Chance My Kid (+Match): Multiple Cornell Legacy, US Gov't in northeast, Class '26

We’re in the midst of the application process, delayed because of Covid especially with college tours, very much in need of help for my son.

  • Demos: US citizen, male, white, from rural town in New England (45 min commute each way to school, if it matters)
  • High School: small highly-competitive Catholic
  • Legacies: Boston University (grandparent), UConn (parent undergrad & grad); Cornell (great-grandfather, grandfather, parent undergrad). Other legacy schools I didn’t list because he’s not considering them.
  • Intended major(s): US Government, Political Science, US History
  • UW GPA: 3.27/4.00, W GPA: 3.32/4.00. Weighting adds .5 to grade score for Honors & AP classes but weighted GPA caps at 4.0 (thus B+ in AP Calc = 3.8 vs. 3.3 in Calc). School doesn’t rank.

His GPA is low because he struggled freshman year (2.8 courtesy of Spanish, Geometry & Biology) but rebounded strongly the last two years, making honor roll each term with tough classes.

SAT: 600 verbal, 570 math (taken once - he’s taking it again next month). He doesn’t test well, though we paid for him to attend Princeton Review online in April. Realistically, he’ll likely crack 1300, maybe 1350.

Freshman: Honors World History, English, Spanish I, Geometry, Bio, Religion, Art I
Sophomore: Civics, English, Spanish II, Algebra II, Chem, Religion, 3-D Art
Junior: Honors US History, English, Spanish III, Pre-Calc, Physics, Religion, Art II
Senior (scheduled): AP English Lit, AP US Gov, AP Comp Gov, Calculus, Astronomy/Oceanography, Religion & Ethics

His school offers few APs, not every year. Of the 16 AP courses in the handbook, 6 are art/music/foreign language, 4 are science (each year they alternate AP Bio & Chem; Physics & CS haven’t been offered since 2019), 1 Calc, and remaining are English/history/government. Honors classes are not offered in all subjects.

Honor roll (4 terms - highly likely to continue this year)
Outstanding athlete award (Junior year)
Student/citizen of the year award his last year in middle school
Probably a few commendations that I’m not remembering at the moment

Extracurriculars - I’m including this year

  • Weekly volunteer at a nursing home - restarting when Covid restrictions are lifted hopefully later this fall;
  • Active church volunteer (altar server)
  • Poll worker/volunteer for 2020 election
  • Works Dec-March part-time at a ski area; works summers part-time (30 hours/week) at the general store
  • Varsity track 4 years, snowboarding club, Model UN, faith leadership club

Most clubs were shelved or completely discontinued because of Covid; a few (like Model UN) met virtually. No word on if there will be clubs this year beyond virtual.

He’s a strong writer and passionate about public policy & governmental affairs. His school has an excellent new college counseling team, and he’s lined up his LORs in the History department. I’m a writer and editor, plus the school has all essays edited by the English department. I think this will be a big boost for him, and where he shines.

Cost Constraints / Budget
We’re fortunate to not have financial constraints on school selection.

He’s interested in mid-to-large nonsectarian universities with strong liberal arts programs in the greater Boston/eastern MA/southern NH, central/upstate NY, and greater Washington D.C. areas. He’d prefer a suburban or exurban campus, and has an interest in Navy or Marine ROTC, though he’d consider an urban school (e.g. BU, American University) and schools without ROTC programs.

For very valid reasons I’d rather not elaborate on, he does not want to attend schools in Maine, RI, CT (even UConn), Long Island, NJ, PA, VA, or other regions of the US. He’s done with religious education and small schools and is looking for a larger, more diverse campus that doesn’t require a flight to/from home - hence parts of the Northeast.

Coming from a multi-generational Cornell family with an active alum as a parent, could you Chance My Kid for Arts & Sciences as ED? Academically, he’s shown he rises to the challenge and is resilient, ethical, and talented - he’s frequently referred to as a “good citizen” which may sound lame here but is very much in keeping with our values. His dad and I have strong marketing backgrounds, and know what Cornell is looking for with the essays, have both been alumni admission volunteers for our alma maters, but it’s hard to be objective when it’s your kid.

