Different choices for college

Hello everyone,

So here is my problem. It’s going to be a little long and maybe complicated to understand but I really need a quick answer to this question. (In advance, I’m very grateful for any advice you can give me :slight_smile:)

I am a 16 years-old French student in Première (the equivalent of junior year in USA). I never was interested in studying in France and my dream always was to go in an American College, and in particular…NYU. I know this pretty ambitious but I think I’m someone really dertemined and I have many qualities that might interest them. I have a pretty good level in English and of course I’m fluent in French (it’s my native language). I also practice a few other languages like Spanish (that I study in my highschool), Russian and a little Polish. I have a quite high level in literary subjects so I think I could make a good essay for when I apply in college. I have several extracurrical activities but none of them at a really high level (I can play piano, I’m always reading, I love to draw and I take ballet and contemporary dance lessons) ← I don’t know if it’s important I’m just putting it to expound the whole situation.

My problem is: I had some family problems my last 2 years in high school. I know it’s easy to say that but for this reason, I wasn’t particularly involved in my studies. When I say that, I mean that my grades were not incredibly good.

The grade system is different in France, we don’t have letter grades but number grades, the most often out of 20. So last year and in the year before, my overall average in the year was aproximatively 14/20. It’s definitely not catastrophic,it’s actually pretty good, it might be the equivalent of an A- (but correct me if I’m wrong). The thing is, I know I can have way better grades. My last trimester (it’s not semester in France) was pretty good (16/20) and I think I could keep those grades in my last year in highschool.

But… If I want to apply in colleges, even if I apply in regular decision, universities won’t really see my results in Terminale (it’s the equivalent of senior year in France) because we have to apply very early. I’m concerned about the fact that 14/20 may be not enough for a university like NYU.

So, the first solution I thought about was taking a gap year and THEN apply to universities. It will allow me to have the entirety of my gradebook (I’m not sure about this word :sweat_smile:) Besides, it could be an opportunity to do many things interesting in my gap year, like travelling, volunteering, improving my english, working to save money for college costs, taking the time to complete my registration files and take the tests (SAT, TOEFL)…
Except that I heard that universities prefer that students apply first and then ask to be deferred for a year. But that solution isn’t what I need because it still means that universities won’t see the results of my senior year.

So I am completely lost. Should I take the risk to take a gap year and then apply to universities?

There might be another option but I don’t know if it makes sense. I could only apply to NYU next year ( because it’s my first choice).

1rst possible situation: I’m rejected, I take my gap year anyway. At the end of this year I re-apply to NYU (so they can see all my results and maybe the volunteering I would have done in my gap year) and others universities. If NYU reject me again, I’ll make sure I have a less elitist university that would have accepted me.
2nd possible situation: By the merest chance, NYU accept me despite my average grades and the fact that I didn’t do volunteering. If that happens, I ask to be deferred for one year.

Phew… So it’s finally the end of this thread. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer anything. I’m aware this is hard to understand but I wanna thank anyone who has read to this point even if you don’t have a solution to suggest. Maybe some questions gonna sound stupid for an American but, since I’m not completely familiar with the university system in USA, many sentences must be clumsy for you. Finally, I’m sorry if there are some grammar/spelling/syntax/vocabulary mistakes, I’m clearly not completely fluent in this language.

Have a nice day everyone :relaxed:

NYU might be interested in you, especially if you are full pay, but you need to assure them that you can succeed if they admit you. You’ll need a good letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor at your school. Your issues with family matters need to be addressed because they help explain why your grades weren’t so good.

Make an appointment to meet with the guidance counselor and explain the family situation, but, importantly, explain how you have resolved this issue. You want the counselor to explain what happened because it’s not a good idea to try to explain it yourself. You can write about it briefly in the additional information section of the Common App. What steps have you taken to bring your grades back up, and what will you continue to do? If you’re a junior you still have a little time to improve your grades.

Taking a gap year isn’t going to solve much I don’t think. I do recommend that you try to take the SAT or ACT, as I think it might be helpful in your case. Not sure what test dates you will have in France, but aim for summer or early autumn. Get the official tests from College Board’s website and practice. Look at the test prep forum for lots of good advice.

If your goal is to study in an urban environment in the US there are a few less selective colleges. You need a good list. I suggest you post in the search and selection forum indicating what your stats are, how much you can spend (VERY important), what you are seeking from college, and what you hope to study.

Volunteering on its own isn’t going to do much for your app if you take a gap year. Do other meaningful things too. A job is always good.

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A gap year doesn’t eliminate previous grades and it may be more difficult to get letters of recommendations and transcripts after you graduate. I think you are better off applying normally and having a well balanced affordable list of colleges.

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I am not sure why you are so focused on NYU (which is expensive by the way). And also not sure why you would take a gap year even if accepted. Is there a reason you might do a gap year regardless of the grade issue? If so, then yes, apply and get a deferral.

I agree with others that your best course of action is to apply normally to schools that you have a a reasonable chance of getting into (reaches, matches, safeties). If your family can pay in full, that makes things easier, but otherwise, check the Net Price Calculator for each school.

