Figuring Out Colleges (3.6 UW, 1510 SAT)

Students can’t take out $50k total in loans over 4 undergrad years, let alone in one year.

It is not good advice to suggest a student take out this much in loans, and suggest one’s ability to pay it back is simply tied to hard work and/or major.

$300k jobs post undergrad are NOT the norm in CS, not even close. All one needs to do is look at career outcomes report by school to see that is not the case, even at top CS schools like MIT, CMU, UIUC, etc.


Just a note that many many people advise aspiring doctors to keep their debt load as low as possible for undergrad.


I would have not spent so much time giving you admission facts for the UC’s if he had known (actually checked your original post) regarding budget. As noted above, students are limited to $27K for 4 years in student loans so your parents would take on substantial debt for the UC’s. The UC’s do not negotiate and offer little to no need-based or merit aid to OOS applicants. Merit is given to the top 1-2% of the applicants and since test scores are not considered, that is not a possibility. OOS applicants should expect to pay full fees which is quoted at $67K/year to attend. With your test scores and profile, there are plenty of wonderful schools that will meet your budget, but the UC’s are not.

Wishing you the best of luck.

Some of the recent CS threads have been confused (including by me), but OP says that budget seems pretty open.

All your hard work is much appreciated, @Gumbymom ; I really do think the info that you and @ucbalumnus share should be pinned somewhere because so many questions get asked about the Cali state schools, and it’s such a completely different beast from most other states. I appreciate you always coming to help and shed light on the California publics.


As the OP, I just want to clear up a couple confusions here in this thread.

  1. Yes, I don’t have much restrictions on the budget.

  2. I am interested in both Virginia and OOS schools. I want to be able to have as many choices as possible, and if I get into a school that is a better alternative than my choices for in-state schools, I would rather go there instead.

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@p-brane, are there any other questions or thoughts that you wanted feedback on?

If you want to have as many choices as possible, apply widely. You have 20 common app slots. Find your sure thing and then pick and choose those that you deem better.

But do research. Learn about what you want and find those schools. Don’t pick schools bcuz u heard they are good and I think that’s what you’ve done. How will you define ‘best alternate’ for in-state ??

There are fantastic schools all over, producing fantastic graduates.

Good luck.

I realized that this statement was never really addressed.

For smaller schools (less than 3k undergrads) that are ABET-accredited for engineering that aren’t in the middle of nowhere and would allow you to study any of your areas of interest while not being too far from where you current live, I would look at:

  • Lafayette (PA )…this is probably a target…maybe a hard target. But I think it would be a good academic fit for you. Also, you could do day trips to either Philadelphia or New York City from here, as both are about 1h20m from the college.

  • Widener (PA ) in a suburb of Philadelphia, this would be a safety

  • Hampton (VA) is an HBCU that is in spitting distance of the water and has all that Newport News and Norfolk has to offer. This would be a safety.

  • Elizabethtown and Messiah (PA ): These schools are in suburbs of the Pennsylvania capital, Harrisburg. Both would be safeties.

Going slightly larger in school size (but with none of these with more than 5k undergrads), these schools go from smallest to largest. All of these would either be likelies or safeties.

  • Robert Morris (PA ): Just over 3k undergrads in this Pittsburgh suburb

  • Gannon (PA ): Around 3100 undergrads at this school in Erie

  • York (PA ): About 3500 undergrads. York is definitely a town, but it’s not near a major metropolitan area.

  • U. of Scranton (PA ): Like Loyola, this is another Jesuit institution. Jesuit institutions tend to have a major focus on social justice, educating the whole person, and making sure that students think well. About 3500 undergrads here.

  • Loyola Maryland: You get the benefits of a big city in Baltimore, and you can also take classes at other Baltimore-area institutions, like Johns Hopkins. About 3800 undergrads at this Jesuit school.

  • Christopher Newport (VA): About 4500 undergrads at this Virginia public. It’s less than 20m from Hampton, and like that other institution, is in spitting distance of the water with the amenities of the Newport/Norfolk area.

Some good ideas there. OP hasn’t remarked on whether the availability of engineering per se is a criterion. There are LAC’s with strong physics and CS that do not have engineering.

Also, OP, I don’t know if you’ve looked at the LAC’s I suggested, but several of them are in or near cities. Lawrence is in the small city of Appleton, half an hour from the larger city of Green Bay, 90 minutes from the even larger city of Milwaukee, and 3 hrs from Chicago. Reed is in Portland, a great city for students.

DePaul in Chicago could be worth a look.It has the urban environment you want. It is strong in CS without being ridiculously hard to get into. The Physics & Astrophysics department offers multiple degree tracks including computational physics, as well as an engineering physics program that prepares students to complete an engineering degree (including computer engineering) in one additional year at IIT.


