First Gen URM - Chance me

Hey you all, this is my first time using this website and I would love some insight on where I would be if I were to apply to an ivy league. I’m a first-generation, African American male.

  1. 3.73 GPA UW, 4.8 Weighted
  2. 35 ACT
  3. My extracurriculars revolve around my ADHD and how I have helped other students with their writing who also have ADHD (this connects with my regional/national writing awards). Will also later be establishing a non-profit revolving around this. Not sure if I should state this as why I had low grades in my freshman year (3.33 UW), but hopefully my EC’s will make up for it.
  4. I am a high school junior with a 22/350 class rank, and although I do not expect much from the elite schools I am applying for I still would like to take a shot.

What do you guys think? My GPA is very low for these schools (especially since I have B’s and C’s in my 7th-1st semester 10th-grade year but have had 4.0s since) Not gonna use ADHD as a reason, but that was a factor in the low grades. If I do not have a chance, what schools should I look towards or how can I increase my chances at these schools?

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Congratulations on your achievements.

I can’t chance you but would encourage you to apply to several reach schools, including any on your list. You have to do the research to figure out which schools you believe best fit you, and you fit what they are seeking.

How many AP and honors classes have you had? AP test scores? What are your senior year courses? What can/will your family pay for college?

My school provides multiple honors classes, and since freshman year I have only taken 5 classes where they were not identified as honors or AP; which is why I have a high-class rank but a low unweighted GPA. I have had 6 AP classes (including Junior year) and have self-studied on AP Psych (5). I didn’t take the Junior year AP exams yet, but I have had a 4 on Computer Principles and a 3 on AP Seminar. These lower scores came from my freshman year, but I am expected to get 4’s and 5’s on my newer AP exams provided this year. In my senior year, I will be taking AP Calc BC, AP Gov, AP Stats, AP Literature, and AP Environmental Science. My family will not be paying for college on their own, so hopefully, I will receive the scholarships I have applied for. Thank you for responding so quickly by the way.

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I think you are a serious candidate for any top school in the US-most of which offer fine financial aid.

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Is your family low-income? You and your parents should do the FAFSA4caster so that you get a sense of your EFC.

Then, for all the schools on your list run the Net Price Calculators to get a cost estimate. Cost estimates may vary, even at the schools that meet full need. The NPCs may not be accurate if your parents are divorced, own a business, or real estate beyond a primary home…are any of these the case for your family?

You absolutely need at least one safety school that is affordable on your list. What state do you live in?

I live in Nevada. This resource should be very helpful, and I will do my best to see where I fit in the socioeconomic side of things.

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Take a look at the Nevada state schools to see if they would be affordable.

Now is the time for you and your parents to be talking about money and budgeting. Please note that many colleges will not ‘stack’ outside scholarships, meaning your need based aid will be reduced dollar for dollar for the amount of any outside scholarships. Look on each college’s website to see their policy. Here is Harvard’s: Outside Awards | University Student Financial Services

Step one is to find out what your EFC is, whether you qualify for a Pell Grant, and whether your family can afford your EFC.

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UNLV or UNR would be obvious choices for an in-state safety. I would also look at schools within the WUE (Western Undergrad Exchange) where you would pay reduced tution. Schools like Arizona State where you can see how much merit you could possibly get using their Merit scholarship calculator:

Again, you need to figure out what you and your family can afford to pay each year. The top schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale give great need-based financial aid but they do not offer merit aid.


Hey! So, let’s start with the obvious, here, being simultaneously African-American, first gen, AND male will already turn the heads of admissions officers. You also have a wonderful ACT score, and while your GPA is definitely low for the schools you tagged (Ivy League and similarly selective schools), there have been successful applications with those kind of numbers. Also, you are still in the top 10% of your class, which colleges like to see.

In terms of your EC’s/awards, there is not a ton of info for me to go off of. I think that if you have been able to make really meaningful impacts with ADHD, and have demonstrated high achievement and interest in writing, then they’re great. I absolutely agree that you should not put down your ECs as a reason for a low grade (maybe you were referring to your ADHD there, not sure). Colleges want to see you be able to balance a heavy workload while being involved on campus, so none of your writing should try to convince them otherwise.

However, your ADHD sounds like a perfectly valid reason for lower grades. It might actually be a great opportunity for you to use the additional info section to explain your struggles with it, and how it has allowed you to emphasize with others with ADHD, and motivated you to help others. If you end up doing this, just be sure to include your growth and ability to succeed academically despite your ADHD - you don’t want the officers to think that it will greatly inhibit your academic ability when you’re in college. Just my view, others are welcome to disagree.

I recommend you start looking for fit. If you really care about attending a prestigious university and that is your #1 priority, then you should apply to a ton of reaches (with some matches and safeties ofc). If you are instead more concerned with how you will fit in and what school will best enable you to thrive (prestigious or not), then I suggest you start by looking for reaches that you love, and then adding matches and safeties that are similar. For example, if you love Brown and its open curriculum, consider schools that share that quality among a spectrum of selectivity.

