Chances of Getting Into Top Colleges


  • International student (Asian), Male
  • South Korea
  • International Highschool

Intended Major(s)

  • Computer Science, Economics

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.9 (Currently Junior, got straight 4.0 for Sophomore and Junior Year, I think I can probably reach ~3.95 by Senior Second Semester)
  • School Rank: Top 5%
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 1590 (790 RW, 800 Math)

AP Computer Science - 5 (Perfect Score)
Will take AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Calculus BC, AP Stat, AP Chemistry, AP Physics C:Mechanics this year. I’m predicting to get all 5 this year, considering school GPA and practice sheet score.

Korean Science and Engineering Fair 2020 (National) Prize
Korean Science and Engineering Fair 2020 International (International) Prize
Korean Science and Engineering Fair 2021 (National) Prize
Regeneron ISEF 2021 (This year, result is unknown yet)
School Science Fair 2020 Place
School Drawing Competition: 2019
School Mathematic Fair 2020
Teachers Award (Intro to Compute Science-G9, AP Computer Science - G10, AP Macroeconomics - G11, American Literature - G11)
Most Improved Student (Mandarin 1 - G9)

School Science Club, Computer Science Club
School Mathematic Club, Debate Club
Published Book in Korea in 2022.
Recreationally Competing at Marathon (Half Course) monthly
Member of Varsity Baseball Club in School
Volunteer teaching Computer Science to orphans once a week
Donated program that notifies security problems / criminal location for community security
(Received Certificate of Appreciation from Local Parliament)
Organized Esports Team from scratch and achieved to participate in Tier 2 Professional League

Cost Constraints / Budget


  • Stanford University (Reach)
  • UC Berkeley (Hard Reach)
  • CMU (Hard Reach)
  • NYU (Target)
  • USC (Hard Reach)

→ Based on Collegevine

I thought I tried hard enough, I really tried my best. But when I tried Collegevine’s chancing simulator, it was much lower than I expected. I wanted to know what is my weak point (what I should improve) and what is your opinion of my chance of getting into those top colleges?

Congratulations on your achievements.

Any school with below a 20% acceptance rate is going to be a reach for all unhooked applicants. CS is also a highly competitive major at many schools. All of the schools you list are reaches, including NYU. If you are not applying for financial aid, that will be an advantage at most schools.

If you want to study in the US for sure you will need to also apply to some match schools, as well as at least one affordable safety. What are your preferences for location, size, vibe, setting, etc?


Thanks, I’m also not considering applying for financial aid.
I prefer to study at California, mid to large-sized universities, where I can create connections with many alumni who are capable of being future leaders.

When you are talking about highly competitive schools and majors like you have, you need to understand at this point it isn’t about you. They can fill their class many times over from the number of qualified students who applied. They just have more applicants than they can fit. It is like buying a lottery ticket, based more on luck than qualifications. Don’t take it personally. Find other schools you would be happy to attend and that would love you back.


Your weak point is you have chosen colleges with extremely low acceptance rates for international students.

You say you aren’t applying for financial aid? Can your family pay up over $70,000 per year for you to attend college?


Yes, probably without or with some debt.

Although I would like to apply for financial aid, if it affects my acceptance rate, I’d prefer not to.

There are other states where you would be able to do the same.

If limiting to CA schools, consider more UCs than UCB, noting that CS is impacted at most of them. Look at SJSU and Cal Poly SLO too. Have you considered Santa Clara? U San Diego? An LAC like Occidental or the 5 consortium schools (although the 5Cs are more reachy)?

Will you have completed all of the UC A-G requirements including one year of a fine arts class (or 2 semesters in the same discipline)?

I haven’t thought about other universities other than those. But I’ll start to put other safety schools on my lists too.

Will you have completed all of the UC A-G requirements including one year of a fine arts class (or 2 semesters in the same discipline)?

Yes, definitely.

Re: financial aid.

  1. How much in loans will you need…and where do you think you will get those loans?

  2. If you NEED financial aid to attend, then apply for it. If you get accepted, you will need to complete a certificate of finances showing you have the cash on hand to complete your degree here…to get your visa. This cash on hand can include already awarded financial aid and approved loans. It can’t include money you hope you will have.

If you can’t pay the bills, you can’t attend college here.

  1. You need some affordable options on your list. If you don’t have about $300,000 in the bank (assuming you don’t apply for aid), you are going to have issues getting a visa.

