Help me in my college search :)

Hey! I’m a sophomore from Virginia and I’m starting to look into colleges to apply to and I wanted an outside perspective on building my list. I’d love some suggestions of schools I might not have thought of or you think I would fit into. I’m interested in political science/government, international relations, environmental policy, and social justice. I also want to go to law school too. I wasn’t able to take the PSAT this year b/c of COVID, but in the past, I’ve done ok at standardized tests. Price point doesn’t matter as of now, but good financial aid programs would be nice. The size of the school doesn’t really matter right now either, but nothing too small. As for location, I’d rather be on the coast in a more urban area or near an urban area. Think large town or bigger. I’ve lived in Wisconsin, so I’m ok with the cold. Location isn’t a deal-breaker. I’ll list my stats below and don’t be afraid to be brutally honest. All advice is appreciated!

GPA UW: 4.0 W: 4.7 (but I’m only a sophomore, so subject to change)

ECs: Young Dems member at my HS, Environmental Caucus member at VA Young Dems, County Student Council member, work part-time at my mom and grandma’s antique store, Model UN, volunteering for various political campaigns & at elections, starting a Mock Trial club next year, looking for internships/research positions at UVA during the summer.

I also row on my varsity high school/club team and I want to be recruited. I’ve won US Rowing virtual nationals and my 2k time is 7:51 right now, but I’m trying to get that down to 7:20-30 when training resumes. That’s a lot of time to drop, but I know I can do it. I scull and can row any seat but usually end up in 2 seat or bow. I can row any boat I’m put into. I’d love to row at a D1 school, but academics come first, so if I got into a dream school w/o the opportunity to row that would be ok.

Middle school I took Hon Geometry, Hon Algebra 1, and Spanish 1.
Freshman year I took Spanish 2, Hon Biology, Hon Earth Science, Hon English 9, Hon World Geography, & Hon Algebra 2.
Sophomore year I’m taking Hon Trig/Pre Calc, APWH, AP Psychology, Hon English 10, Hon Chemistry, Hon Horticulture, Spanish 3, & Art 1.
Junior year I’m signed up for APUSH, Hon English 11, Dual Enrollment Biology, AP Environmental Science, Hon. Math Analysis/Pre Calc, Spanish 4, African American History, & AP Microeconomics.

I’m a part of the Environmental Studies Academy at my public high school near Charlottesville, VA.
Demographics: white, female
My top reach/dream schools as of now are Stanford, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, and UC Berkeley. I’d love to study abroad at some point too.
I’m open to any and all suggestions! Thanks and have a great day :slight_smile:

Do you care about costs?
Taking on any loans (or spending your parents’ money irrationally) with the idea of going to grad school to me seems silly. Sure, you may chg your mind, sure u build a better network at a better school, but it’s ur Law School network that’ll matter more regardless.
I don’t know how much your undergrad school matters for applying to Law School.
(especially when VA has such fantastic in-state schools like UVA and VTech)

If costs aren’t an issue, then Georgetown and Columbia sound like the best options for what you want to study - but all the schools you’ve mentioned are fantastic … add NW to the list! I think slightly “lesser” schools like NYU and BU and Tufts would also be great fits.

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Costs are definitely a factor I have to think about more and I appreciate your input. I’m kind of making a preliminary list, so I’ll look more into financial aid options with my parents once I’ve narrowed it down more based on other factors. I agree that Virginia has some great schools, so I’m considering UVA and William & Mary. I’ll for sure look into NW, NYU, BU, and Tufts. Thank you so much for your help!

If costs are important then this is where you have to start!!!
You have to be very careful.

Any kind of “pre-grad”, i.e. pre-med, pre-law has to be done via optimization of cost and quality of school. Prof grad schools are very expensive you will expect to take out a lot in loans, so you want to minimize your undergrad debt.
You also want to pick a school such that IF you decide that grad school won’t be your next step, you still get a quality degree.


At this stage, I wouldn’t start looking at specific colleges, but rather start figuring out what sort of colleges interest you. Get a feel for what large public universities, smaller private colleges, smaller public universities (which often only have undergrad and masters programs), small liberal arts colleges, or other college types. