Could I get into an Ivy League?


  • US domestic
  • State/Location of residency: Texas
  • Type of high school: Small-Town Texas 4A (class size ~250)
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: Female / Russian
  • Other special factors: First generation

Intended Major(s)

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 4.0
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 4.89 out of 5.0
  • College GPA (for transfers): 4.0 (Dual Credit Classes)
  • Class Rank: First
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 35 ACT (34 Math, 33 Science, 36 Reading and English, no essay)

Dual Credit Only
Junior Year: 8 single-semester classes - US History 1&2, Environmental Science 1&2, Statistics, College Algebra, Medical Terminology, Pathophysiology
Senior Year: 6 single-semester classes - Pre-Calculus, Calculus I, Government, Economics, Composition 1&2

All-State flute player Sophomore year
Qualified for All-Region and All-Area Flute Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior Year
2 Years in a row as Most Valuable Wind Ensemble Member Sophomore and Junior Year
First chair flute player Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Year

Worked as a TA for US History professor (Helped him edit his dissertation as well) Junior Year
Marching Band Flute Section Leader Sophomore & Junior Year
First Chair Flute Player Sophomore, Junior, Senior Year
Volunteered at animal shelter (Maybe 30 hours? Covid messed everything up for me)
Played marching band solos on flute and piccolo Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Year (Also had a flute solo at a Spring concert in 8th grade)
Competed at an All-State marching band contest Freshman and Junior year (Earned 6th place Freshman year and 2nd place Junior year)
Competed at an All-State Computer Applications Competition Junior Year
Member of the Lone Star Youth Winds (Elite Concert Band in Texas) Freshman and Sophomore Year
Member of HOSA and NHS

Planning to major in CS as a good backup plan and take all the pre-med classes so I can apply to med schools after my undergrad.

Russian is my first language and I can comprehend Korean at about an A1 (Mayyybe A2) level. Blame my Korean Drama phase.

Cost Constraints / Budget
Household income at ~$120,000 per year with around $100,000 in my college fund

(List of colleges by your initial chance estimate; designate if applying ED/EA/RD; if a scholarship is necessary for affordability, indicate that you are aiming for a scholarship and use the scholarship chance to estimate it into the appropriate group below)

  • Safety (certain admission and affordability) : Literally every public Texas School
  • Likely (would be possible, but very unlikely or surprising, for it not to admit or be affordable): Can’t think of any schools I’m interested in that would reject me besides the ones listed below vvv
  • Match: Rice University? (Fingers Crossed)
  • Reach: All the Ivy Leagues/Extremely Selective Private Colleges: Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Duke, MIT (Dream School!), Stanford, U of C

Do I have a shot? I’m worried since I’m coming from a small school that I don’t have as many opportunities as other applicants do. My academics are great, but I physically cannot take any more high level classes, since that is all my school is offering us. Any tips on improving my application?

You sound like a great UT student. You would get $30K+ at SMU.
Rice is a reach given CS/pre-med. The lack of leadership is a concern. Russian language is a plus. For Ivy+, would your recommenders describe you as the best in a generation? Great flute player who made 4A all-state in sophomore year. If you don’t want UT, I would include some matches in the 30-60 range where you’ll get merit and financial aid.


Rice is an extremely selective private college. Put it in your reach category.

As long as you’re happy to attend college in Texas, your list is great. You have no matches at all. If you’re interested in anywhere outside of Texas, apart from Rice, I suggest you add some matches to your list.

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The schools you’ve listed are all unlikely for anyone, regardless of how qualified s/he is. Rice is your best shot and you’d qualify for aid there, but they accepted only 9% of their applicants last year and they attract very qualified applicants.

Med school is expensive, so why not start with some less competitive schools which you can fall in love with and where you’ll qualify for scholarships? As noted your state school provide lots of good opportunities.

Are you an auto admit at UT in your desired major? If that’s satsifactory, then yes apply to everywhere but as others have said, they’re all reaches. Not sure how you got Rice as a match. You’re fantastic - but so is everyone they accept?