I worry about his SATs even though Cornell is test-optional; I worry about his GPA even though he pulled a 3.7 last year. I looked at Naviance (not overly helpful for a small Catholic school - and I saw that for nearly all of their admits, average GPA was below school mean GPAs, which I find encouraging. With Covid, we’re behind in the timeline and can’t tour a lot of campuses but are going where we can this summer & fall. He doesn’t have the superstar resume that a lot of the nearby prep schools could have offered him but he did a lot with what he had available especially in the last 18 months.

Second, Match My Kid? In addition to Cornell, we’re looking at Colgate, Syracuse, BU, Tufts, UNH, American University, GWU, Georgetown (probably too far of a reach), U of MD College Park, Others???

In my head I have a theoretical list but he knows so little about these schools, let alone colleges in general:
Reach: Cornell, Tufts, BU
Reasonable: UNH, American, GW
Safety: U of MD, UMass Amherst

I understand this is his process, not mine or his father’s. We may hire a private college counselor to help with the selection to further remove us from any bias - it worked well for my brother and his sons. I’m looking for more ideas of schools and thoughts on his SATs. I also need perspective if being a 4th generation Cornellian who really wants the breadth and freedom of thought that defines the university would make much difference.


I think Maryland is not a safety. My kid had higher SAT and higher GPA, and was waitlisted there and subsequently rejected. It did have us :woman_facepalming:t2: a bit as he graduated from Boston University. I think admission has gotten more competitive since 2003 when my kid started college.

Would he consider University of Delaware? What about James Madison? I know you said not Virginia…but good connections with DC.

I can’t speak to legacy status at Cornell….but a family member here had a grandfather, father and two brothers who graduated from Dartmouth and was not admitted herself. And she had terrific grades and GPA (graduated from Middlebury so she was a strong applicant).


If he wants to apply to Cornell ED, it’s worth a shot, but highly unlikely for anyone in these times, even a legacy. Is he one of the best students in his class, at least for sophomore and junior year? Has he taken the hardest courseload available? If not, admission is unlikely.

Colgate seems a little small for him, and I agree that Tufts and Georgetown are probably too far of reaches for it to be worth his time to apply. Syracuse seems like a great fit, though.

Has he looked at SUNY Albany? It’s a good match for him–large, located close but not in the middle of a city, and it’s in the state capital so there’s plenty of local government opportunities.

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My initial thought was he might do OK applying TO but on second pass, his GPA might still be low for a lot of the schools on your list. While an upward trend is admirable, you still have to look at who else will be in the applicant pool. I noticed he isn’t taking Spanish his senior year. Has he exhausted the FL offerings at his school?

The lineage at Cornell is nice but only helpful in early rounds. Is it enough to bump a less competitive applicant? I’m not sure…

I agree with the suggestions of SUNY Albany and Syracuse. I would also add UVM, SUNY Geneseo and maybe University of Rochester (although that may also be reachy).

ETA: I’m a bit confused by some of the contradictions in the preferences. You say non-sectarian and include Georgetown and suburban or exurban and Colgate is in a village of 4,000 people located an hour from the nearest city.

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OK - I’m going to be seen as coming down hard here but I’m just being realistic. You are not at all living in reality. I am all for kids applying to the dream schools - and if you want to apply to extras (and have the time, etc.) - then I have no problem. But you need a fair set up of reach, target, safety.

So let’s look at your list:

Cornell - it’s a vanity application - meaning you have no chance - but there are 20 common app slots - and if you apply to 10 schools and don’t mind more essays, why not.

Tufts - same thing.

What I’m saying is - these are beyond reach.

BU - is not an easy admit - but we’ll go with reach - but i don’t see it.

UNH - that’s a match - so good choice there.

American - it’s ALL about demonstrated interest - so sign up on their email list, join webinars, visit - and then the ultimate Demonstrated Interest - is apply ED. Never apply ED if you don’t 100% want to attend - but AU is all about demonstrated interest. It bothers me; this should be about education and fit - but - it’s not with them. It’s about the revenue. You have kids with stats like yours getting in and kids with near Ivy stats getting rejected - because they didn’t telegraph to AU a real interest.

GW - similarly. Don’t forget with these two - AU and GW - you are amongst many wanting those majors.

Now we get to your safety and UMD - I’m scratching my head. It’s a hard admit and poli sci is impacted. Their SAT 75% is well above your son. You need to put UMD into the reach category. Not sure how it became a safety - but it dwarfs UNH and somewhat UMASS. UMD is a tough school. Not saying not to apply - but it’s a reach, not a safety - not a reach to the level of BU, but a reach nonetheless.

UMASS - ok, target - you’re good there.