You seem like a perfectly qualified candidate with a lot of things going for you already. I am assuming you are a Junior, so I recommend focusing a ton on your grades (do NOT retake the ACT, your score is great), and working hard on your essays over the summer. If you want my help with the writing, I am basically a veteran essay writer since I applied to 17 schools this year (lmao), so I would be happy to help. Good luck, and keep me posted!


One of my sons had a profile very much like yours (ADHD, comparatively low GPA, high ACT). He wrote about his ADHD in his essay in the context of his farm job. He is not however URM or 1st gen. We were unsure of how he’d do with college admissions; but in the end he got into 8 of the 10 schools he applied to, including two of his reaches. (the two reaches he got into, in case that helps were Emory and Macalester, and the two he was rejected from were Colorado College and Davidson).

A couple of tangential points: one, some colleges, including Emory drop 9th grade grades and recalculate GPA, fyi. And two, my son found that focusing on smaller schools made sense for him as there was less to manage with them vs. a larger school. I of course realize you may be entirely different, but if you have a harder time with executive function and organization, dealing with a large impersonal bureaucracy might be tougher for you than most.

Another completely tangential point: Washington & Lee offers 40 (I think?) full ride scholarships every year, and they are really keen on increasing their diversity – because they really need to. It is clearly not the right school for everyone, but it is not as much on the radar screen as some other smaller, similarly selective colleges so if you think you might be interested it is worth looking into.


@cinnamon1212 Thank you so much for this input. I am now thinking of applying to those schools as well, and hopefully my grades won’t be too low to get rejected outright. ADHD is something I can control and handle on my own now without medication, but a smaller school may fit my needs depending on where I see myself in the future and what my plans will be.

@PerformingDude Thank you! I will definitely keep in touch with you, and I wish you luck with your admissions process! You seem like a pretty smart kid, and any university you go to will be absolutely glad to have you.

@Gumbymom I’m going through these stats with my parents at the moment, thanks a ton for this resource.

I have wanted to ask all of you if elite colleges may allow me to go through the next round of admissions if they disregard my previous academic grades. I have had B’s and C’s previously, before the 2nd semester of my 10th-grade year, and although I have raised my unweighted GPA with a plethora of community college courses I don’t know if they will eliminate me based on my past failures; even if ADHD was a factor. What do you guys think?


Elite schools will not dismiss or disregard your lower grades but they will see the upward grade trend and consider the circumstances that the caused those B’s and C’s. I would focus on your target and safety schools first where you would have the best chance for finding a good college fit. Once you have these schools narrowed down, then throw in some Reach schools. Elite schools are Reaches for everyone including 4.0 students so aim high if you want but do not become fixated on these schools and believe they are the only schools that will make you successful.


For sure, I will definitely keep that in mind.

Elite schools will not forget your freshman year grades (7th&8th grade are off the table though so dont worry about that) however they’ll look at context and progress. Since you’ve been on a steadily or even drastically rising trajectory you should be okay at some (not all, and no way to predict). In any case it’s worth a shot.
If your parents’ income is ~65k and under, look into Questbridge, a program that works with elite schools that want more socio economic and cultural diversity . It gives you a chance to earn a 4-year, all inclusive full ride AND you get to apply to 12 colleges in a sort of special ED round. They have a preparatory summer program for juniors, that you might be eligible for.


Thank you for replying. I will definitely look towards Questbridge. I have wanted to ask if my chances are lowered when applying through the program. It says they give out full scholarships if you apply to an elite school through their program, but wouldn’t elite schools want more from me if they offer to pay full tuition for 4 years? I’m just worried about my GPA, since that’s the most important part of my application, but everything else should be fine as long as I present myself in a certain manner. A full scholarship would be nice, but if it does lower my chances of getting into top universities I may not want to take the risk.

Questbridge increases your odds of admission since instead of one REA/SCEA application you can send 12.


I don’t think I have mentioned this. Here are my GPAs throughout the years.

7th grade - 2 C’s
8th grade - 1 A and 1 B
(Will be included in my transcript)

Freshman year (1 AP) -
Semester 1 - 3.3 unweighted (4 B’s)
Semester 2 - 3.5 unweighted (4 B’s)

Sophmore year (2 APs) -
Semester 1 - 3.5 unweighted (3 B’s)
Semester 2 - 4.0 unweighted

Junior year (3 APs) -
Semester 1 - 3.5 unweighted (4 B’s)
Semester 2 - 4.0 unweighted

Dual enrollment (3 APs) -
4.0 unweighted (with 8 classes over two summers)

Expected to get 4.0 on the first semester of my Senior Year (5 APs).

Have wanted to ask you all if you still do think I have a chance at these schools. I’ve received a 3.73 due to the dual enrollment, and am predicted to get my class rank to the top 10 students of my school. How will admissions officers potentially view this? (35 ACT)

The grades from 7th and 8th grade won’t matter (even if they appear on the transcript).
Are your grades semester per semester or is there a year per year recap?
Your unweighted GPA is a bit on the low side.
In any case, try Questbridge and Summer scholars:
Top 10 at your school and 35 ACT will be in your favor, the high number of B’s, especially during the 1st semester, may cause them concern, however because you earn A’s in the 2nd semester could it be it’s always a bit harder for you to get into the subject, figure out the approach, but once you’ve got it, you got it down pat? At least the B->A pattern indicates you’re not a slacker.