Chance Me - West Virginia, Math Major

Domestic student
West Virginia
Local Public(very small)
White female
First generation college


GPA, Rank, and Test Scores:
UW 4.0 GPA
School does not weight GPA
ranked #1 in class
1570 SAT
5s on all AP test I’ve taken besides a 4 in AP Chem


Freshman Year:
Honors Algebra 2
Honors Bio
Honors Spanish 2
Honors English 9
Honors History 9
AP Comp sci A

Sophomore year:
Honors Precalculus
AP Chem
Honors Spanish 3
Honors English 10
AP World

Junior Year:
AP Calc BC
AP Bio
AP Physics 1
AP lang
AP Spanish lang

Senior Year:
AP Lit
AP Euro
AP Spanish Lang
Online multivariable calc(school does not offer beyond BC)
One physics c equivalent(School does not offer beyond AP Physics 1)
AP Econ
AP psych

National Merit Semifinalist
Qualified for AIME next year
National Spanish exam gold medal

4 years varsity soccer(captain)
4 years varsity lacrosse(captain)
President of chess, math, and coding club
Worked as waitress at local restaurant junior year
Offers free tutoring to local middle school students in math

Cost Constraints:
Low income and parents will likely not be able to contribute, applying for financial aid

UW-Madison(Applying EA)
Michigan(Applying EA)
UVA(Applying EA)
UNC(Applying EA)
Harvard(Applying EA)
Caltech(Applying EA)
MIT(Applying EA)
UC Berkely

Congratulations on your accomplishments! Note that Harvard is one of a handful of schools that has a restrictive early action policy. If you apply under that program you cannot apply early action to any other schools except public colleges and universities.

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Thanks for the info! For some reason I thought you only couldn’t apply to Yale, Princeton, or Stanford. I will definitely do Harvard over MIT/Cal Tech but keep the other public EAs. My gc is not the best, so I should probably double check a lot of what she says…

Also, be careful with Tulane. They care about demonstrated interest and may deny highly qualified applicants who don’t apply ED.

Based on your intended major of mathematics, this site may help you refine your choices:

Yes, we’ve seen that misconception elsewhere on this board. The limitations are not restricted to other Ivy League schools and/or Stanford.

Do you think Harvard is realistic?

*I made a typo on senior year classes. I am taking AP Spanish Lit this year, not repeating Lang lol

Top in your class, rigorous high school courses, great SAT and AP scores, strong activities list, from a state that doesn’t send a lot of kids to Harvard? Nail the essays and get stellar recommendations, but I think you should give it a shot, yes. Manage your expectations, to be sure, but give it a shot.


Thanks! The main thing I’m concerned about is that my school hasn’t sent anyone to ivies past 3 years, and I don’t even know when last Harvard kid got in. How much would coming from a “bad school” hurt?

I was a math major at MIT, with high school stats that were somewhat lower than yours (and with a freshman year roommate who was on full financial aid). I think that you are very competitive at any university, including the top ranked ones.

For MIT, Harvard, and Caltech your main issue is that admissions to these schools is exceptionally competitive. You are a very competitive applicant, but so are most other applicants.

UCLA and UC Berkeley have very little financial aid for out of state students. The chances of either of these being affordable looks to me to be close to zero. I might dump both from the list.

I think that affordability is going to be just as difficult as getting admitted. I do not think that out of state public schools are likely to be a “match” for you for the simple reason that you need a lot of financial aid, which is difficult to get at out of state public universities.

With this in mind you might want to consider also applying to Princeton, Stanford, and possibly Williams College. I am pretty sure that all meet full need and are very strong for mathematics.

If you do get accepted and attend a university on the “MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Williams” level, then I think that you are strong enough to do very well at any of these excellent schools. However, you should also understand that you will arrive on campus and suddenly become close to average. You will need to work hard in math classes, even if up until now math has been easy for you. I am guessing a bit here, but doing so based on personal experience. You will also meet a lot more students who are “like you” in the ways that matter, such as what you like to talk about and what you like to do and the way that you think about things.


You will be measured by how strongly you performed relative to the curriculum you were offered. Your AP and SAT scores are important here because they provide validation that you are ready for college rigor, even if your high school is not well regarded or known.

Harvard and other top schools value different backgrounds and experiences. Are there a lot of kids there who come from top high schools? Sure. But they don’t want an entire class of kids from Exeter or Thomas Jefferson.

Again, Harvard and the like are tough admits for everyone. Keep that in mind. But turn your circumstances to your advantage. Top colleges cannot get all the diversity they desire without drawing applicants like you from states that don’t send a lot of students their way.

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Also, it doesn’t sound like you have a big cohort of past applicants to draw conclusions from about your own chances. Does your school use tools like Naviance or Scoir so you can see data on prior applicants to the schools on your list? You might not see a lot there if they do, but it’s useful perspective.