Doh! I totally forgot your earlier suggestions, even though they were great ones that I really liked when I first read them! Time to head to bed…

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Northeastern would be a reach, but perhaps worth a try. Their combined major would allow you to get a foundation in both CS and physics, and either graduate with the combined major, or shift toward one or the other. They’re very flexible about major changes. The urban setting would be a good fit for your criteria. Computer Science and Physics, BS < Northeastern University BU could also be a good option; they also have a Physics + CS joint degree Degree Programs | Physics ED would help your chances at either of these schools (and both have ED2 as well as ED1)

Remember that the point of college is to obtain job skills. College is more a function of your major than the actual university. An employable major would land you a career start regardless of the school. An unemployable major will be unlikely to find you a job no matter how prestigious the school is. Plus, I’d be careful about “rank chasing.” It’s the fastest way to find a mismatch and end-up in 4 years of misery. Rankings are just a made-up list of pet schools published on a magazine, and rearranged a little every year. If I were you, I would do some thinking about your ambitions and goals and find an affordable match based on that.


For data science, look at Virginia Tech’s major in Computational Modeling & Data Analytics. It’s their undergrad data science major, located in the College of Science. It is a fairly small major, about 100 students per year. The admit rate is much higher than the College of Engineering but these students take a lot of the same computer science classes combined with a lot of math and stats. One of the tracks within the major focuses on physics. My son is in the program (not sure of his focus yet) and been happy with it so far. Many students end up with a double major or at least a minor in either CS or Stats.


Trying to be helpful to the OP and not over critical, but my son just went through the process with slightly better stats than you and a better GPA trend, and your list is not realistic.

As a reminder, Physics is a lot easier to get accepted with than CE or CS at almost every school.

I would not bother with the California schools for a couple of years. They have completely overhauled their admissions criteria, require a 4.0, and after that seem to be pulling students names out of a hat.

I also wouldn’t bother with Cornell, CMU, UIUC (for CS), UWash (for CS) or Purdue. I don’t think you will get into any of them for CS and your time is too valuable to spend it on applications that have such low probabilities.

UMD and OSU are reasonable reaches for you, as is VTech. NYU is worth a major stretch application. I know of some non-superstar students that have gotten in there. They will truly look at the whole applicant, unlike schools who give “holistic” admissions lip service and then go entirely off grades. I would recommend some of the smaller schools like Stevens too. UConn and Rutgers are good high targets/borderline reaches too. UMass is a target for you for physics, reach for CS/CE. Amherst is a GREAT college town.

A really good Target/Safety for you is U of Delaware. It has a solid CS program, is not far from your home, is close to Philly, and everyone I know that has gone there has loved it. You are not a slam dunk to get in, but you have a reasonable shot.

I would tread carefully with some of the liberal arts colleges that are offering CS and CE degrees now. Some of them are new to these disciplines, and don’t have a fully built out program or professor bench. You don’t want to be paying $75k a year to sit in a class taught by an adjunct that is a mid level IT guy from a local company.

Finally, I SRONGLY RECOMMEND you apply to Pitt as soon as possible. Get the application out this week if you can. Pitt sounds like it is about 5 hours from where you live, is in a city, is a really good school that has great student life, and most importantly in your case, does rolling admissions. Getting that first “Bird in Hand” is a huge stress release for high school seniors. FWIW, Delaware doesn’t advertise that they do rolling admissions, but they basically do rolling admissions. Get that application out ASAP if you want to apply there.


My daughter loved Udel, honors. Before Covid test scores were the biggest predictors of merit, after Covid gpa, but that was for my 2021 high school graduates. My 3.7 was still offered $10,000 a year (he went elsewhere).They have a good engineering program (my daughter was health science so I’m not that familiar with other areas). Students there appear to be very happy.

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Thank you, this is very good advice! I don’t think I will be able to apply to UPitt because it would be too early for my teachers to send in lors, but I will definitely take your advice in hand.

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Pitt doesn’t require LORs. It’s a very simple process. An essay is required for scholarship consideration.


Oh that is good to hear, apologizes for not knowing. I will definitely try to apply then!


Ohio State College of Engineering direct admit is a match, and admission to university itself is probably extremely likely, but only as long as the application is received before EA.

Ohio State CoE has an FYE program in which engineering students complete a pre-requisite set of classes and then rank 3 engineering majors in order of preference. Since this student isn’t quite sure about physics or computer science this is particularly helpful in figuring that out since they offer engineering physics, computer science and engineering, and computer engineering along with BS physics or CIS degrees if engineering is not a path he ultimately chooses to follow.

Btw, LoRs are optional, not required at OSU. So do not miss the deadline waiting for that. It’s unlikely to change your admission decision because you are already well within range of accepted students. Get this one done in the first week of October so you can keep tabs on on whether or not they’ve received your supporting materials and have time to follow up before the deadline.

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But note that secondary admission to engineering majors at tOSU is competitive with essays. There are no longer pre-announced GPA benchmarks for each major that assure admission to the major.

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