College Suggestions for Rising Senior

So, I just finished my junior year and realized that I need to seriously look at college. I’m having a lot of difficulty in coming up with a list, so I’m seeking some help from y’all. I’ve been a longtime lurker and finally made an account to post this.

GPA: 3.985 UW (B in one semester of Calc AB)
ACT: 36C- single sitting
PSAT: 1500/1520; 226/228
Courses: 7 AP classes so far, 5/6 more planned for senior year (should get “most rigorous” designation)

My extracurriculars are pretty average. I’m involved in a few school clubs, have some leadership positions, the normal stuff. I had a summer internship last year which helped me realize that I am not cut out for science research. There is one EC I’ve been involved with since 5th grade and am currently a national champion in, though I doubt colleges will care much since it smaller and less prestigious than most.

So, my parents make ~$50,000 a year for a family of 5, so we obviously can’t afford the cost of private colleges. The problem is that they own a business which means that NPC are not accurate. We have no way to even estimate what the cost of college will be. Luckily, I will almost certainly be a NMF as long as I do adequately on the SAT in June, so I have a few surefire options based on that. I know that this won’t be popular with the experts on CC, but I do want to take a chance at a few top schools just to see if I can get in and if the financial stuff will pan out.

Without further ado, what I’m looking for in a college.

  • Intended Major: International Relations, hopefully with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies
  • Strong Arabic program as I have already begun to learn it and hope to gain proficiency
  • Size really doesn’t matter; I’ve visited tiny LACs and giant state universities and been comfortable on both, though I prefer something at 5,000 people or bigger
  • Would really appreciate snow and all 4 seasons; live in the South and have seen snow twice in my life…
  • Sports!!! I’m a huge NBA and NFL fan, so I would enjoy some level of competitive sports, national contenders in at least one major sport ideally
  • No real preference on location; although the Northeast holds some mystical appeal, I’ll get over it
  • Either good financial aid or good opportunity for big scholarships

My college list as of now
Reach: Georgetown
Match: ???
Safety: University of Oklahoma- full ride with National Merit and an Arabic Flagship plus sports!

As you can see, my list is woefully underdeveloped. Any suggestions or resources would be very much appreciated! Thanks!

The problem is that they own a business which means that NPC are not accurate. W



This is true. the schools that use CSS Profile will likely add back in many of the business deductions. What kind of business is it?

@mom2collegekids It is a gas station with an attached store. They, my parents, are the sole owners of it.

“There is one EC I’ve been involved with since 5th grade and am currently a national champion in, though I doubt colleges will care much since it smaller and less prestigious than most.”

Seems odd that the colleges wouldn’t care much about a national champion even if it is in tiddlywinks. I know you don’t want to mention it to protect your identity-and you shouldn’t. But can you mention something that it might be like-a similar kind of activity that has a national champ but that you believe wouldn’t be considered impressive by colleges. Hot dog eating champ? If so, you are right. but that is just about the only kind of activity I can think of that would not impress adcons. But don’t give yourself away on this site!

LOL on this: “- Would really appreciate snow and all 4 seasons”. Open the freezer and stand there a while. That is a 2nd season. Now back up two steps. that is 3 and 4. Winter gets old real fast. It isn’t just snow. it is often drab, gray, lack of sun and for some, depression. If you go to a sunny climate you can visit snow on weekends. Just a suggestion.

@lostaccount Well, part of the reason I think they won’t care is that I’m only the National champion in one event, not the whole competition.

For example, I’m not in Science Olympiad but my twin brothers are so it would be kinda like going to the national event for that and winning first place in something like chemistry but not winning anything overall. So, I am a national champion in one event but not THE national champion.

Also, it just isn’t a very large organization. Being a champ in chemistry would be impressive based on how many people from all states you compete against, which isn’t true for my EC. I only competed against people from ~15 states so it’s overkill to even call it a “national event.” I can’t really think of a competition that is similar in size (showing how small it is), but that is the information I’m comfortable giving out on here. I still adore the event and competition but I doubt it’ ll help me get into college. Any college suggestions (with mild winters :wink: )?


Check out Dickinson and Gettysburg. Both have IR and good merit aid. Tufts could be a good fit but I doubt they’ll give you enough meney.


GW and American are both good for IR and you might get some good merit aid (probably matches). And maybe URochester? I don’t think any of these are great in sports, though…

Villanova? I’m not sure how generous their merit aid is.

You can’t afford the full sticker prices. Nevertheless, for your income level and qualifications, some of the lowest net prices may well be at selective private colleges (or at less selective schools that guarantee large merit scholarships for your stats.)

Possibilities (reach-match-safety):
Reach: Georgetown, Tufts, Middlebury
Match: Barnard (women only), Bryn Mawr (women only), Macalester, URichmond
Safety: Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Temple

Johns Hopkins, GW, and American aren’t on either of the lists above, but also are worth checking out.

University of Pittsburgh Is strong in International Studies and has great sports. You would have a shot at landing a large merit scholarship.

OP: Check out Questbridge! You definitely have a shot at the selective partner colleges (several Ivies, Tufts, Wellesley if you’re female) and the college match could get you a full ride. You definitely qualify financially. Also, with your low income it’s entirely possible you’d be able to afford a private college with financial aid and direct loans if QB didn’t pan out.

