Chance me: Penn ED and other t20s


Middle Eastern female from MD
Medium-sized public school
No hooks, in need of financial aid (income ~100k)

Intended Major: Biochemistry

SAT: 1540 (800 math, 740 reading/writing), only took it once

GPA: 4.0 UW / 4.8 W, school doesn’t rank

Coursework: 13 APs total, taking 6 senior year (Multivariable calc, macro/micro economics, French, statistics, bio, and lit)

Gov (5), Lang (5), Psych (5), World History (5), Calc AB (5)

ECs (biggest weakness of my application IMO):

  1. Internship at environmental organization
  2. 60+ hours tutoring elementary students virtually
  3. Member of mental health club
  4. Member of environmental club
  5. English instruction to international students as part of a student-led tutoring organization
  6. Part-time job in fast food
  7. Member of honor societies
  8. Reading and writing (hobbies)

I definitely made these sound much more impressive in my descriptions on Common App but I’m not going to go into detail here


  1. National poetry contest semi-finalist out of 100+ submissions
  2. AP Scholar with Distinction
  3. National Honor Society
  4. Principal’s Honor Roll


Received great feedback on my Common App essay (8-9/10)? English teacher told me she really loved it and its one of her favorites

AP Calc AB teacher: Did really well in her class and she seemed to really like me (8/10)?

AP World teacher: Did well in her class but she didn’t really know me well, had her class through virtual learning (6/10)?

Schools (not including safeties):

  • UPenn (ED)
  • JHU (ED II)
  • Duke (RD)
  • Vanderbilt (RD)
  • Northeastern (RD)
  • Case Western (RD)
  • Tufts (RD)
  • Dartmouth (RD)

My opinion…Case sounds likely…show interest! The rest of the list (as you know) is top heavy, highly competitive schools with very low admission rates.

Could you please give me straight answer, what are my chances at Penn and the other schools I listed? Case is like the last one on my list lol

Your chances are as good as all of the other very well qualified applicants that apply. Penn rejects far more well qualified applicants than they accept.

Your chances are with the odds. Apply and see. You can’t get accepted if you don’t apply.

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I don’t know whether this comment makes me feel better or worse, but thank you! lol

You are well qualified. But there is just no predicting admission at some of these schools. Apply and see.

You should feel good about your accomplishments, and there are many colleges that will be happy to have you as a student!

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First, you are going to be someplace that is a great fit for you at this time next year. You have worked so hard and you have some great accomplishments.

Next, why these schools? What programs or majors are you interested? There are similarities and differences. Do your matches and safeties represent more of a UPenn vibe or Dartmouth rural small town vibe? Do you have options you will be happy with and that will challenge you that are not on this list?

You probably have a stronger chance at Northeastern and Case Western. Apply to both EA, no need to wait on RD and you will get some news in the midst of the long wait to the end of March. Tufts would maybe be next in chances and they have EA as well. 11% admissions rate is still tough.

The reality is the rest all have thousands of equally and higher qualified candidates who they have to turn away. They are high reaches for all. If you take out those who apply with little chance of acceptance… you are still at a very small chance of getting into one of them based on what you have shared. That is the problem with “chance me.” Could be 5% that you get into one. You have a little higher chance of getting waitlisted, but these schools took very few if any off their waiting lists.

Look at some strands from last year. Acceptances and denials were as hodgepodge as the application lists. Denied at Duke, in at Harvard. Denied at Tufts, in at Yale.

Some of the application numbers from last year far exceeded previous years. There seemed to be some thoughts that application numbers might scale back down this year, but that does not seem to be the case based on the lists posting here and elsewhere.

Focus on your essays and remember your matches and safeties. Do not miss an honors college or scholarship deadline because it is on your safety list. Explore the opportunities at those colleges.

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Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, it is too late for me to apply EA to Northeastern and Case as my high school has a deadline for transcript requests to ED/EA schools. I only decided to add these 2 colleges to my list a few days ago so I missed the deadline. However at least this gives me time to show interest, which I heard raises chances. Do you think applying RD to these schools puts me at a disadvantage than if I were to apply EA?

No for Northeastern. My son was deferred EA but admitted regular decision with a merit scholarship. The current freshman class is overenrolled so I think there will be fewer acceptances and more waitlisting this year. It is a LGBTQ- friendly school and Boston and the co-op program have a lot to offer. You will get credit for all of your APs. Good luck with your apps!


Understood. I think you have a good chance with those two either way.

Do any of your match/safety schools have rolling admission or did you EA to any of them? It takes the edge off to have an acceptance that you can picture yourself attending.

I agree with @Mom270 that colleges will use their waiting lists strategically this year to manage the housing demands and acceptance rates.

I applied EA to my two safeties (UMD and UMBC) and I am in-state for both. I have gradually begun to accept the reality that I will be attending one of these schools next year…but it does make me really sad, like all my hard work was kinda useless

Please don’t feel that way. Your hard work is what allows you to gain knowledge, grow as a person, learn valuable skills that you will put to use for the rest of your life. I promise you…you can achieve all of your goals and dreams from UMD or UMBC.

I would also push back on your GC. There is no reason they can’t get a transcript out to NEU or CWRU in the next two weeks. Full stop. If your app is ready to go to those schools send it.


Pretty sure if she’s applying to Penn ED it’s against the rules to apply to non-public schools EA, so Northeastern and Case would be RD applications.

Nope. Applying Penn ED does not limit one’s applications to only public EA schools. On the flip side, EA applicants to NEU and CWRU are allowed to apply ED at another school.


It does not look like UPenn restricts you from applying to any non-binding admissions process.

I agree that the HS deadline for EA seems to create barriers that are unnecessary especially after 19 months of covid creating issues with identifying colleges which may be a good match. OP will need to decide if it is worth the request for them to send her info to other schools. It is less than 5 minutes of work if the UPenn app is done and they use Naviance with Common App.

Your instate flagship has great opportunities for someone like you who has worked this hard. I understand wanting to go beyond that and how hard you worked. My D21 was right here last year (got in to some on your list and denied and waitlisted at others. Happily at another state’s flagship for far less than our instate offers).

Here are a few others to consider for BioChem for better chances for “matches to a little reachy” and in/near urban areas which seem to make up most of your list:
Wake Forest - great opportunities for BioChem, apply by Nov 15 for merit consideration
WPI- you would get good merit here and they have some unique programs - I like their quarter system and they encourage study abroad for all.
Wellesley- Suburban similar to JHU, can take classes at MIT

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Those are fine colleges. Please be proud if one of these is where you matriculate!

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