Is band in your college future? Or music? That can help.

Stop trying to improve your application. Just be you. Take classes that challenge but don’t overwhelm yourself. Participate in clubs that you want to participate in. Colleges want to see you, not what you think they want to see.

You might add some top level schools - such as Emory, WUSTL, or even a Rochester or Wake Forest…or for pre-med Pitt or CWRU - this way you have other options out of state, that are fantastic, and great names should the creme de la creme not work out.


For some reason I thought their acceptance rate was 20%. I’ve been looking at a lot of schools, it’s all a giant mess in my brain at this point haha

Certain schools - mainly top 20s plus even schools like Northeastern are reaches for all. They have so many qualified kids they can’t take them all. Rice is slowly expanding the class but they’re also trying to diversify more beyond Texas. It could be - as could any school.

But don’t just say any school in TX - if the top of the top don’t work, there’s so many schools right after - Rochester, Wake, BU, Case Western.

Really focus on the kind of school you want - small, mid or big, urban, suburban, where…but sports or not.

With your credentials you’ll get a ton of merit aid, etc.

I’d rather stay in Texas for the cheaper tuition, so I’m primarily looking at the public colleges here. I was just wondering if I had what it takes to get into an ivy league since I could probably get some financial aid there.

Have you gone on a net price calculator - or had your parents do so - to see if you’d get aid. With $100K in salary, a lot will depend on assets - you likely will get some but not all. Schools have charts and there’s always a disclaimer - based on average assets.

There are many aggressive schools out there. When you go to schools with others similar to you, you strike out. Where you go where you stand out as a superstar - U of Arizona, U of Alabama, Miami Ohio, Florida State - you go for dirt cheap!!!

At Arizona, a fine school btw, you’d pay $3K or so in tuition. With a 4.0 UW, you’d get $35K off the $37.5K tuition. FSU - an out of state waiver - so $7 or $8K tuition.

If you went to a Trinity - just throwing out a name - a solid but “lesser” school, I’m sure you’d get great merit.

My son goes out of state - has 90% tuition scholarship. My daughter going to a school that you’d consider lesser next year - but she’s in two of their leadership programs and tuition is covered. Both OOS.

There’s more out there than you realize - that’s what I’m trying to tell you!!!

You can hopefully get in with the top of the top - but then you have to afford it.

But you can get some safeties to back that up in case you don’t and it doesn’t have to be - well I’ll just go to Stephen F Austin or Sam Houston State, etc. You’ll have lots of affordable options if you play it right - at some very solid programs.

You should take a look at UChicago. The admissions dean has been focused on admitting more students from TX. They have a great language program, but they are known for deflating grades, so med school is sometimes tough. But they also have great financial aid.

As far as ivy league - I think its a crapshoot. Your best shot would be at one of the schools that offers a binding ED1 program (Columbia, Penn, Dartmouth, Cornell). The SCEA colleges like Yale, Princeton and Harvard are very very tough, even for valedictorians.

If you don’t get in during the Early 1 round, make sure to have a solid plan for ED2.

Looks like you should apply EA to MIT which seems to be your #1 choice, problem is, it pretty much eliminates the rest of your reaches for any type of early action/decision (not due to MIT but the other schools). Hard, competitive majors like CS and Engineering are not good choices for going on to medical school. Medical schools give NO credit for harder majors, and GPA is paramount to getting in. 34 and 33 in math and science are also low for MIT. Take a look at the other reaches and decide if MIT is really what you want or if its just the name you’re chasing. Unfortunately even at your age you have to map out a complete plan to get to medical school so personally I would look at Ivies like Brown (good CS, but also not a grade killer like MIT will be, plus it actually has a med school unlike MIT) and see if you like any of them, (choose ED which gives you a real boost for admissions). Otherwise stick with MIT and hope for the best, female/first gen will help.

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I disagree. Admission officers from MIT have said themselves that it’s harder to get in during the EA pool as they limit class size to leave room for RD. Would recommend a SCEA a top university and then MIT during RD in order to optimize chances.

