Chances for a junior (Columbia, NYU, Barnard, Uchicago, Umichigan, Syracuse, Duke)

Hey everyone! I’m a junior girl at a top US boarding school with an A- GPA, 3 APs, and 34 ACT. My dad is a high-ranking faculty at both Duke and Yale. I’m the head of a political club, run a public health activism organization, and write a lot for various publications in/outside of school. How should I rank these schools? I will not be applying for FA.

Hello - the faculty connection can help a lot. Especially if your father is a full professor.

Confused as how your dad can be on faculty at both colleges at the same time? Is he an adjunct professor? Or volunteer faculty? If so that generally doesn’t help as much as being a fulltime faculty. Then within the faculty, there are various levels (full professor vs associate vs assistant). Where are his paychecks coming from? Yale or Duke?

My father is a full professor at Duke and an adjunct professor at Yale. He used to work full-time at Yale but transitioned to Duke seven years ago. He is still paid by Duke and Yale.

Does an A- average put you in the top 1/2 at your top boarding school? Also, may I assume there are not more than 10 AP classes offered at your BS. Taking out your father’s relationship (hard to gauge), I like you for the NYU/Michigan level. Chicago, Columbia, Yale, Barnard and Duke seem to be different degrees of reaches.

If your rank is good (top 10%) then Duke would be the most logical top choice. You can increase your chances further by applying binding ED. Michigan does not have ED (EA only). But I believe that Barnard and Columbia have ED. UChicago and NYU have ED2.

I know of someone whose father was a full professor at Duke (4.0/36 ACT) and got rejected. So it is not a slam dunk by any means. But it certainly will help.

Your CC will be able to give you much better advice than anybody on this site.


I agree with @collegemom3717 that your guidance counselor can give more accurate advice than we can.

However, I also think that you need to figure out which universities are a better fit for you. This will depend upon a lot of things, which what you are likely to major in being high on the list.

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A- is not 10% of a top boarding school. I bet you know that and asked the question for a reason.

Due to the extreme rigor of my school, an A- puts me in the top 10%. No one at my school achieved an A GPA in ten years. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the average grade for my school is a B-. Its very competitive and most of our classes are AP level. I hope this clears things up for other people as well. This year 5 students with an A- GPA were accepted to Harvard ED/EA, and at least 15 more at various ivy leagues had at most an A- GPA. However, I understand that schools also like to see leadership/focus on other factors. Columbia would be my top choice, Duke second. I’m just wondering whether my other stats (Act, extracurriculars) could help my chances. Finally, I was wondering which of these colleges have the best political science and philosophy programs.

Do you go to Exeter? If you do, your odds of admissions go up. Still not sure about your 10% figure. Anyway, good luck.

Each boarding school is different. So an A- is not the same rank everywhere. Thats why I asked the question, not to be facetious.

My son went to a boarding school like you are describing. Basically the top third of the class went to T10 schools. Then the second third went to amazing schools. There were even a few students in the bottom third who ended up at Ivies. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, especially at boarding schools.

In my son’s graduating class, there were 15 kids who matriculated at Princeton. The boarding schools have spent years cultivating relationships with top colleges. There is a kid who I know from my son’s HS who was waitlisted at UChicago, but then a college counselor picked up the phone and called the admissions office. Was able to convince them to convert the waitlist to a Z-list (one year deferral admit). All of this is just a way of saying that the college counselors at the top boarding schools wield enormous influence. Much more than can be conveyed by GPA and scores alone.

But the GPA is typically the first pass. Top 10% is fine. Top 1-2% would be better, but I suspect that you’ll get a decent look at any of the schools on your list. Your best chance obviously would be at Duke. Columbia is a lot more risky, because you have no connections there. Look at the scatterplots to see how many students in past years from your HS have been accepted/waitlisted.

Your ECs look good. Depends on how you frame things, and how your college counselor writes about them in the letter. Running a activist organization sounds like a big deal. But it depends what the organization is, and how well recognized it was. David Hogg for example was notably rejected from Harvard originally, and then took a gap year building up the March for our Lives organization. He was scooped up by Harvard in the early round the year after. So for anonymity’s sake I’m sure you want to keep things private. But does your activist work rise to the level of David Hogg?

I try and know the top boarding schools well. As a board member of an independent school, we have researched course rigor and associated grades for the top 100 in the nation. There are very few (like 3) that would put an A- in the top 10%. If a school is not in the top 100, and they take that approach, I believe the school is hurting student admissions odds.

At some schools, children of faculty are asked to apply in the ED round if they are also applying for any tuition benefits that come with that employment status. It may be that he has tuition exchange benefits with other universities by virtue of being a faculty member. This is all worth researching up front.

I also agree that you school’s college counselors are in the best position to determine your chances and to steer you towards schools that are a good fit and where your attributes will show well.

While a EDI/EDII strategy is not possible with Columbia/Duke, it might be possible with other schools that end up on your shortlist.

Good luck!

First, I would avoid college rankings altogether. They’re misleading. Instead, focus on what marketable skill you want to gain from college. If you have that in mind, it really won’t matter where you go to school.