Chance Me: Junior, CO 2024, Psychology

State/Location of residency: Maryland

Type of high school: Average Size, Public, Co-ed
Gender/Race/Ethnicity: White, Female

Legacy: Virginia Tech, Lafayette College, Wake Forest University

Intended Major(s): Psychology, Minor in Sociology

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

GPA: 3.875 / Weighted GPA: 4.438

Class Rank: Unknown / 251

SAT: 1150 (M 520, R 630)


AP Courses: Calculus AB, US History, Lang & Comp, Environmental Science (Possible Senior Classes: Statistics, Lit & Comp, Psychology)

English: H English 9, H English 10, AP Lang & Comp, AP Lit & Comp

Foreign Language: H French I, II, III

Math: H Algebra II, H Pre-Calc, H Trig/Functions/Stats, AP Calculus AB, AP Statistics

Science: H Bio, H Chemistry, AP Environmental Science

Social Studies: H Government, H World History, AP US History, AP Psychology

Electives: Foundations of Art, Art of Expression, Young Adult Literature, Humanities, H College Writing

Other: DE Sociology

Extracurriculars: Leader of Environmental Activism Club, Student Secretary for Student Government, Vice President for National Honor Society, Local Library Youth Board Member, Member of Watershed Association, Member of Local Land Trust, Debate Seminar Member @ Stanford U, Frequently volunteer at school and with local environmental groups


National Honor Society


I haven’t begun essays yet but I am a very strong writer, and I have received positive feedback from teachers and peers.

I am close with my teachers so LORs will be strong as well.

Cost Constraints / Budget
Budget 25k/year

Safeties: St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Guilford College, Arcadia University, Local Community College

Target: James Madison University, Virginia Tech,

University of Maryland - College Park, William & Mary

Reach: Brown University, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Vassar College, Wake Forest University, UNC at Chapel Hill

Preparing to apply for college in the fall, would appreciate any critique of my current position regarding admission! Brown University is the school I am most passionate about, but I recognize admission will take a lot of contribution and intensive effort. When given a better understanding of my chances, I will re-examine my options.

Does your school have a history of sending students to Brown, Lafayette, Lehigh, Vassar, Wake Forest, UNC-Chapel Hill, William & Mary, etc? Or other schools with competitive admissions? If so, how does your academic profile compare with theirs? That information can give posters a better idea of what your GPA means in relation to the types of schools you want to be chanced for.

Ask your counselor for an approximation. Top 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, etc. Your counselor should be able to give you this information.

For the colleges you’re considering outside of your safeties, you will probably want to apply test optional.

Is physics an option? Most colleges expect people with three sciences to have taken chemistry, biology, and physics.

No free enterprise or economics? Others might be able to share whether it’s an expectation by many colleges, but I would certainly say it’s surprising not to have some version of one of those classes.

Have you run any Net Price Calculators? Each college has a Net Price Calculator (NPC) and when your family inserts their information, it will provided an estimated cost after the university gives its aid. At the least, a financial calculator would include an estimate of how much need-based aid you would be given. (This is called your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC.) Some colleges, if they ask for your academic stats, will also include a minimum estimate for the amount of merit aid you would receive. (Also, pay close attention to if they’re including loans in that aid. When making comparisons between the net costs of schools, I would exclude loans as those have to be paid back.)

If you haven’t run any NPCs, run one for Brown and another school on your list (perhaps UNC? It also says it meets need of all U.S. students, so it might be interesting to see how it calculates it). If the one for Brown is not affordable, then eliminate all schools that don’t offer merit aid, because Brown is among the most generous institutions, financially.

If a school produces an EFC that is not affordable, but offers merit aid, then look to see how much merit aid it offers and to what percentage of students. That’s available in section H of the Common Data Set (CDS) (search the internet for “College Name” Common Data Set, and you’ll have to divide number of recipients but number of students possible, but the data will all be in the CDS). This aggregator also includes that info for many schools on your list (Merit Aid by Institution – College Transitions). This data is for students without need, but the key figures are still important. If the number is small (Lehigh’s is 10%) then very few students receive it. At other schools, the number is much larger (St. Mary’s College of Maryland is 86%). If a small number of students receive it, then you want to think about how competitive you are for the university. Do you think you’re going to be one of the top applicants? If a school is an extremely likely admit, then your chances are far better for merit aid than if you are hoping to get merit aid at a school that has a low probability of acceptance.

