figuring out which schools to apply to

I hope this is the right place to post this. I am a mom to a senior who is trying to figure out which schools to apply to. The thing that is making this very tricky is that his GPA and test scores are wildly out of sync with each other. This means that Naviance and similar tools are kind of useless. He also has a lot of constraints.
OK, so we live in NY. My son went to a very competitive HS, and didn’t get awesome grades. He has an unweighted GPA somewhere between a 3.0 and a 3.1. He has taken honors bio, AP Chem and AP Computer Science, and is now in AP Physics and AP Calculus (BC), as well as AP Government. His grades are higher in math and science than in English and social studies. His math SAT is 800. and his verbal SAT is 770. He just learned he is a National Merit semifinalist. His SATII scores are Biology: 800, Chem 750, Physics 800. He has a 4 on the Chem AP test and a 5 on the CS AP test. He also has taken a 3 year science research course (ASR for you New Yorkers), working on a computer science project with a mentor at a university. He has participated in the Regeneron science fair as part of that. He is on the cross country team, and has taught middle schoolers to program at a summer camp, and now also in a afterschool program.

The constraints are that he wants badly to major in computer science, and wants to go to a decent program with research oriented faculty, up to date equipment, and relationships with tech companies. And, he wants to stay close to home- no more than 3 hours from the NYC area. He prefers to be in a city or suburban area near a city. And we can’t really afford a private college unless there is merit aid, which may be dicey given his GPA. SUNY.CUNY is affordable, and out of state tuition at the NJ publics seems doable.

He is looking at SUNY Albany, NJIT, Stevens Inst of Technology, Queens College, Pace, Rutgers, Stony Brook, Drexel (but the schedule there is a real turn-off). Does he have any chance at these schools? Should he be looking at lower level schools like Montclair State or Rowan? Does anyone have any experience with a kid whose test scores are very different from the GPA? What should his strategy be? Should we work with a college consultant? I have talked to two, but they are very expensive and those two didn’t seem to have much advice - seemed as puzzled as I am.

Am I missing any schools that might take a chance on a kid like this?

I think you have a good list. High scores and low grades aren’t that unusual. The problem in high school is often due to disorganization, not turning in homework and things like that. Some of these kids do very well in college - because they are mostly taking courses they enjoy and others flame out because their lack of organization catches up to him.

Does his school rank? I’m wondering where that 3.0 puts him compared to other kids in his class.

My younger son was a B+ student, but with top 5% rank (based on a weighted GPA that included a lot of A+ grades from orchestra), at a big suburban NY school, 5’s on all the APs he’d taken, 790CR, 690M. He wrote great essays and had teachers who loved him. He didn’t get into the reachiest schools on the list (Brown, Georgetown), but got into U Chicago EA, Vassar and Tufts. Got merit aid at American.

I advise finding a couple of safeties that he is happy with and then don’t worry about it. Find 6-8 other schools he likes and cross your fingers. LACs, especially former women’s colleges are usually willing to take a little bit more of a risk with a boy, but as a prospective CS major, he should look closely at their programs to see what they offer. If you can find schools with rolling or early admissions and he gets good news you can relax and apply to some reachier schools and if he doesn’t add another safety.

I don’t think you need to work with a college consultant. Especially one that hasn’t seen this combo.

How about RIT? excellent school, NY state, gives something like $18K/yr to NM FInalists. Mean GPA is low 3s but your son’s scores will be way at the top.

I think you should drop the 3 hr distance criterion to open up more possibilities. Unless there is a medical reason, college is a time for independence and a new environment. IMO.

Easy for me to say but, can you push him to get straight As this semester? An upward trajectory will look good.

Some colleges ignore freshman year grades in computing GPA, if that helps.

I think he has a good chance at the schools you named. And Stevens is very good.

Good luck!

He really doesn’t want to go to upstate NY. He is a bit of a homebody, and because of the very issues that caused his GPA to be low (ADHD) wants to be able to visit home and decompress easily. I also think he prefers areas with good public transit.

So I assumed that you ran Net Price Calculators and determined that merit is the way to go, but can afford OOS tuition at some publics.

Your son has excellent test scores. Could the 3 hours include a plane ride?

Stony Brook

Would he consider UDelaware? UToronto? McGill? UPittsburgh? All are urban or suburban and have good research CS faculties. At Pitt he could take one class a semester at Carnegie Mellon. Perhaps your Naviance could be useful to see if people with his GPA can get into places like Delaware or Pitt. I think he would get into Toronto.

I second Stevens Institute.

With a 3.0-3.1 GPA McGill and UToronto would be out of reach for CS.

When you say the schedule at Drexel is a real turn-off I assume you mean the Academic Calendar/Quarter System? That would eliminate all other schools on the quarter system. I’d recommend visiting Drexel. The Co-op system gives him a good opportunity to co-op at various major tech companies. Other than the quarter system it seems a really good fit for what he is looking for in a school.

Northeastern? No longer offers full tuition for NMSF but may still offer enough to make it workable. Boston pushes 3 hours (in little traffic it can almost happen!)

I’d consider SUNY Buffalo as well. And definitely look at Rowan – I’ve heard good things about it on CC. And a private option to research is Manhattan College – they do give some merit aid.

We did visit Drexel and liked a lot about it. It isn’t the quarter system per se. It is the fact that it is a coop school, so no vacations ever. The kids get a week to two weeks between quarters but no summer break or winter break. I know there is a lot of good about coops, but I couldn’t have handled that schedule as an 18 year old and my kid needs down time even more than I did.

Manhattan College is not good in computer science.

Northeastern would be wonderful but I doubt his GPA would get him in, It has gotten really trendy and competitive in recent years. I think RPI would be great, and fits what he wants very well, but again, not sure if he has much chance.

Probably true for McGill, but you think that’s true for CS too given his test scores?

I would definitely apply to a range of schools like RPI, maybe URochester too. You say that you don’t have reliable data, so it’s really hard to say where he would get in.

Personally, I don’t like Stevens. I’d do City College before I’d do Stevens.

Just for the heck of it, he might want to consider submitting an application to the University of Maryland at College Park. Excellent computer science department. Close proximity to Washington, DC. Easy transportation to New York.

Yes, it’s a little far from home, and with that GPA, it’s a bit of a reach. But they like high test scores and NMSFs. The worst they could say is no.

If he does apply, it’s important to do so before the priority application deadline of November 1. People who don’t meet this deadline don’t get considered for merit scholarships or special programs.

Definitely check out Rowan University. We were very impressed on our visits 2 years ago. They have been investing heavily in their engineering and tech programs over the past several years.

Well…I assume Potsdam is too far north. Otherwise, I’d suggest Clarkson. Another possibility is U Maryland-Baltimore County.