Do I stand any sort of a chance at a school at competitive as Columbia?

Hi everybody, sorry for adding to the chances threads here, I know some people are sick of it… but I’m stressed and I would really like to hear some opinions on how I could improve my application.

State: IL
Race: Asian
HS: Public, selective
Curriculum: all AP’s and Honors
ACT: 33
UW GPA: 3.9
WGPA: 4.3
EC’s: 3 sports athlete, JROTC (started this year), debate, helping my parents out at their business
Prospective major: Engineering, Political Science (my passion)
Special issues:
Low income
Admitted as a refugee with my family when I was 8 years old, got my citizenship 4 years ago (I prefer not to specify the country here because it’s an identifying detail)

I also want to apply for ROTC.
Thank you!

I write this with the assumption that you will soon begin your application process. There are a few things you need to keep in mind when evaluating yourself as a candidate for these colleges. The first thing is what these schools want out of a student. You’ll find that most of the candidates who apply to schools like Columbia are academically qualified, such as you are, to a point that higher test works won’t really matter that much. Elite schools like to see qualities that stand out in individuals beyond intelligence such as passion for a subject or cause. In these application pools, there is such a thing as being “too well rounded” because students who truly stand out will be taking the slots for admission. Something else to keep in mind is that no one is guaranteed admission to any of these schools with such low acceptance rates. Admission officers might read your application and picture a different person depending on who is reading it. At points it’s very subjective and very unpredictable. I find that the best strategy for dealing with this is what’s known as the “Upside-down pyramid.” Have a safety school or two, a few match schools, and many reach schools. This strategy increases the probability of being accepted somewhere the level of Columbia. What do I think about your probability? It’s likely that you’ll be rejected, not because you lack anything, but because of the inherent difficulty of getting in. If you don’t have the resources to hire an adviser (like I and most students), all you can do is prepare the best applications you can and wait.

Yes, you stand a chance at getting into Columbia, but so do thousands of other rejected applicants. Your test scores and GPA indicate you are smart enough to understand what single digit acceptance rate means.

You seem like a compelling candidate, and I would think your chances are perhaps as good as any other candidate.

It seems clear that you work hard and do your best, and those traits will take you far regardless as to whether or not you get into Columbia.

Being low income does not affect your chances of admission at all. If you are a first gen applicant, that might help considerably. Being ORM does not help, but ROTC might.

Being a 3 sport Asian male may help make you stand out, but not a much as it would have a few years ago.