I don’t ever recommend hiring a private counselor. You can bounce ideas here - this is why I’m being so honest. But I think you need a spreadsheet - and to lay out stats and compare them.

So you asked about Colgate - like Tufts/Cornell, no shot - but again, if you’re like we applied to 10 schools and it’s an easy apply then ok.

Syracuse - you can get in on full pay - but you’re not there. I do wonder - you have schools like Colgate/Tufts which are small and then Syracuse/BU/Cornell which are larger and then big flagships.

You listed areas of interest (such as urban and in NE) but then listed rural schools and DC schools - so I’m going to stray from your preference list a bit because even you didn’t follow it. Apologies. But mid size, i

For example, I am going to suggest College of Charleston and it has a lot of Northeasterners but it’s not in your zone. I might recommend the following and all will have ample Northeasterns: College of Charleston, Indiana, Arizona & ASU, Alabama, Miami of Ohio and Ohio U. WVU a solid too. These are all diverse - so i think the process of certain NE areas is wrong - so many schools in the south and out west are loaded with northeasterners and diversity. The way you are like NY but not Long Island, etc. I just worry that you’re a bit too focused. A Sarah Lawrence will be too small. Ithaca may work for you and hey, it’s near Cornell. One thing to note - a school like Alabama is spending huge sums of money - and 60% are from out of state - you have kids turning down the Ivies to go there and they are stealing huge chunks from the NE, MW, and West…and they have a very large Jewish population - you’re not - but just to show the diversity in the South…it’s probably much greater than you can imagine is my point.

For mid size, Elon will be a stretch but is solid. U of Pacific (in CA - again, don’t know your area preference), U of Tampa, U of Denver, Butler - these are targets/safeties, etc. And they will have diversity so I’m throwing them out there - sorry.

If you go more toward DC (even though you said no VA), George Mason. is right there at DC so. In MD, you might try UMBC or Towson. For mid-size Towson. For small, Goucher. You didn’t mention Delaware - but someone else did and it’s a good call!! Not a safety for you, btw.

If you want a smaller school (LAC), you might try the colleges that change lives - Google Search

So a Beloit, a Kalamazoo, Even an Augustana in South Dakota - very good.

Back to your narrow areas, SUNY schools and Albany is in the capital so that’ll work. UMASS Lowell. Suffolk.

But I do think that you really have to “refocus” on the #s. Top schools are harder, not easier to get into. And you need to open your geography or you will have limited options.

That said, when you and I applied to college, we had to fill out an app for each school. Today, with common app it’s easy. For many schools, you push a few buttons, stroke a check, and done. Others have extra essays but sometimes you can use a previous one. So if Cornell is a dream, by all means apply. But - ultimately you need a list of reaches, targets, and matches - and while you have some, your list isn’t complete, etc.

btw - many schools will be test optional this year and many strong schools have a high test optional rate. For example, Trinity and Connecticut College are both decent LACs. Yet 58% did not submit a test score. Wesleyan - which is amazing - 41% didn’t admit. So that will be a positive for you at schools that are above you that allow you to go TO.

Good luck.


You really need to talk to your high school’s college counselor. I have a kid who was private schooled from k-8 but chose to attend a highly sought out public school so I am very much in the know about the private schools and the public schools.

Your son’s GPA is irrelevant against my son’s public school GPA. My son does have a much higher unweighted GPA and weighted GPA, too. Your son’s school releases information to the colleges stating the GPA range for your child’s class. Often, there is nobody who has received a 4.0 unweighted GPA from a private school. So, the range might actually be 2.5-3.7. All the sudden, your son’s overall 3.2 GPA doesn’t look so bad. It is probably the reason you are noticing kids from your son’s school getting accepted to colleges with GPAs under the college average when you look on Naviance.

What is concerning is your child’s SAT scores. The scores are very average and you are considering schools that are highly to extremely selective. If your son’s school has opted-in to taking the SATs this past year, you need to turn your son’s scores into the colleges. Many private schools opted-in to administering the SATs, signing a form with the College Board. The easiest way to know if your son’s school did this is just by understanding how he took the test. Did he take the exam on-site with his whole graduating class? If he did this, your child’s school opted-in. If you had to drive your child to a different location to take the exam, the school did not opt-in. Some private schools haven’t opted-in while others have.

