OK, so this is vaguely chance-me-ish, but not quite, so hopefully I can get some solid feedback.
Daughter is a HS Senior, debating application decisions. September ACT results came back significantly stronger than previous results, so have somewhat upended previous thinking, making some reach/high reach schools more realistic, IMO.
Basics: ACT 33, wGPA 4.39, uwGPA 3.85, HS does not rank, but she’s probably top 2%-3% or so, at a large-ish, suburban, good (but not the best in the area) HS. Activities - probably solid but not mindblowing. Not a URM. Lots of AP classes with a mix of 4s and 5s on the tests taken, so far. No SAT subject tests, and doesn’t really want to take them (took practice of one a bit over a year ago and did poorly).
Reach(ish) schools: WUSTL (Washington University), Northwestern, Rice, Penn
Match/safety(ish) schools: Tulane, Tulsa
There are some other even safer schools on the list, and probably at least one more match. She’ll have the gamut reasonably well covered. The dilemma is about the reach-ish schools, and specifically where she should play her EA/ED card.
She would prefer one of the top 4 schools. Current plan is to go into research (neurobiology/brain science/psychology), and research opportunities are probably stronger at those top schools, plus the name brand is stronger for grad school and beyond.
Previous thinking had been ED for WUSTL. Reasons: She did a summer research program there this summer, had a good relationship with one of the professors - expects (or possibly has already received) a nice recommendation there. Liked the school. Has a weak legacy link (Grad degree by grandfather and I think some other even weaker legacy links).
Prior to the recent ACT, she’d had a significantly lower score, and we thought she kinda had to go ED to have a real shot at WUSTL (or any of the other top choices). We also thought that because of the research program in particular (and the professor connection), her chances at WUSTL were probably best.
With a better ACT score though, have come some second thoughts. She did Duke TIP at Rice a while back and liked the school a lot (no other hooks there though). She’s visited Northwestern and likes it (Grandfather undergrad legacy and a cousin attending - not sure if that matters much). Neither she (nor I) have visited Penn, but other Grandfather went to med school there (so again, a legacy connection, albeit of uncertain value), and I think there’s a certain “Ivy” magic of it for her.
We’re in the Midwest, close to WUSTL. She’s lived here all her life, and there’s a certain wanderlust of going to school far (or farther) away, but also a certain intimidation factor about very top level, hyper-competitive schools, etc.
College thinking has drifted a fair amount over the last ~18 months, both what schools she’s most interested in (at one point Michigan was basically her #1, now it’s basically off her list) and what direction she’ll take (she is strong in art, interested in it and thought about it for college, but I think got a little more practical about career paths over time, and the neurobiology/psych interest, which had already been there, strengthened). Obviously, the time for college choices is approaching rapidly, and even if there’s more time for her study/major path to be tweaked down the line, she seems to have zero-ed in on this area. I think all 4 offer majors in the right general area, but she’s more on top of that than me.
Anyways, the bottom line is:
I think, but am not certain, that for WUSTL, ED is a major boost, and combined with the other WUSTL hooks, she’d have a pretty good shot there. But if she only applies RD to WUSTL, I think her chances are significantly hampered.
I think, but am not certain, that for Rice, Northwestern, and Penn, ED might be a significant boost, but I’m less confident of these. I think even with any ED boost, these are less likely than WUSTL, but none of them are pure moonshots - she’d have a chance.
I think that if she picks one for ED and doesn’t get in (or doesn’t apply ED anywhere), she’d still have a shot in the RD round, but there’s a fair chance she’d miss out on all 4 RD. Tulane or Tulsa or another school as a fallback are reasonable, but still…
- Note - I've generally said ED here - obviously need to dive into exactly which ones are ED, EA, etc, and the particulars of their requirements.