Chances of still getting into a top college

Hi, I am currently a sophomore in Pennsylvania. For the past 9th grade year, I took one AP class and some honors class. I almost failed that AP class. I got an average GPA unweighted of 89 for the past year. I am basically getting the same mediocre grades like last year for the past two marking periods of my sophomore year. The second marking period is about to be over for us this year. I really want to aim for big colleges (Berkeley, Duke, Northwestern, UPenn, Columbia University). Do I still have a chance if I work extremely hard from now on until senior year? Will my past year and current first two marking periods of sophomore year affect my college chances if still work hard from now on?

Also, I am only in three extracurriculars and play one sport starting this year in spring (tennis).

Well of course your freshman and sophomore year will affect your chances their half of the time at your high school. If you do well junior year, they might see an upward trend which will benefit you. All the schools you listed are reaches for everyone(even with people with 2300+ SATs and 3.9+ GPA) so it is hard to gauge your chances.

@hsi030 :

All the schools you listed are very highly selective. Although it’s not impossible, it’s going to take a lot of hard work junior year to bring that GPA up. You can certainly do it.

As it stands, your GPA will likely be the biggest weakness of your application. Your best shot is getting more involved in some extracurriculars, and obtaining some leadership positions. You’re also going to want a pretty high SAT score. I’m not suggesting you register for the test and take it now, but you should consider getting some books and start studying. The sooner the better. Also, the fewer times you take the SAT, the better. Aim for the highest possible score you can get the first time you take it.

Do you have any hooks?

If I take like at least 4 AP classes next year and get like 98 on all of my classes from now on, will I be a strong contender for getting in still? Also, what do you mean by hooks?

Hooked students are usually recruited athletes, legacies, or under represented minorities (URMs). So a couple of comments:

  • You need to not just dive into a harder schedule – you need to figure out how to improve your study habits and test taking as well. My guess is that you don’t have good study habits. I’d start with some research on that. Then maybe add one more AP class (up to two then) for next year to make sure you can execute to a harder schedule.
  • There are literally hundreds of very good colleges outside the “big” colleges you named, and in general outside the top 20 or so rankings. Don’t get caught up in chasing prestige. You should focus on solid academics, a campus where you feel comfortable, and what is affordable for your family. You will just cause yourself a lot of unnecessary stress in high school otherwise.