Chance me? Upcoming senior looking at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton

Hi! I am an upcoming senior at a small school! Chance me for MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Berkeley?

All the classes at my school are considered advanced

But only one AP class available: biology which finally got approved this year
AP Biology: 4 or 5

ACT: 33 (haven’t been able to take the ACT for a while due to COVID and health)
Math: 30 Science: 35 English: 34 Reading: 35

College Classes:
Calculus 2 (this coming year)
Chemistry (this coming Year)


  1. Debate: Varsity policy debater, info, and USX speaker.
  2. President of an environmental club at school (cleanups, planting trees, recycling initiatives, fundraisers, etc)
  3. I started and help facilitate my school’s Mental Health Support group

I don’t do sports do to a physical disability

Community Service

  1. Founder and president of the non-profit Holidays in Hospitals. Awarded the Cox Health Partners Spirit Winner (2018) and
  2. Volunteer 10 hours a week at a local museum and aquarium (Wonders of Wildlife), have 1,000+ hours, Volunteer of the Year recipient, Volunteer of the Month recipient, and teach a couple of outdoor skills classes (only teen to do so)


  1. Establishing Evolutionary Relationships Between Ten Native Eastern American Conifers Through DNA Comparison: OSEF Grand prize 2nd alternate, OSEF 1st place Senior Division Botany, OSEF MSU Biology Department Research award, the Office of Naval Research Naval Science Research award, OSEF Women in Science Award, OSEF the Stan Howell Memorial Botany award
  2. Comparing the Impacts of Microfibers and Microplastics on Invasive Corbicula fluminea Filtration: OSEF 3rd place Senior Division Environmental Science
  3. Starting Project: Comparative Analysis of Various Microfibers and Microplastics on Filtration, feces, and behavior of Corbicula fluminea

I want to major in environmental science or biology and get my masters and eventually PhDs. Interested in ecotoxicology

Thoughts? Concerns? Advice? Chances?

You have a chance…

Check out Yale’s forestry/environmental science degrees. Your research conifers demonstrates sincere interest and could be a bump in admissions.

As for your original post:

I think you would be wise to find away to get a little bit better test score. A 33 is OK, but coming from a small school admissions might not be familiar with it helps to have strong scores.

I assume your GPA is high.

I think you’re in that 50/50 group. You have a very strong application, but there is a lot of competition. Try to think about which school you fit at the best and which school has essay prompts that make you shine.

Thank you! I’ll check out Yale. Yeah, I’m taking it this month finally so that’ll get it up.

Oops forgot that. My unweighted GPA is 3.98/4.00

Again thank you!

What happened in the math part of the ACT test? For MIT I am concerned about your math score.

I do not think that your chances are any better than the overall acceptance rate at any of these schools.

Are you out of state for Berkeley? If so, are you okay with being full pay?

You definitely need safeties.

I’ll be going into my senior year, so I’m no expert. But from what I read, I think you’re bound to get into at least one of them, if not more than one. So, I would say that you should just destress and write some killer essays.

Yeah I took the ACT April 2019, I haven’t been able to take it in a while, but I am taking it this month.

Okay, thank you for your bluntness.

Can I ask what my weaknesses are (besides the math ACT) and I have safeties.

And yes I am out of state, and it’s been a concern. I like the program and campus, but I probably won’t apply due to cost. I was just wondering about my chances.

Thanks @kenneydabest
Any essay tips?


You should make your essay about a really personal time in your life. And don’t be afraid to go into detail, don’t hold yourself back. Make sure you use proper vocabulary, but don’t make it super wordy. From what I’ve heard, it should read like a story, like a nice flowing river.

Make sure the essays really capture the best parts of your personality, and, if you can, tie in some of your research, extracurriculars, or community service. If your family needs a lot of financial aid, you might want to tie in some kind of language that suggests your need.

So just don’t be afraid to show your true self, what you really enjoy, or times where you’ve felt done. Don’t hold yourself back and make sure to make it AMAZING. And just remember, I’m in your same boat; I’m a student applying too, so take my advice with a grain of pepper.

Though your interests appear to be particularly specific, I nonetheless recommend you research colleges notable for their strength in the broader area of environmental studies. Consider any schools that might appeal to you from this sampling, for example:

College of the Atlantic
Hobart & William Smith
St. Lawrence

This resource can help you estimate costs for a range of schools:

“Can I ask what my weaknesses are”

The main “weakness” is that the large majority of applicants have a GPA which is very similar to yours, and also like you have very strong extracurricular activities. It is difficult for any student to get into these schools unless they have some significant “hook”.