The good news is that it is July and your son has Ivy League parents. Time to crack open the SAT study guides, as a family, and help your child get a better score! You can also find a good tutor. The problem is that the top tutors, who work on helping kids get top scores may be fully booked nowadays.

We are using a college counselor who told us that many Ivies are angering its alums because the schools aren’t accepting their kids. Princeton legacy acceptance rate for this upcoming freshman class is only 10%. It wasn’t all that long ago that it was 30%.

Good luck!


Or more likely those students had a hook…recruited athlete, URM, legacy, etc.

IMO a 3.27 is likely too low for a legacy to gain admission to Cornell, unless the family has donated significant $.

I also wouldn’t take the SAT again, even a 100-150 point gain wouldn’t be enough for the reach schools to apply with a test score.


Reading your post, my first thoughts were U.Conn, U.Maine (Orono), and UNH. When I saw “no Maine no Connecticut” this leaves me suggesting UNH. We toured it a while ago and I have visited a couple of times for other reasons and it is a very good school in an attractive location.

U.Mass Amherst in my opinion is not a safety. However I think that it is a reasonable school to apply to. U.Mass Lowell would be closer to a safety. I agree with another post that U.MD is not a safety.

Cornell would be a very high reach even being legacy. It also would be very tough in the unlikely event that he did get in.


2 cents from my experience on the noted list schools…

High Reach: Cornell followed byTufts
Reach: BU followed by U of MD
Match: GW and UMass followed by American
Lower Match: UNH

For a few likely safeties maybe URI,UMass Lowell are both good schools in this space.

Best of luck to your son.


Agree with your post
Top 50 Schools are going to be a reach. But apply
In the NE also look at PITT, Penn State, Seton Hall ( partners with classes at the UN) and Midwest you can look at Marquette and Michigan State ( James Madison Residential College ) excellent Political Science Program.

Here is Cornell class of 2024 profile

For Navy Marine ROTC, how about Norwich, Temple.
CorrectionGWU his score is below scholarship
be sure to contact NROTC folks for interview, visit. Our Unit | GWU NROTC | The George Washington University

Also UMBC is looks like match for Navy ROTC. They’ve added some new buildings and have some well rated programs and growing rep for excellence in teaching.

Also see Favorite NROTC Schools? | Page 2 | United States of America Service Academy Forums

If he insists on Cornell ED, why not CALS, which is Score Free?

The reality is he’s not getting into CALS, even with no test. The closest he’s getting to Cornell is Ithaca College and that’s a great alternative. Sure he can take a flyer on Cornell but if, and only if he loves either, he’d be smarter to ED do the DC schools…especially American because there he would have a chance.

Btw there are zillions of great schools that would love to have the OP. But the strict geographical (and size) restrictions would need to open a bit.


Lol, you’re busting the legacy dream. I’ve got a D22 with better GPA & SAT than OP but lesser activities. And I’m sweating her getting into UMD.

The legacy bump at Cornell is not going to get an unqualified applicant accepted. I had a friend whose third gen student was rejected with a 4.0/1550+ and super impressive ECs. She was accepted RD to Yale.

I agree with the above posters that this list needs some recalibration.


I’m going back to the geographical requirements, since the areas mentioned are ones I am very familiar with. I am just having a really hard time identifying possibilities. If you are only focusing on Boston, eastern MA (I am guessing Worcester but maybe as far as I-91, not that it makes a difference), southern NH, central and upstate NY, and the greater DC area excluding NoVa, there are just not going to be a ton of mid to large schools and there aren’t many cities to pick from, which means few suburbs.

In Boston, you have the obvious schools (BC/BU/NU, UMass) which have been discussed. Emerson has a political communications major that might be appealing. Wheaton might be a good option but it is certainly small.

Southern NH only offers UNH.

Cities in upstate and central NY are limited to the Albany metro, Syracuse, possibly Utica, and Rochester (which is likely too far). In addition to other schools suggested, I would add Siena near Albany but it is a Catholic school. Union is likely too small. Lemoyne might work but it is a Jesuit school.

DC/Maryland is really the schools that have been mentioned unless you add UDC, which lacks the flash of the others.

I am just not seeing many options in the small area you are targeting. There may need to be an adjustment in criteria - either in size, location, religious affiliation.


Very, very, extremely low. Especially with test-optional; there are going to be too many applicants with much better transcripts, and he has no hook or spike to compensate for it. Cornell rejects far more legacies than it accepts, and last year the ED acceptance rate overall was something like 1500/9000.