After you look at the percentages to see what percentage receive aid, then you can also look at how much merit aid is typically received. If it’s a large number, then the college has better odds of meeting your budget. If it’s a small number, then even if you get merit aid on top of any need-based aid, the school may still be unlikely to meet budget. I would probably eliminate schools that don’t have an affordable EFC and don’t seem likely to give sufficient merit aid out.

I agree that you are extremely likely to be accepted to the schools you’ve classified as safeties.

I think you have a decent shot at James Madison, but I don’t know if it’s going to be affordable, as Virginia publics tend to be very stingy with merit aid, and I think that UVA may be the only one to meet the financial need of out-of-state students. Budget would thus be an issue for Virginia Tech & William and Mary, too. Since you don’t have STEM interests, Virginia Tech might still be obtainable, but I think William & Mary would definitely be a reach. For UMD, they don’t admit by major, so the fact that you’re choosing a less competitive one isn’t going to help as much in admissions. But you are in-state, so I’m going to keep College Park in the target category for now, but definitely listen to others’ opinion on this.

All of these would have low probabilities of acceptance, though I think your chances would be best at Lafayette and Lehigh. For all of your targets and reaches, getting 4s and 5s on your APs will help. Although many schools remain test optional, there seem to be a number of cases that someone with a similar record who shares their scores will get the leg up on the person who doesn’t. Having some external corroboration of your academic chops in some form (whether SAT, ACT, APs, IB scores, etc) can be helpful, as grading at high schools across the country is not consistent and some schools have a lot of grade inflation.

Make sure to run the NPCs and let us know which schools still look affordable after you do that. Also, what is it that you want out of college? You’ve got small schools of about 1000 students and then big schools with almost 40k. Is there a preferred size (or class sizes)? Types of locations (rural, suburban, urban)? Particular interests you want to pursue in college? How do you feel about Greek life? Letting us know more about what you want can help people think of other colleges to consider.

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So you’re from Maryland -

I do think you need to go TO everywhere - you can’t submit an 1150.

If you have a $25K budget, you cannot go to the OOS public schools - like the Virginia schools - because they won’t meet need for you.

Same with your privates - like Guilford - you need to run the Net Price Calculator. Your budget and your need may be different. But schools like Guilford may work with you as they need bodies so that’s to your advantage.

JMU and moreso Va Tech are odd to me. The reason I say this is most your other schools are small and these are large and really large.

I do think your safeties happen. I’m not sure any other school, including JMU does. And then even if they do, can you afford them on $25K?

Check out Western Carolina - with its $8K tuition.

Then you need to understand your financial position. It may be schools like or Salisbury or Frostburg become better targets than a JMU or Va Tech (financially and admission wise).

Best of luck.

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For an alternative to Brown that might be more likely to be accessible to you, look into Connecticut College.

Schools from this site, such as Skidmore and Oberlin, also may be of interest:

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Not a common expectation. I think that some version of US and World history are expected, along with some version of government or civics. But beyond that, there is no clear expectation of a specific social studies class.


Agreed. My kids’ school offers neither of these.


The average SAT score in 2022 was a 1050. The average SAT in Maryland in 2022 was a 1075. OP’s 1150 is an above average score.

I think it depends on the school. Look at what the 25-75 SAT range is for a college. If it’s 1350-1450, no you’re not going to want to submit your score. But there are schools with an sat range of 1000-1100 or 1100-1200. At schools with SAT numbers like those, I think it’s entirely appropriate to submit this SAT score. If your SAT score is below the 25th percentile for a school, I would advise not to submit the score. Some people only recommend submitting if your score is in the 50th percentile or above.


Thanks - let me clarify. And note at their target and above. JMU, for example, has an 1160 for the 25th percentile.

Thanks for pointing out. Yes, it’s school specific but I was just looking at the targets and above.


Target: James Madison University, Virginia Tech,

University of Maryland - College Park, William & Mary

Reach: Brown University, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Vassar College, Wake Forest University, UNC at Chapel Hill


@collegenbh: If your username reflects your real name, I would urge you to change it: How Do I Change My Username?

My high school is not very competitive, our school system is primarily interested in getting students what they need to graduate, and that’s about the extent of their efforts. What I mean to say is, there are very few who are sent to competitive colleges, and those students usually attend the University of Maryland.
In regards to class rank, I have mentioned it to my guidance counselor in the past and was not given any definite response. But, I will be sure to ask again, if I had to guess - I would say I’m somewhere in the top 10%.