I think most of the Ivies don’t expect parent contribution if they make less than 65K a year. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia all great IR schools. I wouldn’t ignore the lightly participated event you won it could be the one thing that sets you a part from the mass.

As a previous poster said, you and your parents may not be able to afford the sticker prices at many private schools, but with the financial aid at many top private universities/college, you should likely be able to be attend if you get in. Your stats (GPA, standardized tests) as well as course rigor make you a competitive candidate for those schools, assuming you do the writing, recommendation, and whatnot parts of your applications well.

One school you could put on your list is Northwestern. NU has a major in Middle East and North African Studies (MENA), and an adjunct major (meaning you need to already have another major to major in the subject) in International Relations ( A double major is very doable at Northwestern. I am a current student, and I know quite a few people who are learning or have learned Arabic at NU, so its definitely possible to do so at college.

Northwestern has around 8,000 undergrads, satisfying your size want.

There’s snow here, all right. Lots of it. Winter can be tough, but you’ll be able to survive if you find appropriate clothing.

We are a B1G school, but there honestly aren’t all too many students who care that much about sports.

As for location, Chicago has an immense load of cultural offerings, even if it is pretty messed up politically. The campus is right on Lake Michigan as well, which is real nice. And the northern suburbs are cool to go biking, walking, or running through if you’re interested in exploring, pretty much any season except winter.

The first paragraph of this comment applies to Northwestern. You should be able to get enough financial aid to be able to attend, especially with NU’s new push for even higher affordability (

There’s probably a few other schools with similar offerings in terms of academics and financial aid, so don’t stop your search here; I just know way more about NU than other schools since I’m a current student.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions! I definitely have a lot of research ahead of me. I think reach schools with strong IR programs are easy enough to find, but I really needed help looking for matches with the possibility of merit aid or good financial aid.

Since the financial aid process is really unclear for me, I think my match schools will probably be focused on merit aid which makes them “financial reaches” according to stuff I’ve read on this site. My reach schools will be based on the hope of getting good financial aid, but I’m not holding my breath on acceptances or good aid packages.

@usualhopeful I’m fine with everything except rural schools. I don’t love schools that are in the middle of a city since I prefer an actual campus, but everything near the suburbs or city is fine by me.

American and GW both seem like great schools for IR, but the large merit scholarships are very competitive. I’ll look into a few of the other suggestions like Pitt and Dickinson for slightly more feasible scholarship opportunities.

Hello again! So, I’ve been working to do research on all of these options to try and develop a list. Since my first post, I’ve adjusted a few things.

I realized that I could actually deal with a campus if it had more than 2,000 students. 5,000 wasn’t necessary, so that widened the search a little. Also, I’ve been disappointed with how few schools had well attended sports programs, so I think that it is something that I might just need to ignore in the making of the list and instead use as a final decision maker if I have the opportunity. If the school I go to doesn’t have good sports, I can always support the pro teams I’m a fan of while at college.

Anyway, this is the list so far:
Reach: Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Tufts
Match: URichmond, Villanova(?), American, GWU, UPitt
Safety: Oklahoma, Alabama, my state school as a last resort

I’m still struggling with match schools where I have a good chance of merit aid. Everything is so competitive that I don’t know if any of these even count as match schools or if I have too many. I don’t feel comfortable applying to too many reach schools with my financial situation, so I think I’m just sticking with these. I’m happy with the safety schools on my list as well as the reaches, but the match schools are giving me a lot of trouble.

Any suggestions on what to add, what to cut, or how these programs are in my major would be very much appreciated! :slight_smile:

I think you are selling yourself short. I would add some more big name reaches. You have great stats, you provide geographic diversity coming from the south, you are a nat’l champ at something even if it’s small. Dream big!

Most of the schools that are great for IR aren’t going to be sports powerhouses.

I’d look at some of the top programs if they interest you (Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, UChicago, Yale, etc.). Based on your liking Georgetown, Tufts, and Johns Hopkins, mid-sized research universities might be best – UChicago, Brown, maybe Dartmouth. Stanford and Duke could also be good choices, but you won’t get to experience all of the seasons. It’s going to be a bit hard to find a school in the NE that has good sports teams and a strong IR program, but all of the Ivies are technically D1 and will have good financial aid.

Your matches are reasonably appropriate overall, however I am not sure if many of those schools give a lot of merit based aid. If you want a school with great sports teams, maybe consider Ohio State since they have lots of guaranteed merit aid. UMhicigan would also be a good choice, but the chances that they will give you a lot of financial aid are relatively low (notorious for not great OOS financial aid).

I think your safeties are basically perfect.

@citymama9 Thanks for the vote of confidence! I’ll think about it, but I’m not entirely sure I’m willing to apply to those schools where I have such a small chance.

@micmatt513 Thank you for that list! Nice to know several of my schools make the top 25 in various ways. I’ll do some research into other schools on there to see if anything looks interesting. I agree and have mostly moved on from my sports requirement since so few schools fit the bill. Glad to know my safeties are at least in good shape!

Bump. Comments? Suggestions?