Chances of Any College and Realistic Expectations

I’m going to list out my information, but there is one major thing that might make my chances worse for me than most other students. I’ll get into that right after I list everything, though.

US Citizen
Texas Resident, parents have houses in Cali.
High School Type: Public, 4-year
Gender: Male
Race: Asian

Intended Major(s)

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.8, 3.5 & 3.0 (went to college program for hs students)
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 5.031
  • College GPA (for transfers): 3.5 and 3.0
  • Class Rank: - -
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 760 Math, 750 Reading [New scores not out yet]

I have enrolled in AP Human Geography, AP World History, AP Biology, and will take AP Government, AP Calculus BC, AP Physics, AP Chinese, possibly AP Music History

I got a 3 on the AP Test for Human Geography, a 4 for AP Biology, and a 5 for AP World History


Music Awards: All-Region, All-State
Writing Awards: Honorable Mention, Won 2
(I have others, I think, but I honestly am not really worried about them, due to my situation.)


Volunteer Leader, 100+ hrs
Club Leader, 9-10 grade
Committee Head for Club, 12 grade
Teacher Assistant in Daycare
Possibly more writing competitions
Possibly more musical competitions

I have yet to write any essays, but I think I need advice on how I should explain my situation.

Cost Constraints / Budget
I don’t think there would be a price restraint, but my parents will refuse to pay for college if I don’t get into a school ranked 150+.

Unfortunately, I can’t list my colleges with safety, likely, match, or reach. This is why I need advice on what I should expect. At this moment, I expect to be rejected from each college I am going to apply to, but I need realistic advice on what I should expect, possibly where I could apply, etc.

I currently plan to apply to several colleges, including:
Baylor University
Texas A & M
Texas A & M - Commerce
Texas Christian University
Texas Tech
Trinity University
UC Irvine
UC Merced
UC Riverside
UC Santa Cruz
University of Houston
University of San Fransisco
UT Austin (I expect rejection)
UT Dallas
Rice (I expect rejection)
Louisiana State University
Auburn University
St. Edward’s University
Loyola University
Hardin-Simmons University
McMurry University
Austin College

My Situation
I put this at the bottom because other online forums have suggested that colleges look at academic dishonesty after wondering if I would be a good fit in the first place. I kind of wanted to emulate that situation.

In my junior year of high school, I went to a college program for high school students. I got relatively similar grades to what I had in high school, A’s and B’s. But, on my Calculus final, I committed an act of Academic Dishonesty, which resulted in failure of the course and dismissal from the program.

I want to say something that might provide a reason for why I did that, but there honestly is no good reason. I cheated on the test and hoped to get away with it, because I didn’t want to put in the extra effort to get a passing grade. I pathetically hoped my college professor, who has, himself, been through several experiences of finals and exams, wouldn’t notice that I used an online calculator to solve a problem. It was wrong of me to do so, and I deserve the punishment.

Unfortunately, he did file a report for Academic Integrity Violations. I don’t know what that means, really, or what it might affect, but I know that I cheated and was caught.

On essays, I do not plan to deny this at all. I was even advised to start my essay with something to address the situation. I plan to do this and also know that my chances of getting into any top ranking university are extremely low. I have also almost completely let go of any dreams of getting into top 50 universities, though UT Austin and Rice are there.

I am wondering if, with my list of colleges I hope to apply to, I have still set my expectations too high. I don’t want to overestimate myself, I am a somewhat lackluster student who consistently got A’s and B’s. Should I apply to lower ranking universities only, around the 130-150 rankings, or is it alright to apply to higher ranking colleges?

Additionally, how can I address the situation in my college essays? I want to have realistic expectations that aren’t absurdly low or too high. I guess even with my situation, I still want to attend the best university that I can qualify for, but I also don’t want to waste my parent’s money for a hopeless admission either. Also, I would hope to focus my writing energy for colleges I have a chance to get into.

I also am prepared to be rejected by all colleges I apply to and attend community college for the first few years of my “college” life. I hope to then transfer to a decent college, but I am wondering what I can do before this path.

You really should not use your real name.