Every college I plan to apply to has been test-optional so far, and I do plan to not submit my scores.

We do have an AP Physics class, would you recommend it add to my schedule? That subject area is not necessarily my strong suit.

I have been researching more into the financial aspect of admission, but my parents have done the bulk of it. I have been looking further into NPCs and will be sure to run some of my college options. I’ve seen a lot of the replies are in concern with the budget, and while the one mentioned is what my family is trying to stick to - it’s not concrete and I plan to apply to various scholarships as well.

My ideal college would be small-medium class size, sub-urban/college town, preferably in the New England area, and a school that values academics and has a nice local area. I plan to avoid Greek life as much as possible, (my main concern with schools like Lehigh). Part of the reason why Brown University appealed so much to me, is its emphasis on an open-curriculum, everything fits except the admissions rate.

Thank you so much for your help! I’ll update you on financial aid/NPC options in the future.


Yep the NPCs at your privates, many which meet 100% of need, will ultimately drive your list.

You’re doing great.

Ps if you’re a junior, you can take the SAT again or ACT. There’s time to study and come up some.

As for AP physics - rigor matters but don’t take a class you are not ready for or recommended to take.

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The financial aspect is certainly something I need to take into account throughout the admissions process, and my family plans to re-examine our options after being admitted from colleges, receiving the estimated contribution. But until then, I definitely will be researching the schools above with an NPC.

I also plan to apply without submitting my SAT score, as all of my prospective schools are currently test optional.

JMU is a recent addition, one I am still currently researching. As for Virginia Tech, my family has a legacy there which has kept it on my list. But yes, you’d be right, a big school isn’t what I’m looking for.

I will look into Western Carolina, thank you for your insight!

One college that springs to mind for you is Salisbury which has about 6700 undergrads, so mid-sized with a 14:1 student/faculty ratio. It’s in a cute area that’s also growing in popularity, and in the past year produced the largest number of Fulbright scholars in its division. 48% of classes have fewer than 20 students, 49.4% between 20-40, and 2.6% have more than 50. Contrast that with U. of Maryland-College Park which has 16.7% of its classes with more than 50 students and has an 18:1 student/faculty ratio. Since Salisbury’s an in-state public, it’s also going to be one of your more affordable options, just on sticker price.

In looking at College Navigator, the federal government’s main website of college information, it appears as though St. Mary’s might be one of the most expensive Maryland publics, coming in at over $29k for tuition, room & board in SY22-23. Salisbury is less than $24k. But why St. Mary’s is more expensive is pretty obvious when you look at the class sizes: 66.7% with fewer than 20 students, 33.3% with 20-40, and no classes larger than 50. This school of about 1500 undergrads has a 10:1 student/faculty ratio.

A similarly-sized Maryland public is UMD - Eastern Shore which has about 1800 undergrads and an 8:1 student/faculty ratio. This HBCU has even more small class sizes with 78.7% of classes having fewer than 20 students, 20.3% between 20-49, and only 1% have more than 50 classes. The price? Just under $20k. As it’s only 15m from Salisbury, you could easily visit both on the same day.

Some other schools that you may want to look into include:

  • Clark (MA): About 2300 undergrads

  • Connecticut College: About 1800 undergrads

  • Dickinson (PA ): About 2200 undergrads

  • McDaniel (MD): About 1800 undergrads

  • Moravian (PA ): About 1900 undergrads

  • Skidmore (NY): About 2700 undergrads

  • St. Lawrence (NY): About 2200 undergrads

  • SUNY Cortland: About 6k undergrads

  • SUNY Geneseo: About 4500 undergrads

  • SUNY New Paltz: About 6300 undergrads

  • SUNY Oneonta: About 5400 undergrads

  • Wheaton (MA): About 1700 undergrads

Maryland has some great in-state public options which give some awesome value, but I included some of the SUNYs because New York has recently started a tuition match program where you would pay the tuition of your in-state flagship (i.e. College Park, for you). And at some of the campuses, you may get an additional grant by selecting to live on-campus. They just started this program this past year and Maryland is not one of the states included, yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it officially gets added on, or if the colleges that participate in the tuition match would do an unofficial similar deal for you. Their website has more info:

Does your school have honors or regular physics? Or would it let you start in AP physics and drop down to regular physics if it was too challenging?


You seem to be a good student, so I suggest you try to improve your SAT score by doing Kahn Academy for free online. If you apply yourself, the method works! You should make sure you can book the test again for the Autumn. Otherwise, apply test optional.

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