Some colleges require evidence of this ability to pay for all four years for international students.

  1. At these colleges, I believe if you don’t apply for aid as an incoming freshmen, you can’t do so in the future as an international student.

ETA…you are currently a HS junior. You need to broaden your college search to include affordable schools where you have a very high chance of admission. Right now…your list is very top heavy and especially so for an international student.


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Do you have a school in S. Korea that you prefer to attend, if you do not get into one of these extraordinarily selective schools? If not, consider adding UMass Amherst to the list. Top Comp Sci, but you have a fairly good chance of getting in. You can work for top Comp Sci companies in the summers and meet people in the business that way. And there will be people at UMass Amherst Comp Sci who are going places in the business. Cost is a bit lower (60K without fin aid and including health insurance), but you might get a merit scholarship of 16K/yr.


The California UC’s and CSU’s are need blind so applying for aid will not affect your admission chances however, these schools offer no need-based aid for International students and rare/little merit aid. You would be full pay at the UC’s and CSU’s so around $67K/year for any UC and around $42K/year for a CSU. This would not include travel and personal expenses. I would consider some private schools in California instead such as some noted by @thumper1 in their post.

In addition, the CA publics are test blind…so your SAT score won’t be considered…at all.

I guess I should suggest some schools….Have you looked at…

University of Alabama
Arizona State
University of Arizona
University of New Mexico

All offer merit aid to international students.

For privates…

CA is an expensive place to attend college. I’m not really well versed on colleges where you have a chance for merit aid.

Does your family have financial need? That is a different story.

I do not think that you have any weak point. You appear to be a very strong student. The issue is just that the schools that you have mentioned are very difficult for admissions. The typical international applicant to Stanford is the #1 or #2 student in their high school, and the acceptance rate at Stanford for international students is probably close to 1%.

Why do you want to attend university in the US? Typically international students who graduate from university in the US are expected to return to their home country after graduation. You should be sure that either your parents can afford to come here without taking on debt or that the debt will be worth it (which seems questionable to me, I do not like debt).

If you really want to attend university in the US, then I agree with others that you might want to consider applying to universities that are easier to get into. I agree with the person who recommended U.Mass Amherst as an option. I have worked with many computer science graduates from U.Mass Amherst and the best of them are excellent (very much at the same level as the best graduates from MIT and Stanford, some of which I have also worked with). I also agree that San Jose State University and Cal Poly SLO are worth considering.

There are also some universities in Canada which would be worth considering if you want to look there. UBC, Waterloo, Toronto, McGill, are all excellent. Simon Fraser and U.Victoria are very good for CS and might be a little bit easier to get accepted to as an international student. They also might be a bit less expensive for an international student.

One more thing regarding loans: I have heard of students who got part way through their education, and then found that they had reached the limit of the amount that they were able to borrow and have to drop out. They had debt with no degree. This can be bad. You need to be very sure that you can afford to pay for a full four years before you start a program in the US.

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California isn’t the only state that can create connections with alumni. That happens in most of the US states with universities. Nor are many students looking to be “future” leaders. Anyone is capable of being a “future leader”. Most students are busy trying to complete their requirements to graduate and obtain future employment. Oh, and for the record, California is a very expensive state in which to reside. Especially as a student.

If every student attending a large university were looking to be a leader, then you would have millions of former alumni in leadership positions everywhere. I’m sure in some offices, everyone is a leader at some point. (I know my kids aren’t looking to be “leaders”; they are just satisfied with loving what they do.)

The weak point in your application? You are one of hundreds of thousands of students targeting top schools which, realistically, only have a handful of seats available. Additionally, you are an international student which further hampers your chances.

How much does your family feel comfortable paying without taking out loans? I would consider that your budget and avoid loans if at all possible, especially since your grades and test scores are very high and would get you significant merit aid at a number of universities. (Merit aid is money that colleges provide for highly qualified students that it wants to win over to try and influence them into attending their institution. It has nothing to do with financial need and would not negatively impact your chances of admission.)

Computer science is a very in-demand major, so much so that it is an “impacted” major at many universities. Frequently the GPAs and test scores are significantly higher for successful applicants to CS than they are to the rest of the college as a whole because there are not enough CS seats for the number of students who want that major. (And by significant difference, CS SAT scores might be 150-200 points, or more, higher than the SAT scores for the rest of the university.)

