Chances for a student living abroad who's interested in Geography for Dartmouth ED

Demographics: US citizen, Asian(Chinese/Taiwanese), gender identity questioning (not sure I’m transwoman or non-binary), has been living in Taiwan since 2nd grade.

Hooks: Actually I’m not sure what counts as hooks. gender identity (?), 1st gen( my parents finished their college in my country. But both holds a graduate degree from US institutions, not sure am I still count as first gen)

Financial Situation: can afford around 10k/year

Intended Major(s): Geography, planning to double major in cognitive science

School: Relatively small but competitive public school . (about 300ppl /class) Top 20% of students usually go to the top 5 universities here. Only a few people from previous classes chose to study abroad.

Test Scores:

  • SAT-1450 (EBRW:650, M:800) Only took twice, was supposed to give another try this summer by it kept getting canceled…Pretty anxious about my reading score. Don’t know if I should go optional or not (need some suggestions) Since I’ve left the states since 7, speak Mandarin at home and go to a Mandarin-based school, I think English is my second language. So maybe this gives some reasonable excuses for my low reading scores.

  • Duolingo: 135

UW/W GPA and Rank: UW: 3.93/4.0 (upward trend) W: N/A; Class Rank: top 5%, but it’s not listed on the transcript

Coursework: National Curriculum, APs/IBsnot offered. Taking calculus since last semester


  • Took a gap year to Montreal in 2018-19 because my family moved there for a short period( roughly a year). : I’ve faced and surmounted many obstacles during that year. Through that year I also learned many things outside the school and found myself more independent and mature. A part of my essay is about this experience.

  • School Astronomy Club, Secretary, 11th grade.

  • School Ambassador Team, also Secretary, 11th grade: hosted many domestic and international visitors (before COVID)to our school. received a regional rotary club service award

  • Class Secretary, Since 11th grade.

  • Piano since 7, I hold Yamaha Piano Grade 7 certificate

  • Tech intern at a local charity organization. (Maintain and Update the HTML website, also editing videos for them. ) Since June this year, 120+ hrs

  • Volunteering at city animal shelter since grade 9( have paused for 1.5 years) 120+ hrs

  • Youth fellowship at a church in Montreal
    1yr, we raised about 2k CAD in a Christmas fundraising for a local charity

  • Playing clarinet at a local orchestra in Montreal

Honors/ Awards

  • Semi-Finalist, 2020 Taiwan National Geography Olympiad:
  • Finalist, 2020 and 2021 National High School Essay Contest: Both topics are related to my intended major ( Geography)
  • Finalist, 2021 National High School Book Review Contest
  • Finalist, 2021 Regional High School Science Fair: Also related to geography
  • Finalist, Regional Mandarin Speech Competition
  • 4-5 regional piano awards


  • Common App: About my personal growth and things I learned through the experience of growing up in the southwestern US, Taiwan, and my GAP year in Canada (9/10) If you are willing to give me some comments, pls DM me.

  • Currently working on the Dartmouth supplements


One from my geography teacher who assisted me in preparing for the geo olympiad. He knows me pretty well, but I think his English writing is just average… so ill give it an ( 8.5 or 9/10)

counselor LoR (She’s also an Eng teacher): She likes me and knows me very well (9.5/10)

Another one from a history teacher who kinda knows me well .(8.5/10)

Dartmouth is really my dream school since it has one of the best Geography programs in the nation (which is my interest).

Sometimes I just feel like I’m not good enough to get into an Ivy League school.

Pls give me honest comments about my chances.

  1. A “hook” is something you have that the university wants or needs: recruited athletes, legacy, major donations, some kinds of fame. Students figuring out their personal landscape are not something that is in short supply, and LGBTQ students are (statistically, proportionately) somewhat over represented on college campuses.

  2. “First generation” is for students who come from families that may be less knowledgeable about seeing / preparing for a college pathway, and are thus at a relative disadvantage. The admission boost is part of an effort on the part of many colleges to smooth the way for students from backgrounds with no tradition of third level of education. This is not pertinent for a student whose parents both have graduate degrees.

This always makes me sad. It really isn’t that you are not “good enough”. If you don’t get in there are a range of variables, the biggest of which is that the unis have a given number of beds and desks (that they choose to maintain) and the number of applicants for those beds and desks is 10x bigger. So, they whittle the numbers down, using a variety of metrics. If you didn’t have the stats, then it would still not be that you aren’t “good enough”, it would be that your stats - an imperfect metric in themselves- didn’t qualify you to make that cut. If you have the stats (as you do), then it’s about the rest of your package, starting with your essays and ECs. The importance of any given ‘hook’ varies by school- it can be decisive (think Big-10 university with the top football recruits) or it can be a tip (say, DIII track & field). And after that? it’s about how the AOs see the fit relative to the other applicants for that year. People tend to underestimate the ‘fit’ part at the highly selective schools, but the AOs really do have a good sense of that. So please, don’t think of it in terms of you being “good enough”. The vast majority of the 90+% of students who will be rejected are plenty “good enough”.

  1. Dartmouth is (by US standards) good for geography. The two best places (UCB & UCLA) are not viable on a $10K budget, but in geo circles Vassar is actually considered better than Dartmouth and meets full financial need as well (has a great CogSci program also). Others to consider for geo are Middlebury and Colgate, which also meet need. I get the pull of the “Ivy” label, but unless your plan is to stay local if you don’t get the brand name you need other options.

