Chance Me- Stanford, Ivies, UCs, USC, NYU, UMICH

Asian Male, 500k, Illinois

GPA UW: 3.95 -(freshman year screwed me)

SAT: 1510

6 APS-(only took aps that i cared about, because screw any class that I don’t like)

Intended Major: Psychology, Neuroscience


Founded a non-profit that made masks via a 3d printer, an donated 5,000+ to local hospitals

Created a medical newsletter directed towards the younger generation

CEO/Founder of a mentorship program that allows people to just “talk” anonymously or not(don’t want to be too specific)

Interned/Shadowed a licensed psychiatrist

President of Identity Club (2 years)

Spent a year abroad in Costa Rica teaching english, volunteering at the orphanage, environmental restoration

Photography- My theme was capturing the essence of human emotion(took most of my pictures in Costa Rica)

Rock Climbing- I am an avid rock climber and have become quite good(no awards)


I know talking about mental health is a taboo, but I feel that it shows why I am so invested in the brain and mental health. Spoke about my own struggle with depression and suicidal ideation, but did it in a way where I didn’t seem like a liability, and instead an asset.


IDK hopefully good.

Calculate your 3 UC GPA’s here:

UC’s use only 10-11th grades and you only get the extra weighting for AP/IB or DE UC transferable courses. HS designated Honors courses are not weighted for OOS applicants.

UC’s are test blind so your SAT can be submitted only for course placement.

Assuming with income noted, full pay at the UC’s is a non-issue.

Which UC’s?
HS course rigor meaning how do you stack up to the top students at your HS?
Do you have a year of a Visual or Performing Arts course which is a UC requirement?

Based on what you mention and taking out the UCs bcuz they don’t count freshman year, I’d say no to all. Maybe a USC ED where you’d be full pay but I doubt it. You’ll get into UCs….and Santa Cruz, Riverside, and Merced are all fine but that’s not what you’re referencing.

I am basing this on a lack of rigor. If I’m reading correctly your school offers many but you chose not to take them due to a lack of interest.

So not only did you give up rigor which will be your downfall for top schools but you likely did not take a diverse group of classes…i.e u took no STEM or all STEM. You didn’t say this. I’m just assuming.

Like anyone you need to targets and safeties and there are lots for someone with your background.

Ps UIUC is a great school. Hopefully it’s on your list.

Aps were not offered until my junior year of school.

Yeah- I did take diverse courses, APS were only offered my junior year, and i took 3/4 of all APS offered.

I very much agree with this.

A professor that I know has said that he thinks that his very smartest students have all struggled with mental health at some point. I sort of suspect him of exaggerating, but only by a little bit. This is common in general and among very smart people.

However, if you have struggled with depression, your top priority should be to make sure that you have this under control. Medical science has gotten a lot better at helping with this and really can help a lot in most cases.

You need to think hard about whether you are ready to go to a university that is way more stressful than high school. In my case for undergrad (at MIT) I was ready part of the time and was definitely not ready part of the time. I probably would have been better off at my safety school. After two years of working for a living then going to graduate school (at Stanford) I was ready and loved it. However, you need to figure out what is right for you at this current point in your life. Also, as a graduate student at Stanford most of the other graduate students had come from “top 100” universities, but few had come from “top 10” universities. My guess is that UIUC is probably higher ranked than the median of the other universities that students had come from.

For taking AP classes I am good with this. For classes in general I do not agree. You need to do well in a range of classes if you intend to attend a top ranked university. An unweighted 3.95 however suggests that you have done well in a wide range of classes.

I applaud the people who are running your high school. I think that this should be the rule everywhere. Universities will not penalize you for rules that your high school puts in place.

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You are now stating otherwise than what you wrote above.

You stated I only took ones I cared about. Now you are saying you took most of what was offered.

That changes the dynamic.

Let me please rephrase my answer. As long as you have safeties (2 at least) you can shoot for the moon. And assuming by UC you mean LA and Berkeley, that’s what you are doing.

So I’d add schools like Pitt, Syracuse, you can try a CWRU and Rochester and a Brandeis.

You can also get incredible merit at schools like Arizona, Alabama, and Florida State. Good luck

Yeah sorry- I should’ve worded this better.

Thanks so much for the honest advice. I do feel that I am ready for academic rigor, as that has never been an issue of mine. How would you say you were underprepared for MIT?

I encourage you to not mention suicide ideation nor address detailed specifics of your mental health issues in your essay. Go ahead and say your interest in psych/neuroscience revolves around better understanding of mental health issues, but avoid specifics about your mental health struggles. IMO of course.


You know your chances of admit to any of those is low. No matter what anyone says here, nothing will change that.
Apply to schools you want to go to. You seem to know which ones those are.

That being said, ensure you understand what true safeties you should consider.


Spot on!! Think of the AO reading about your struggles and the sense of personal responsibility when considering placing you in a stressful environment. The reader will likely admire and respect your candor but that doesn’t translate into a willingness to put you in a potentially difficult position.

I understand it is taboo, but it really ties in with the rest of my story. I think if I made it in a way where it seemed like an asset rather than a liability? I am not sure.

Yup! I just wanted to see what people thought about the harder schools I listed above.

Exactly. AOs have to make a call whether or not the school has the resources that the applicant could possibly need knowing that attending college and moving away from home will bring many novel challenges. Many see mental illness as never being cured, just managed.

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Apologies. I missed this b4…. The essay topic

My recommendation holds. Shoot for the moon school wise but add at least 2 targets and one but preferably two safeties. And know u can get great auto merit at fine public schools.

What I missed on your essay is an absolute no no. There’s no way you can make this work. All businesses, colleges included, use a risk management approach to everything. They will show empathy toward you, they will appreciate you but they will not want anything to do with having you on campus. It’s too much risk.

Mental health wise colleges are already stretched. My daughter is a first year. Trying to have someone to talk to as she is struggling. First appointment is late October.

I would find an essay unrelated for common app. Some will have supplemental asking about the major.

Tie in positives or even unrelated stories. The common app can be off the wall like the girl who got into Yale talking about how exciting it is waiting for a Papa John delivery. My daughter wrote about how she loves drinking tea.

I would say in your private research of schools find out how their mental health services work. Is there easy access to counselors ? Or perhaps you can have your own private one. We are seeing if my daughters will do over zoom. You need to find a place that can support you.

I’m so glad you are moving forward and I wish you luck. But your subject, no matter how you write it, can only hurt not help you…in my opinion.

Trigger warning.

A freshman jumped off the dorm and killed themselves last night at a college where a friends child attends. The loss of a student life is devastating of course. Unimaginable to the parents. I cant imagine the emotional pain. Its heart wrenching. For the college, the increased liability, panic, counseling, etc, etc, etc that this is causing makes me understand why they may flag any essays that discuss mental health and suicidal thoughts previously with an automatic deny. Students must be their first priority. Just because you write about how okay now you are, they may not be willing to risk it because they care about you.


Also, this kind of sucks, but you want your essay to be unique and mental health struggles is probably one of the least unique things among applicants to top colleges. I also noticed that you seem to have a distaste for classes you’re not interested in–make sure this negative outlook doesn’t show up in your applications.

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You can not turn suicide ideation into a positive. What other ideas do you have for your essay?

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I understand that mental health is a cliche and taboo topic, yet I really think it speaks to my process and why it fuels me to become the person I am today. If you would not mind, I would love to share my common app essay with you.