His desired parameters for size and location are limiting his options. Syracuse has very strong poli sci/government/public affairs programs and being full-pay matters, although it is urban. Someone upthread suggested Albany; seems like a good match if not his ideal location. Union College is probably worth a look, even if it is on the small side.

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Based on your son’s interest in the study of government, some of these schools may be of interest:

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I’ve re-read the thread more carefully and let me point out a few things:

  1. Geography - we’ve rehashed this - he doesn’t want to fly and there’s so many areas within driving distance that he’s eliminated. So either this opens up, or you do your plan of the DC schools, UNH, UMASS, Syracuse, and I would add a couple somewhat safeties in UMASS Lowell and Ithaca. SUNY Albany too. Then you’re done. If you want Cornell and Colgate and have the time and effort. Apply. If you’re willing to open up, there’s a lot more choices. UVM could be another choice. It’s a target - but not a definite - just like UMASS.

To me, Suffolk you’d be in, UNH, Lowell, and Albany are good possibilities. Ithaca possible and AU (if ED) and Syracuse - just because they say show me the money. These are possible, not 100% but I think at least one (or more) of UNH, UMASS Lowell, and SUNY Albany would happen.

Let’s go to your son’s SAT - 1170 is better than 70% of the country. It’s very good. But it’s not the 1500 an Ivy kid needs and even if he had that, and even if his GPA was 4.0, tons of those kids are still getting turned down. Imagine all the valedictorians and salutatorians in the country - they’re all going for the same schools and many of those with perfect records, scores of 1500-1600 on the SAT and 35-36 on the ACT are getting rejected. You say he’ll get a 1300 or 1350. Perhaps he’ll do better. Perhaps a superscore will help him. But until you get there, you don’t know. Some kids go up. Some regress. You are looking at an over 10% bump. It’s not impossible and I wish him well. But it’s also not likely or realistic as you say. Once you see it, then come back and tell us - but you have to plan based on what you have and maybe a 3% bump, not what you hope for. And when you look at the low end, it’s 1400 (25th) percentile - you’re not close anyway.

As for your LORs, two from one department (I saw history) is a no-no. You want to show his diversity. Truth is, at many schools, these don’t matter. At some they do…but you don’t want two history - you want a math, science, English or foreign language mixed in. If you can get a coach or employer as his community member, that’s a help too (at some schools).

As for the essays, it worried me when you said the English department edits them all. I’m not suggesting the school is crossing the line but it implied so when I read it. At most schools, the essay won’t matter. I’ve spoken to a professor friend of mine who is at a top 20 school in TN. If they don’t make the GPA/ACT cut, they’re pretty much pushed aside. At the publics, it’s definitely of little concern.

Awards - not relevant. Honor Roll, Honors Societies (as an activity unless you can truly show impactful activities), a middle school award you list - they have zero impact. Do not list a middle school award on your app…that’s a no no. What has impact are activities where you can show leadership, depth, and commitment. And it appears from his activities - from work to athletics to his faith club that he can demonstrate quality traits.

There’s nothing wrong with your son’s record - and i can name 200 colleges that will want him - and some would even offer him merit aid (I know not a concern for you). He’s also looking at ROTC so a military career beckons (and perhaps ROTC scholarship) - and I for one appreciate his future service.

You have to look at his major. It’s a liberal art. Frankly, no matter where you go, it’s not preparing him for a job. In other words, it’s not accounting, engineering, computer science, etc. So short of “contacts” or getting into other industries (which is what most poli sci majors end up anyway and/or law school), his school choice will have less impact. There are lots of struggling liberal arts kids coming out of the Ivies.

Your son is more UNH or Quinnipiac (sorry no Connecicut) or maybe an slim shot at a Pitt if you apply early (great school) or Miami of Ohio than he is Cornell.

He’ll have wonderful opportunity - and I know you’re proud of him and should be. Make sure he knows that even if he ends up at what you might deem as not as strong a school.


Something has been concerning me that is probably worth actually stating.

Classes at Cornell are tough. Classes are going to be full of students who could get a good night’s sleep and walk in off the street with no preparation at all and get 1400+ on the SAT. Over the years I have known a lot of these students or former students.

I do not think that I would want a kid to attend Cornell (or MIT or Stanford) unless they could walk in off the street and get at least better than 1300 on the SAT with no preparation at all. These top schools can be stressful even for quite strong students.