I agree that LQBTQ+ is not a hook, and you are not first gen.

Dartmouth is a reach for all, and they will meet your full need if you are accepted. I’m not sure their net price calculator will be accurate with foreign income and financials tho. You might run it and/or send an email to the FA dept and ask.

Do you have at least one affordable safety school? Are you planning to come back to the states for college, or is it an option to go to college in Taiwan (or elsewhere eg Canada, EU, UK)?

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Based on your interest in geography, look into Macalester, which might offer you relatively good prospects for admission. For reach ideas, look into Vassar and Colgate.

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I do, but there aren’t many choices for my safeties since I need full need and won’t be qualified for in-state tuition in every state. This is my current school list. And, I’m going to study in the US no matter where I end up getting into.

ASU, BU, Case, Columbia(legacy) Dartmouth (ED), Emory, Haverford, Macalester, NYU, NEU, Occidental, Tufts, UNC, Rochester, USC, UVA, Vassar

I’ve been looking for some LACs, but I’m worried about their diversity ( int’l student population).

Well, thank you for mentioning that. I think that’s not going to be a problem.

Well, thanks for your reply. I’m also planning to apply to Vassar for RD or maybe ED2. I will also apply RD to several schools which do not have a geography major.

This is my current school list

ASU, BU, Case, Columbia(legacy) Dartmouth (ED), Emory, Haverford, Macalester, NYU, NEU, Occidental, Tufts, UNC, Rochester, USC, UVA, Vassar

I’ll definitely check Colgate and Middlebury, but I’m worried about their diversity ( int’l student population).

NYU and Northeastern are notoriously stingy with aid money. I doubt very much they will come in under budget. I also don’t believe that UNC and UVA will be affordable for out of state/country either.


Think about what type of Geography program you are interested in. A BA in Geo will focus more on Socio and Behavioral side. Where a BS might be more focused on the technical/environmental aspects.

Are you interested in research? Look through some of the department pages from the suggestions here as well as some of the large research based programs and see what interests you. Temple has a great program focused on Geography and Urban studies, Penn State has both BA and BS programs, UMD is also a great choice.

I’m not sure I understand what you mean by it’s not going to be a problem. Your number one priority is to find a school that will be affordable. You say your budget is $10K, but what will the schools on your list calculate for what they see your need as? That is what you have to figure out, and the NPCs may or may not be accurate in the case of foreign income/assets even though you are a US citizen.

First step is to understand whether the meet full need schools like Dartmouth will be affordable for your family.

Then, find less selective schools that will give you a lot of merit…if your family can afford $10K per year, that plus the $5,500 first year Direct Federal Student Loan gives you a $15,500 budget. So, you are basically looking for a minimum of full tuition…which will be challenging. You will also have other costs such as travel, books, incidentals, and health insurance about $2-4K/year for college based plans.


These sites may help you compare LACs to universities by their international representation:

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What I mean is that I don’t think the NPCs will be too inaccurate. And I’ve run the NPCs for all the schools I listed. Most of the results were like 8-12k, which is affordable for me.

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I know NYU and Northeastern are pretty stingy, but I’ve run the NPC which indicated that I’ll only need to pay less than 15k. Though I don’t really believe that result, I guess I’ll still apply to them. And as to UNC and Virginia, they said that they meet 100% need for all US citizens, regardless of residency.

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Thank you, really helpful!

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Except for NYU the international student population is typically 8-15% of the student populations. Obviously, bigger student body = bigger #s, but as a proportion of the student body it doesn’t change much.

That said, I agree that Colgate & Middlebury are not especially diverse on several levels! But if your family income is in range, their financial aid is really strong.

Note that NYU does not promise to meet need, so your EFC may be 100% accurate, but NYU is almost certain to be out of budget. Last year there were 5,739 incoming first years, 3,603 of whom asked for financial aid. NYU decided that only 2,677 of them actually needed financial aid, and gave some amount of aid to 2,514 of them, on average, meeting 2/3 of their need. Just 309 students had full need met.

What was your US state of residence before you left for Taiwan? You might be able to claim residency there. In-state tuition rates will be much cheaper than elsewhere. That should be your logical safety.

New Mexico I don’t think my family would agree to let me go to UNM

  • You want to go to an elite university, but don’t have the money, nor the perfect stats expected at these sites.
  • You are an ORM, with no hooks.
  • You live in Taiwan and need plane fare and living expenses.
  • Your family will not permit you to go to an affordable university like UNM because ??? it is not prestigious enough?

Your parents wont consider a school if it’s not an ivy?
Community college fees may just be enough for your current budget since you will be OOS for all CC’s.

Your chances, are not good.

What if you are rejected by all of these listed schools?

Are your safeties in Taiwan?

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Looks like you could petition for in-state tuition, not sure what your chances would be: Residency Information :: Office of the Registrar | The University of New Mexico

UNM instate cost is about $25K per year vs $45 out of state. So unless you get some good FA package, it seems that even UNM would be out of reach for you.

Not sure if you’re interested in a military career, but another option would be ROTC scholarship. With the new administration, they are more accepting of LBGTQ community. Your mandarin speaking skills will be of high value in the military.