Extremely Likely (90+%)

  • U. Alabama – Huntsville (this is a big tech city, especially for the aerospace industry)
  • Georgia State (a good CS program at a large university in Atlanta, one of the fastest growing metros and the headquarters for a lot of big companies)

Likely (60-90%)

U. Texas – Arlington (a lot of California tech jobs are moving to Texas…particularly the Austin area, but also in Dallas and other areas…there are some who are calling it the new or next Silicon Valley)

Possible (25-55%)

  • U. Texas – Dallas (ditto all TX comments from above)
  • U. Massachusetts – another strong CS program, but a better chance of admission
  • U. Minnesota – strong CS program and has merit aid designated specifically for international students

Unlikely (less than 25%): These all have strong computer science programs, are need blind for international students (which means that applying for financial aid won’t affect whether you are admitted or not), and will meet 100% of need as calculated by the university for international students. They’re not medium to large universities in California, but these are arguably the best universities in the U.S. And my reasoning is that if you’re going to apply for unlikely schools, it’d be nice if any schools where you are admitted would be affordable for your family.

  • MIT
  • Princeton
  • Yale
  • Harvard
  • Dartmouth
  • Amherst

Public California schools are difficult to get into for out-of-state student (and many in-state students). UC-Berkeley and UCLA are unlikely for all. Computer science is probably unlikely at all U. of California campuses and is probably a bit better (but probably still unlikely) at the Cal State campuses (San Jose State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo or Pomona, San Diego State, etc).

University of Southern California, a mid to large private university, is also unlikely but you might stand a better chance of admission than at the publics as it is not required to limit its out-of-state population. They also have merit aid that they give out, though I don’t know if they give it to international students (check with the university).

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You’re a very strong applicant. It’s a numbers game and the odds are slim.

Have you considered Canadian schools? Some very strong CS programs like Waterloo.

Maybe add Georgia Tech and UT Austin. Reaches but strong CS programs. NC State and Virginia Tech have strong CS programs.

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You sound like a very strong applicant; “weak points” are not the issue.

Stanford will be an extremely long shot, as their reputation combined with rare need-blind admissions with full-need-met aid for international students create enormous demand for a limited number of spots. You’ll certainly pass the first filter as a qualified applicant, but they have many, many qualified applicants to choose from. Odds at USC will be better, since they’re need-aware for internationals and not as outrageously reachy overall as Stanford. It seems like USC could be a terrific fit for what you are looking for. (If they offered Early Decision, I would suggest playing that card, but unfortunately they don’t.)

If you can afford the UC system and want to be in California, definitely apply more broadly within that system; Berkeley isn’t the only UC with a strong reputation and great opportunities. It’s unfortunate that your strong standardized test scores won’t help you, but you’re still likely to end up with good options. UCSD is particularly international-friendly. That said, admissions will be getting tougher for internationals as CA restricts capacity to make room for more in-state students. Top UC campuses to reduce international student intake It’s all one application for the whole UC system, so apply to as many as you can possibly imagine yourself attending.

You might take a look at Emory. They accept a good number of international students on a need-aware basis, so being full pay would improve your chances. Atlanta is a large and growing tech and business hub, and the weather is much warmer than the northeast. This program could be a good fit for you Department of CS - Undergraduate Programs and you’d have the option to cross-register for some CS classes at Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech itself could also be worth an application too, as already suggested above.

In the northeast, Northeastern University and University of Rochester are both excellent for CS and Econ (NEU offers a combined degree with co-op BS, Computer Science/Economics - Khoury College of Computer Sciences and UR has a flexible curriculum that lends itself to cross-disciplinary combinations), and both take large numbers of international students, favoring those who can full pay (although you’d have a decent chance of some merit money at both schools). UMass Amherst, as already suggested, would be a good one to consider as well.

In terms of tippy-top elite schools, consider the Chicago area schools: UChicago and Northwestern U. Both are need-sensitive for international applicants, so while they’re reputationally close to Stanford, you’d have an advantage by not applying for aid, that you won’t have in Stanford’s process. Plenty of networking and opportunities at these schools. Also consider Rice, in Houston, and WashU in St. Louis.

And there are many strong public flagship U’s to consider, many of which have already been suggested. In addition to those that have been mentioned, UMichican is top notch, and the SUNY system has a campus in Korea, which allows students to study in both countries - this could reduce your overall costs while still giving you the experience of studying in the US and the opportunity to network here.

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