Some examples of hooks: At most of these schools some of the spots for incoming freshmen are taken up by athletes. Most of these schools give preference to children with a parent who is an alumni (with an alumni parent who is a significant financial donor being even better). URM students also have an advantage in admissions.

This leaves fewer spots with a lot of very highly qualified applicants. As one example, a number of years ago Stanford included an article on admissions in the magazine that they send to alumni. It mentioned that they felt that 80% of their applicants are academically qualified to attend.

What of course this means is that you do not have a weakness at all (other than the math ACT score). You are a very strong candidate. However, so are most of the other applicants.

Whats your class rank?
Do you need financial aid?
Are you URM or ORM?
I see you have a lot of awards from your local science fair. Did you make it to ISEF?

Since you are oriented toward botany, consider Connecticut College.

If you research the Claremonts, consider both Pitzer and Pomona.

I agree with @merc81 - if you are looking at ending up with a PhD, liberal arts colleges are the best choice, and that list is excellent.

I also agree that, for your interests, MIT, Harvard, and Stanford are not good choices. Either Yale’s Forestry, Cornell, Duke, or UMichigan for reach universities. I would also recommend U Washington, U Georgia, Ohio State, SUNY ESF, and Wisconsin for national universities which are matches or safeties.

Basically, you are competitive for any school, but reaches are reaches for everybody, and, unless you are a legacy or athlete, no reach is 50/50.

Essay tips:

A. Essays are to show something about yourself which isn’t on your application.
B. That something should be the sort of thing which makes them want you to be their student
C. Show, don’t tell
D. Your essay should show why you are a great person to have around.
E. The focus of your essay should NOT be how you Persevered Despite Difficulties, despite what everybody seems to think. Your letters of recommendations should speak to that.
F. Show, don’t tell.
G. Present a story which showcases what you consider to be the the personality features which best demonstrate why you would be a great addition to their college.
H. Your essay should show them why they should want you, not why you want them.
I. Show, don’t tell

PS. Even in the “Why our college” prompt, you can likely be able to insert a bit of showcasing, so things like “your college is a place which nurtures intellectual curiosity like no other” indicates that you value intellectual curiosity. That is of course a cliche, but you get the gist.

Unfortunately, my school doesn’t have class ranks.
I do need financial aid but I do have quite a bit of money saved
(I’m a white disabled bi girl)
I was able to attend sophomore year (no awards), but this year ISEF was canceled so that was unfortunate. (tears were shed)


Thank you for mentioning other colleges, I’ll look into those.


Thank you for the school suggestions! And the essay tips!

I’m going to disagree somewhat with some posters and say that the above colleges are fine to throw in an application as any of them would be wonderful colleges to attend for your interests. And just in case you change your career aspirations (PhD), having a degree from any one of these colleges will be a plus no matter what you do later in life.

With that said, the odds are low to get into any one of them so you need some match colleges and safeties. I would look at UC Davis as they have an actual Environmental Toxicology major which might be of interest to you? The UCs are top public colleges, focused on research which would be a plus for your intended career.

Are you sure your ACT composite is 33? Based on your scores you have 33.5 which always rounds up. You have a 34 composite if the below scores are accurate.

“ACT: 33 (haven’t been able to take the ACT for a while due to COVID and health)
Math: 30 Science: 35 English: 34 Reading: 35”

With that said as a STEM major, I would retake the ACT and get the Math up to at least a 32 or 33.

Lastly, I think you have a very niche career goal and I would tailor your application and essays to reflect this.

Good luck!


I have a couple of safeties schools. I didn’t know about UC Davis! Thank you I’ll check it out.

I just remember my individual ones, I guess you are correct, oops!

Yes, this month I am retaking the ACT and I’m aiming for 33 for Math.

Thank you again!

Can you estimate your class rank? Even for schools that don’t formally rank, the admissions people can generally figure out where you stand. This is important, especially for schools like MIT, Princeton, Harvard.

If you are in the top 1-2% of your class, that is very good. If not, then it will make things much more difficult for you.

Note that ISEF was indeed held this year, but in a virtual format.

For MIT I think they want to see a higher score on your mathematics section of the ACT. It says on google the 25th percentile ACT at MIT is 34, for math I would assume it would be even higher. I’m in no ways qualified to give advice but these are just my thoughts.