Yes you have a shot. Sending you a private message.

Since you are fluent in Russian and highly qualified with respect to academics & standardized testing, you might be interested in cyber-security CS specialty. Any school which offers a concentration in cyber-security is highly likely to be interested in you. Employers–such as Big 4 accounting firms consulting divisions–should also be interested in hiring you as a cyber-security consultant.

In answer to your posted question: Yes, you should be a strong candidate for admission to all elite colleges & universities in my opinion.


Yes. Fluency in Russian? Basic knowledge of Korean? You most definitely should continue the Korean in college if you like it. You will be highly marketable as a consultant for defense analyst. And colleges will find your language skills and music achievement, plus high academic achievement, very attractive.


The biggest thing you have going is First Gen and female as far as Ivies, however, if you’re interested in CS you don’t really have much in background in anything for CS and that may hurt you. For schools that have general Engineering programs and not CS specific (like UT), I would apply only to the Engineering and not say you’re interested in CS. CS programs are the most competitive majors and there are other Engineering majors when CS is in Engineering that are under-represented that you would have an easier time going that route and then ultimately go CS. For instance, at Cornell you can say you’re interested in Environmental Engineering. Same first year requirements for Engineers and you don’t declare your major until soph year anyway. At a school like UT, even if auto admit, no sure thing you would get into CNS for CS so that’s another factor that I’m not sure you could count on. So be prepared. Many students aren’t getting their first choice majors at UT for CS, Engineering or into McCombs.

As for financial aid, having income over 100k and college savings over 100k will not help you as 100k is generally the threshold and you clearly have assets. There are probably other assets as well as they don’t only consider income and a college savings account. The Ivies are not that generous with aid.

I don’t know much about Rice but there was a thread this year where someone got in and ultimately couldn’t go for financial reasons. So do make sure you run the calculators and know what you’re really looking at.

There are definitely scholarships available once you get into a school for first gen students that can help. Also, if your real goal is to go to medical school, then I would consider ditching the CS and pick something in the sciences as a major. Many of the CS requirements are not compatible with the Medical school pre-reqs, so you will be taking extra courses for medical school which may or may not count as your electives for CS. Or, you would be best off applying to CS in schools that have it in their Liberal Arts schools where you can then get some of those other med school requirements out of the way.

I would also look at Emory, although not strong for CS, they are phenomenal for pre-med track and there are some great merit scholarships. Wash U is another one and they’re big on diversity including first gen. Emory might be more of a match while Wash U a reach.

For what it’s worth - I have a kid at an Ivy and one at UT-Austin. Much more impressed academically with UT than the Ivy even though both are Top 5 programs nationally for their programs. Ivies are not all that they’re cracked up to be, they’re just another school and it really depends what you’re looking for and what you hope to gain.

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You should apply to the various honors programs that suit you at UT the moment apps open (could be Plan II and others). If you are ranked 1, you are an auto admit, so use UT as your safety. No need to apply to safeties or even matches that you rank below UT, unless you have financial constraints and want to see if you can get more merit somewhere else.

Definitely run the NPC for your top choices. I ran the NPC for Yale using your income numbers and net assets at $200k and it gave me an range of $15,900 to $35,400 as your family contribution, making it in the same ballpark as UT before aid and merit.

So, I’d pick your top choice and apply EA or ED because your fall back UT is a strong choice.

BTW, in case you have a misunderstanding, first gen means neither of your parents went to college, not that you are a first gen immigrant.

Best of luck.

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I guess I would be both haha. I know my stepdad has an Associate’s degree that he had to get when he came to America as a student, but he never finished a four-year college, so I believe that counts as first gen?

Yes you would qualify. First gen is a nice hook to add to your app. Congrats on your achievements!

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To be fair, the STEM preparation at my school is complete garbage, so I’m impressed I managed to swing a 33 and a 34. I should probably take an online chemistry course in my spare time because my teacher gave up on everything when the pandemic hit. Thank you for the insight, though, I actually didn’t even consider that individual scores could matter this much. Do you have any recommendations for good backup majors?