Chance Me (HS Senior -> CS at Purdue, GA Tech, Rose-Hulman, etc.)

Second Gen. Immigrant / First Gen. College Student. African, mother is single and we are LOW (under 20k yearly) income. In my Senior year. I live in Kentucky. High school is highly competitive (best in state, top 50 in country), am part of STEM-related magnet field that offers special STEM-related classes.

Intended Major(s)
Dual Major in CS and Math

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.87
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 4.32
  • Class Rank: N/A
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 28 Math (retaking, expecting a 30), 31 Reading, 30 Science, 35 English


  • 14 AP Classes Taken/Taking Now:

    • AP Human Geography (4)

    • AP Computer Science Principles (3)

    • AP Statistics (3)

    • AP Seminar (5)

    • AP World History (5)

    • AP Computer Science A (4)

    • AP Research (5)

    • AP English Language (4)

    • AP United States History (4)

    • AP Comparative Government and Politics (Score Not Available)

    • AP US Government and Politics (Score Not Available)

    • AP Psychology (Score Not Available)

    • AP Calculus BC (Score Not Available)

    • AP Physics 1 (Score Not Available, but I already know I’m just gonna bomb the test since it’s a requirement)

-Other College Courses:

  • Spanish 112 (An A both semesters)

If the class wasn’t AP, it was either ADV (above honors), or the STEM related classes (falls between ADV and AP in terms of difficulty).


  • Dr. Carter G. Woodson Legacy Award [11]: Honors outstanding high school juniors who embody Dr. Woodson’s spirit in the areas of academic excellence, civic engagement, and community service. An annual $8000 scholarship to Berea College is awarded to individuals who receive this award.

  • American Psychological Association - Best Project on Psychological Science [11]: Awarded at ISEF Local Science Fair for research on the association between the time spent utilizing SNAP benefits and economic anxiety in single African-American mothers living within Louisville’s Metropolitan Area

  • AP Scholar with Distinction

  • AP Capstone

(I know they suck)
-National Honors Society (over 40 hours of volunteer work)
-Key Club (over 100 hrs of volunteer work)
-Whitney M. Young Scholars Program (program for gifted low income students, helps with scholarship fees)
-Technology Student Association.

I expect both essays and LOR to be strong. One of my rec writers is known by Vanderbilt admission officers for writing really good recs.

Cost Constraints / Budget
I do not want to pay for college period, but considering my socioeconomic status, I expect a lot of it to be decreased.

  • Safety (certain admission and affordability)
    -University of KY
    -Univeristy of Louisville

  • Match (would be possible, but very unlikely or surprising, for it not to admit or be affordable)
    -VA Tech
    -University of Illinois Urbana

  • Reach *
    -Rose Hulman
    -UT Austin
    -GA Tech


  • Academic Year 2018-19: Wrote a 4000-word research paper involving a correlative analysis between the Urban Heat Island Effect and Rainfall in (my city) through the utilization of second-hand data collected by the National Weather Service. Completed a presentation and oral defense of research conclusions to a panel of academic judges.

  • Academic Year 2019-20: Wrote a 5000-word research paper involving a correlative analysis between the Pollution in Rust Belt Cities and Rainfall through the utilization of second-hand data collected by the National Weather Service. Completed a presentation and oral defense of research conclusions to a panel of academic judges.

  • Academic Year 2020-21: Wrote a 5000-word research paper involving a correlative analysis between the time spent utilizing SNAP benefits and economic anxiety within Single African-American mothers living within Louisville’s Metropolitan Area through the utilization of student-generated data online. Completed a presentation and oral defense of research conclusions to a panel of academic judges. Research paper and presentation scored a 5 out of 5 on the AP Research scale.

These should be considered reaches, since you need to get a full ride merit scholarship that is much more difficult than admission. Most public universities give little or no need-based financial aid to out-of-state students.

Have you checked the net price calculator for every college on your list?

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For Purdue, look at the Data Digest, here,, under “Applications, Admits, and Matriculations,” and also under “New First-Time Beginner Profile,” to see how you compare to recent applicants to Purdue’s freshman classes.

Also, look at the Common Data Sets for the schools that you are targeting in your “Match” category, especially Section C7 (which tells you how each school weights academic and non-academic admissions factors) and Sections C9-C11 (which give information on GPAs and test scores for matriculating students). Purdue, for example, considers GPA, test scores, and rigor of high school curriculum as “very important” admissions factors; Virginia Tech considers GPA, high school rigor, and your application essay as “very important” admissions factors; and UIUC considers GPA and high school rigor as “very important” admissions factors.

Also, your relatively low math score in the ACT – even if you get it up to a 30 – could be a problem if you intend to apply for admission to study computer science and/or math.

@ucbalumnus is correct when he states that you are unlikely to get a full-ride merit scholarship as an OOS applicant to the schools in your “Match” category.

No one wants to pay for college, period.

Also, why do you think that The Ohio State University is going to give you – as an OOS applicant – a significant reduction in your tuition/fees?

For additional safety schools, you might look at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, which has eliminated OOS tuition for undergraduates: In-state Tuition | Undergraduate Admissions | SIU and also Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, which also has eliminated OOS tuition for all U.S. citizens: SIUE Undergraduate Tuition

You are overall a very strong student. However, you need to rethink your list in light of all the comments here. Also, I see that your AP scores in language and humanities track higher than math; same pattern as in the ACT score. While the math score is respectable, it is not high enough to get into the competitive programs you have listed for CS with merit scholarships.