You might be interested in the Colleges that Change Lives website. Clark University is a school we really like and it is quite international in its student body. Colleges That Change Lives – Changing Lives. One Student At A Time. (ctcl.org)

Do you have a reason for wanting to be in NYC?

Be aware that many schools are test optional - not sure if that is relevant.

Your post is very articulate and I would not know you are not a native English speaker. I also found your post very likable which bodes well for essays.

Thanks for your answers ! (And for reading my huge paragraph…)
The problem is that I think I’m a little late in the apply process… I know I have to take the SAT, the TOEFL (to show my english level) and also write my essays. And I don’t know if I’ll have enough time especially if I wanna retake my tests if they aren’t good enough… It’s why I wanted to take a gap year originally. So I could take the time to prepare myself for the tests.
NYU is my first choice, but of course I have other universities that interest me. I plan to apply in at least 5 to make sure I’ll still have an option in any case. I was also especially interested in NYU because they have a very good psychology department but I’m open to other universities outside NYC.
And it’s really kind of you to say that I don’t sound French :blush: it makes me really happy haha!

You don’t need more than two or three months to prep for the SAT. That doesn’t mean practicing every single day. It means a couple of days a week, do some practice sections and gradually add timing as you notice improvement. I don’t know about TOEFL.

I also think waiting a year isn’t going to help your app much. The biggest issue was already mentioned, which is getting good recs from counselors and teachers. Those are really important. You don’t want them forgetting you and then going back after a year, especially if you might want a rec from a teacher you had a class with a few years ago.

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If you are not from a family prepared to write a check for the full amount of everything, NYU is probably not for you: it is very expensive (~€65K/year) and you are unlikely to get financial aid. And: the psychology program is fine- but nothing special.

You will be evaluated as an international student, not a US student, so the expectations about volunteering are different. Moreover a “Mention Bien” is not as terrible as you seem to think: on the boundary between B+ and A-. If you want to look at US colleges look for places where a 3.75 is in the top half of accepted students.

But money will be your challenge: US colleges are famously expensive. A Mention Très Bien would help, but money for international students is scarce.

Many many schools do not require the SAT, including top schools, and even more are test-optional due to COVID.

Check this list out for schools that either don’t require or don’t emphasize SAT or ACT. NYU is on the list FairTest | The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

You are saying that you want to delay because you are not ready with testing etc. yet you said if you got accepted you would still defer for a gap year so I am confused!

By the way I would love to sound French!

I know NYU (and BU too) tends to have a better reputation overseas than in the US, but why the focus on NYU (or even college in the US)?

And yes, it’s crazy expensive. That amount quoted above times 4. Most American colleges/unis would be unless you get huge scholarships.

I have to admit that I only skimmed your long post but what goals do you have in life?

If you reapply to the same schools that reject you, you will again be rejected. The schools don’t like to be told that they made a mistake. They look for “fit”. They have to look at how you will fit with the other students and with the university itself.

Taking a “gap year”, to insure that your schools see your “senior” grades, wont really help with admission. Most US students know that the schools will eventually see the “senior” grades when the final transcripts are requested. The universities expect you to continue to do well in school. An upward trend is a good sign, but it doesn’t guarantee admission. Some universities don’t defer, so you have to check with the places where you plan to apply.

NYU is very expensive and you have to remember that tuition alone does not include room and board nor other expenses. It’s at $82K per year now for Total Cost of Attendance.


Apply to more than NYU if you really hope to be admitted to a US university.

Yep, and NYC is a very expensive city to live in. More importantly, it’s a city that is easy to spend a lot of money in (a lot to eat and do).

That COA is very likely an understatement of realistic costs.

This seemed kinda contradictory to me, travelling, volunteering, and saving money all at once?

How much money do you think you can save up in a year? How much money can your family contribute? Add these up, and make sure that NYU is 100% affordable. The last thing you want is to decline a NYU acceptance letter because you can’t afford it.

NYU is also test optional for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. I think TOEFL may still be mandatory though.

As @Lindagaf said, volunteering has no real effect on your application. I’m a high school senior that just finished Decision Day and when I applied to premier universities, I don’t think my large amount of hours mattered. You have a chance to get into NYU but it isn’t a given since this is a top US university that’s difficult for many(even perfect A students) to get into. I hope everything goes well though and good luck on your college journey!

Like several other comments, I am wondering why you want to attend NYU. It is a very good university. It is however, VERY expensive. It is likely to cost well over $80,000 per year. Also, top universities in the US will in most cases care about all four years of high school grades.

Reading your post, I have to admit that what came to mind was McGill. Admissions in Canada will care about your last two years of high school, which sound like they will be strong. As a citizen of France you would pay the same amount as a citizen of Canada. Four years at McGill would cost about the same (or perhaps less?) than one year at NYU. Like NYU, McGill is also a well known and well respected university right in the middle of a very interesting city, although of course not the same city.