Not sure I understand the HS program for college student thing. Academic Dishonesty will not disqualify you. They will ask. You will say yes. They will ask for an explanation. You own it. You explain what you were thinking. You learn from it. Done

If I understand your grades they’ve declined over the years. That will hurt. But you will have chances at many schools. Alabama. Arizona. Ms State…always great for any college bound student. Easy admissions. LSU and Auburn are in that mold. Also A&M Commerce.

One thing that confuses me. You have a college GPA for transfer. So you won’t be a HS student applying but seen as a transfer ? I’m confused. But you can’t change the past so own it and move on. People get you were young and dumb. How do you grow from it ? That’s what matters.

First of all, know that you WILL get into a decent college, and you WILL go on to do whatever you want to, in life. That cheating incident from Calculus is not the end of your academic and professional career!

Did this happen in a dual-enrollment class? Are all your college classes dual-enrollment classes? I’m assuming that you are entering your 4th year of high school, and applying with only dual-enrollment college classes, as a freshman, and not as a transfer student.

You are only in-state for California if your parent is a resident of California. Just because they own real estate there, doesn’t mean you are in-state there.

I think that your high SAT scores will get you into some of these schools, despite the 3.0 in what I presume were college classes this year. Yes, you’re going to have to explain the academic dishonesty thing. It was a really tough year for everyone, with Covid and on-line schooling. The temptation to cheat was very strong for so many people, and they could easily get away with it. In fact, there was just an article in the Wall Street Journal about this, how easy it is to cheat at online school, and how it has become rampant. I’m not trying to make excuses for you. I’m just saying that you’re human, you were tempted, you succumbed, you got caught, you learned your lesson, you have moved forward trying to do better. Let he who has never cheated on anything cast the first stone.

I’m curious. What do you want to study? What do you love? What professional goals do you have? You need to consider what your goals are, to try to narrow the list. Presented properly, I don’t think that episode of cheating is going to keep you out of 2nd tier schools, or your state schools. Maybe not UT Austin, but probably yes for the other UTs. Maybe not Rice, but probably yes for many of the other places on your list.


The UC’s are test blind through the 2025 admission cycle so no test scores will be considered as part of your application review. GPA is king with the UC’s and they only use 10-11th grades for the a-g course requirements in their GPA calculation. AP/IB or UC transferable DE courses will get the extra weighting in the UC GPA calculation as an OOS applicant. With a downward grade trend and a UC GPA capped weighted below a 4.0 (based on your posted GPA’s), UC Merced and possibly UC Riverside might be your only options.

As noted above, you will be considered OOS with a $65K/year price tag to attend a UC. You and at least one parent needs to be living in California 366 days prior to attending a UC to qualify for in-state tuition.

Unless you have an unlimited college budget, I would not bother applying to the UC’s.

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Class rank is the most important part of Texas public university admissions.


I’m also curious as to what you hope to study in college. You should have plenty of options, but it’s hard to fine-tune advice without knowing what you’re interested in and what you’re looking for. Also, what is your budget, and do you qualify for any need-based aid?

IMHO, writing your personal statement about cheating isn’t the best idea. It’s important to address this, but it’s also important not to center this issue so that you come off as The Cheating Guy. You’re a writer, a musician, a volunteer, a young person who is good with children, and undoubtedly much more. Use your personal statement for the reader to get to know your best qualities, not your worst mistake. There is a generally short answer section that asks if there’s anything else you need to address - this is the place to cover the cheating incident.

Is there anything you think you might like to do for a gap year? Given your daycare teaching experience, would you enjoy doing a program like City Year and working in a classroom for a year? Or, would you value spending a “super senior” year abroad through AFS? Just two examples. I’m not saying you need to take a gap year, but if there were something you’d be happy to do, it might be advantageous. The timing of this incident is such that you don’t have a whole lot of time to regroup before applying to college. If you put this incident behind you and have a good senior year, applying with all of your senior grades on the books and enthusiastic recommendations from senior teachers could put you in a much stronger position a year from now than you’re in today. And enough time will have elapsed that you could convincingly come across as having gained significant maturity since making that mistake as a junior. Plus, it’s possible that your strong test scores will help you more, in another year, whereas a lot of colleges will still be de-prioritizing them this year or, as with the UC’s, not considering them at all. It’s just something to consider.