Chances at T-20s and Match/Safety Recommendations?


  • US citizen (from New England)
  • Competitive private school
  • White female
  • Legacy to Yale

Intended Major(s)

  • Molecular biology

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • My school doesn’t do GPAs on any normal scale or publish rank, but I have been told my GPA is competitive for top schools
  • ACT: 35
  • National Merit Commended (at least, maybe finalist, we’ll see)


  • I have taken a very science-heavy curriculum, but I have 2 years of history, 4 years of Spanish (including AP) and 4 years of English. Senior year, I am taking five classes, and four of them are honors level


  • First honor roll every semester
  • Molecular engineering award (I don’t want to name specifics)
  • Short story contest winner


  • NASA internship this summer (11)
  • Published molecular genetics research (10)
  • Co-founder/Communications Manager of Space and Rocketry Club (11,12)
  • Head of outing club (9,10,11,12)
  • Board member GSA (9,10,11,12)
  • Captain of ski team (11,12)
  • Captain of club basketball (11,12)
  • Stage manager, actor and play write for school theatre department (10,11,12)
  • Volunteer for citizen science project (10,11,12)


  • Decent essays (7/10)
  • One excellent teacher rec from science teacher (9/10)
  • One okay teacher rec (probably from English teacher (6/10)
  • Decent college counselor rec (8/10)

Cost Constraints / Budget

  • I would be a full-pay student


  • ED/EA would probably be Brown or Rice, then Northeastern, Case Western, MIT, UChicago
  • Safety: Scripps, UArizona, Bryn Mawr
  • Match: Wellesley
  • Reach: Cornell, Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, WashU, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Barnard, Duke

What are my chances, and what are some more sfaety and match schools I should look at? I want a school with a great science program that is in or near a city, but I am very flexible otherwise.

The flagship public university in your state of residence would likely be a safety school.

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Will you have a third year of history next year? How about FL?

Some of the reach schools on your list are going to want a balanced number of core HS classes. You have a reach heavy list so that could be a way to cut some schools.

Do you have two other social studies type courses? Some colleges will expect to see four years in that category.


You have a very nice resume for colleges…but this is a very top heavy list. Many of these schools accept 10% or less of applicants.

I do not think any of these should be viewed as a sure thing except for Arizona!

So…I would suggest you choose a couple of sure things to add to this list.

It’s difficult to understand your GPA and rigor and make recommendations. I concur with others who have mentioned 2 years of history is not enough…are you taking another Social Studies class senior year? What proportion of your core courses are honors/APs? (Core=E, Math, Science, FL, SS)

What is your core unweighted GPA on a 4 point scale? (A+/A/A-=4, B+/B/B-=3 and so on)

With regard to your list, Scripps and Bryn Mawr are matches, not safeties. Same for CWRU.

I would encourage you to cull this list further as you do more research. For example, Brown and UChicago are really different schools…I would expect one of those to ultimately drop off. Because there are so many reaches, you will have many essays to write, which is another reason to cut back the list.

You might also choose a rolling admission school that is strong in stem, like U Pitt. Submit that app in August and you may have an acceptance by October…which could mean you could further cull your list.

Lastly, you note that you are a full pay student…does that mean your parents will pay $75K+/year for these schools?


Pitt and Rutgers might be worthwhile to look at. Are you thinking about Grad school? Look into schools that might have an accelerated BS/MS or BS/PhD program

If you are from New England, when why Arizona for a safety? Why not U.Mass Amherst and/or UVM (or McGill if your grades are high enough for it to actually be a safety)?

“in or near a city” is of course not a description of U.Mass. However, it does describe UVM and McGill.

You do have a lot of reaches on your list. I think that reaches might be easier to find because they are famous. However, you should think hard about which of these reaches are a better fit for you.

With a 19% admissions rate, I do not think that I would call Wellesley College a match. Perhaps a “low reach” might be more accurate. With a 24% admissions rate I would not call Scripps a safety.


Arizona (both U of A and ASU) are actually great safeties - merit for stats is fairly predictable, both have strong honors colleges, both are in cities, and warm winters might be appealing for a New Englander.

I agree that an in state public university should be included in a balanced list. I am thinking that this student may wish to keep her state of residence confidential as she identified as a New Englander. I agree with others that BMC and Scripps are not safeties and Wellesley is probably a low reach.


Your currently listed safeties are matches/high matches due to their acceptance rate.
Good safeties for you could include Pitt, UVermont, UMN Twin Cities.

Why would you ask a teacher who will only give you a C rec for an LOR? Top colleges won’t be impressed by a student who can’t find 2 teachers who think that s/he is a top student.

You are a top student in a top private school. 100% you have a college counselor who is doing all of this with you.

@barsmi1298 I’d add Rutgers to the list.

I have to reinforce what several others have said: Scripps and Bryn Mawr should in no way, shape, or form be considered safety schools.


Az is a great school with a great Homors program but it’s out west. Why Az. Are you chasing merit ? In that case add U of SC Honors, UGA, William and Mary, FSU…someone said UF but FSU for Merit. Again it’s hard not knowing your true stats. But it’s large and the rest you are applying to are not. So maybe a Miami Ohio, College of Charleston…if you get a Charleston Fellow, Elon, Richmond

Also if you are full pay and don’t want to pay…as many don’t…then don’t apply ED to anywhere. Just EA. And take off the schools that have zero merit…ie the Ivies and top LACs except Washington and Lee. If you want to spend 80k a year then disregard.