convey what I wanted to convey. Generally, they give the impression that I can write very well, but have trouble thinking critically, which is probably true.

LORs (I haven’t seen them so I’m just assuming):

  • STEM: 8/10
  • Humanities: 10/10
  • Counselor: 7/10
  • Optional: 6/10 (need to remind to submit)
  • Coach: 6/10 (need to remind to submit)

Schools (applying RD to all, majors in brackets ordered 1st-3rd):

  • Boston University (Anthropology w/ Specialization in Biological Anthropology)
  • Colby College (Biology: Interdisciplinary Computation, Engineering, Anthropology)
  • Colgate University* (Molecular Biology, Native American Studies)
  • Hamilton College (Linguistics, Engineering)
  • Middlebury College (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Spanish, Physics)
  • Oregon State University w/ Honors College* (Bioengineering B.S.)
  • Reed College* (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Linguistics, Engineering dual-degree)
  • University of Oregon w/ Honors College* (Biochemistry)
  • University of Vermont* (Biomedical Engineering, Environmental Sciences)
  • University of Washington (Biomedical Engineering, Biochemistry)
  • Wesleyan University (Biology, Anthropology)
  • Williams College* (Anthropology, Bioinformatics, Genomics & Proteomics, Africana Studies)

The “*” means that I haven’t applied yet, but that’s what I currently have logged as my major on Common App

So, I know pretty much everything other than my test scores and grades aren’t up to par for about half of these schools (they’re basically all far reaches but I’m trying to manifest good things here), but I’m hoping to get an honest read, so that, if nothing else, I can brace myself early for the rejection.

Congrats on your accomplishments and I’m sorry to hear about your situation and it’s most important you get healthy and through these issues.

I guess you’re going to find out how important essays are - based on your description - because unfortunately it didn’t happen the right way. Right or wrong, I believe some schools don’t read them if you make the cut on other things. 4.0 UW, 35 ACT, ranked 1 of 300+ - you’re in good shape. For those who do read them, if they answered the prompt, hopefully you’re being over critical of yourself and you’ll be fine. Hopefully.

Of course, like anyone, I’m not an admission officer. I’m, I believe, a good guesser - I mean, I nailed 16 of 17 for my daughter - including in most cases who would and wouldn’t offer merit. So I’ll give it a go.

btw - your financial picture is not relevant - it sounds as if you’re full pay. What is relevant is - for a school like Reed, if you get in you’re paying full pop. There are no merit scholarships. So hopefully you know that up front - and if that were an issue and you’ve yet to apply, you can swap out for another school - say Macalester, as an example. You have a few others - same thing - Colby, etc.

BU RD is tough. Last year, they admitted 53% of the class through ED. That said, I think you have a shot, mainly because you’re from rural Oregon and you bring geographic diversity. I’ll go 50/50 but I lean in…ok, let’s say 51/49.

Colby - unlikely - but again, you’re from Oregon and that will help. No merit aid btw.

Colgate - likely.

Hamilton - slight lean toward likely. They don’t have engineering that I see.

Middlebury - likely - due to Oregon.

OSU - yes

Reed Yes

Oregon - Yes

UVM - Yes

UW - likely

Wesleyan - Yes

Williams - not likely

It’s a nice list - lots of balance and safeties. Of course, you have large universities and then LACs. The large schools (well UVM isn’t quite large) - those are your safeties. none of your LACs are safeties except maybe Reed…so there’s no guarantee although I think you’ll get into a few - based on your Oregon residence and stellar background.

Today, ED is used more and more though - and if you have a lower level school, you may want to throw in one more application - or if money is an issue since you mentioned it above, then you need to swap out schools for new ones. And yes it’s getting late.

I didn’t look up application dates but a Wooster, Kenyon, Allegheny, Occidental, Depauw - o a school like these - or maybe a Macalester. …if $$ are a concern and you want an LAC…or a Puget Sound out West.

Good luck.


Even without the sale of the house, your chances of FA are slim. COL isn’t taken into consideration, our income is less and we still aren’t eligible for FA. You have excellent stats and have the option to apply to less selective schools and receive merit.

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I recommend adding Macalester, College of Wooster, Connecticut College, Dickinson College

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You should look at LACs that give merit aid. This spreadsheet might be helpful.

BTW, I am just curious which town in rural Oregon is so expensive.

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This certainly calmed me down. Do some schools really not read essays?

If being from rural Oregon is my only pull for BU, I can pretty safely say I’m not getting in as a good friend of mine has already Questbridge matched there and will almost definitely be attending.

I already knew the financial picture was going to be rough-- to top it off I’ve been slacking on national scholarships for the same reasons that many of my essays are lackluster. Local scholarships are coming up for me, though, which I think will likely go pretty well.

Location is pretty important to me, so I think I may be adding Connecticut College as a school that offers merit aid. I didn’t love it as much as some others (ended up visiting in September along with BU, Colgate, Hamilton, Wesleyan, Williams, and some other schools I didn’t end up applying to), but I would definitely prefer it to being in 200k of debt at the age of 21.

If this changes anything, I’ve done interviews with Colgate, Hamilton, Reed, and Wesleyan (the only evaluative interview was Wesleyan), which I would say went fine, and I’m submitting optional application supplements to Hamilton and UVM (maybe more if that becomes an option after application submission).

Finally, the Hamilton Engineering is a 3-2 or 2-1-1-1 program with partner schools Dartmouth, RPI, WashU, and Columbia. From what I can tell, direct admission into these programs is not offered for first-year students, so I don’t know what possessed me to select it, but what’s done is done.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply!

This was super helpful-- thank you!

The town is Hood River, right on the Washington border.

I think I’ll be applying to Connecticut College, as well. Thank you for your suggestions!

You’d be a shoo in for Washington State, which has a variety of engineering options and is a WUE school, and offers scholarships for high achieving students.

University of New Mexico is also WUE and worth looking into. It gives a lot of aid.

Definitely recommend Macalaster! Also Dickinson, great liberal arts college and your stats are likely to get merit aid. Conn College is a lovely school and has a great view once you’re on the campus, but if location is important to you please note that the entrance is directly off a busy highway.

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I don’t know if they do or not. I was told by an acquaintance who was on a top 20 committee that many kids are eliminated by stat. That essays didn’t get read. I’m sure many are speed read and probably similar. But I don’t know for sure. If you wrote poorly and get in, you’ll know.

If money is an issue, you need to chase merit. A public honors college like Arizona will be dirt cheap. As others said WUE schools like WSU and UNM.

You look a a 5 year engineering so that’s another $80k.

Seems to me your list is wrong.

You won’t be $200k in debt unless your parents sign because they’d need to borrow. A student can borrow only less than $30k.

It just seems that if you need money, your list is way off and you need to revisit.

CT gives little merit. Mostly need. You need lesser ranked LACs, etc.

Chasing national scholarships is unfortunately inefficient. The local angle is right but that’s small $$.

The best place to get $$ are from the colleges themselves. You’re late now and many have passed merit deadlines. But many can still be applied to.

Good luck.