So you have some choices to explore:

  1. apply to selective LACS that meets full need. You have some interesting perspectives in the social sciences and your quantitative skills are high enough for you to be involved in a major focusing on quantitative social sciences. I am thinking of places like Carleton. Perhaps others have some more suggestions along these lines. Your URM status will be a hook.
  2. Pursue comp sci at instate university. Does KY have needs based financial aid for instate students?
  3. Have you looked into Questbridge?

Would just echo the advice on OOS Publics most are not generous to OOS students in term of aid unless you can raise their profile ie. academically, athletic. arts etc.
Good advice on meets full need LAC

I would add one more safety University of Alabama where you are guaranteed 24000 merit aid based on your current stats. If you get ACT composite to 32 it goes up to $28000 a year.Out-of-State Freshman Scholarships – Scholarships | The University of Alabama

Another reach a LAC that meets full need without Loans Colgate

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I second Questbridge. Please take a look ASAP: QuestBridge | National College Match

Agree that OSU, Purdue, Va Tech, UIUC are highly unlikely to be affordable, so would take those off the list.

Assuming your mom can’t contribute to college costs, your budget will be Pell Grant of $6K or so, plus the $5,500 student loan. Does this make UK and Louisville affordable?

It sounds like you only live with your mom, but is your dad in the picture?

Look at Emory, Lehigh, Lafayette, U Richmond, and Tufts. I also like the idea of meet full need LACs if smaller schools appeal…adding Oberlin, Union, Hamilton, Davidson.


If this is a divorced situation where the non-custodial parent is still alive, this will be a problem for getting financial aid at many of the “full need LACs” that use both divorced parents’ financials to determine financial aid.

Yes, that’s why I asked OP about their dad.

I do not know my father. He is not in my life.

Regardless, thanks for all of the advice. It’s definitely getting me to reconsider where I have placed the schools on my list.

As for QuestBridge, I have already began the application process, although it isn’t something I am completely focusing on, to be honest. I’m aware of how hard it is to become a finalist and the work that goes into it, and I’m not sure how feasible that would be this year, considering my workload and other outside factors (my brother was a finalist, is going to Vanderbilt with it).

As for merit/student aid, I misspoke. I wouldn’t be entirely opposed to taking out loans for tuition, however I would prefer to keep it under 20k yearly.

Also, if this is relevant, my mother currently has Stage 4 Breast Cancer and isn’t working as of now.

Private schools in general isn’t something I’ve put much thought into. Though, considering the comments, it’s something that I’ll place focus into starting now.

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I am sorry to hear about your mother.

Last year, 37% of QB applicants were named finalists. IME, It is worth it to spend time on the QB application. I understand you have a lot going on. Not all of the finalists matched with one of their ranked schools, but many were still accepted to a QB partner school…and all guarantee to meet full need. QuestBridge | Press Release: December 1, 2020

You can only take out $27K in loans over the 4 undergrad years…$5.5K first year, then $6.5K, $7.5K, $7.5K. You would need a co-signer for any loans above that.

Focus on meet full need schools. Thoughts @MYOS1634

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For many of the private colleges with good financial aid, non-custodial parent finances are required. However, there is a waiver process, usually using this form:

If you are interested in such a college, you may want to ask that college’s financial aid office on the likelihood of a waiver being granted, based on how you would answer the questions on the waiver form. Different colleges may have different answers.

You should be entirely opposed to taking out loans for tuition if you can at all costs avoid it – especially if you are likely to have the costs of graduate school in your future.

OSU and all your matches are high reaches. Your reaches are very highly unlikely except Rose Hulman which is between target/reach.

I think you should apply test optional.

Since you need funding applying OOS will hurt as there is little merit. Some schools, such as Pitt and College of Charleston match Pell Grants or give extra $ for low EFCs. But you might find smaller, second tier privates such as Bradley. Your list is extremely top heavy. U of Alabama and Arizona would be strong merit as would Arkansas. A Southern Illinois or Western Kentucky would make sense. In KY you have Murray State. Also look at UAH.


I am sorry to hear about your mother. Since you have a lot on your plate, you may want to streamline this process for yourself by considering how best to reach your goals.

I would encourage you to prioritize Questbridge. Since your brother was a finalist and went on to Vandy, perhaps he can shed some advice about that as well as the CSS portion about the NCP.

You ACT score is in the 95th percentile overall and probably even higher considering your SES and URM status. So take that into account.

It looks like UKY awards scholarships based on stats. They encourage early apps for the scholarships, so get that one in quickly.

You can consider the regional universities in KY as super safeties. Is there one within commuting distance?

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Vanderbilt is one of the few “elite” private colleges that does not normally require non-custodial parent information for financial aid. Chicago is the other.

Yes, I have a 7 y.o cousin who I will be responsible for, along with being responsible for my mother (I have help from other family members, thankfully it isn’t just me).

I’d also like to note that I’d prefer to stay relatively close to home (with a few exceptions), just in case, considering the circumstances.

The University of Louisville is within 20 minutes of my house. It’s also next to my HS.


Also, I forgot that there are other schools that use the “OSU” abbreviation. When I mean OSU, I mean Ohio State.

Also, if I were to go to OSU, I would be off-campus. My sister attents OSU and will have an apartment by then.

Sorry, but do you mean high reaches when only considering in the admission process, or when considering aid as well? I want to make sure that I’m synthesizing all of this info properly.