All those schools are possible. As is to be expected, you can never be sure about the true reaches — ie Harvard, MIT etc


Congrats on your strong record!

The biggest problem with your list is the OOS private universities. UCLA and UC Berkeley will not be affordable; that’s a whole separate application that is a lot of work and not worth your time if there’s no path to affordability. If you want more California options, consider the Claremont Colleges, which all meet full need. The math faculty is top-notch throughout the 5C’s. Harvey Mudd has a rigorous STEM core - if Caltech’s curriculum appeals to you, then Mudd’s may too. Pomona and Scripps are also excellent places to major in math. You can take classes at all of the colleges, regardless of which one you attend, but the overall requirements for a degree differ among the schools.

UVA and UNC do meet need, and Michigan does also for low-income families. But Wisconsin does not, and it isn’t as generous with merit as the southern flagships like Alabama.

You need to run Net Price Calculators for all of your schools, and see whether the projected net cost for your family is affordable. USC is another school that sometimes isn’t as generous as people expect based on the promise of meeting full need - here’s their calculator as an example: USC Financial Aid : Net Price Calculator Every school has one, and results can differ widely from one school to the next.

St. Olaf College in Minnesota meets need and is known for having a strong math/CS department. I think that would be a safety for you - might be worth comparing the projected cost, compared to WVU and your other safeties. Carleton College, in the same town, is also excellent but more of a reach. Reed College in Portland, OR also sends many math majors to top PhD programs. There are also a lot of lower-reaches that could be worth considering - Merc81’s list points to many of them.

I think your very strong record combined with geographic diversity will position you well. Just don’t waste your time on schools that are guaranteed to be too expensive; replace those with others that offer the financial aid you need.


It looks like you have four safeties. You only need two. WVU is an obvious choice. Alabama for scholarships is also a good choice.

The UC’s most likely will be a wasted app. No FA. Run the NPC for all schools. Unaffordable ones get taken off the list.

Too many apps usually dilutes the quality. Writing excellent essays will probably determine your acceptances. I would suspect being 1st gen and WV will be a bump.

Agree with looking at Princeton and Minnesota schools like Macalester.

Would you be considered a rural school applicant? That would be another plus in your favor.

I would apply to the top schools since you’re offering great state level diversity. The west coast schools will find you more of a plus, and if you’re ok with the flights, I would apply there.

I think you will do well.

The issue isn’t going to be finding academic safeties but financial safeties, ie., where you’re sure that you can get in AND get a full ride (or near full ride).

(In case your GC hasn’t mentioned them, Honors Colleges are very important since they unlock better resources and scholarship opportunities. Sometimes it’s by invitation, sometimes by application, and deadlines tend to be early, so look into them if you haven’t already.)

Tulane is more of a high match than a safety due to selectivity and not applying ED.
So WVU is your only financial+academic safety:
If you want another safety, St Olaf, which is excellent for math, is a good recommendation (as a D3 school, your being able to compete for either their soccer or lacrosse team would make you a shoo-in. Reach out to the coaches, since it’s D3 the rules are more lenient - you don’t get an athletic scholarship, you get financial aid, so even if you stop playing you can still afford college, and they meet full need.) Better than LSU for math&FA+better resources.

Drop the UCs, since they don’t offer financial aid to OOS applicants - if you want CA, replace them with one of the Claremonts (Mudd, Pomona, Scripps all excellent but different core requirements).

Look into Williams&Amherst for other reaches that meet full need.


As others have said, you have an outstanding profile. While many students on this site are overly focused on elite schools and are often told to add more matches and safeties, you may be the rare applicant - low income, from an underrepresented state, stellar credentials - that should cut back the matches/safeties (many of which are not affordable) and add a few more reaches to the list. In addition to Princeton, Stanford, and/or a few competitive LACs like Williams and Amherst, I would take a look at Rice, UChicago, and Vanderbilt as potential additions to the list. All of these will generally be free of charge for a student with family income below a certain threshold (often $65-$70k), and all are excellent, though different from each other in many ways. Depending on what characteristics you are looking for, some may be better fits for you than others. You don’t want to take on too many applications, since it takes time and thought to complete them, but if you apply to 5 or 6 of your favorites from this larger pool of reaches (including the ones named in your post), I think you have a good chance of at least one acceptance.

I do think it’s important to have at least one true safety that is affordable - WVU may be that place, but if not, you might look at some of the state flagships that offer strong merit (SC, AL, NM, KS, MS St, OK St, AZ, KY, WY). I also agree that LSU and the UCs will probably be unaffordable. We know several LSU alums here in TX that aren’t even considering LSU for their kids b/c comparable schools like Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mizzou have much stronger financial aid for out-of-state students. The one potential exception would be the Stamps program, which provides a small number of full rides each year at LSU (and 30+ other schools around the country) in a highly competitive process.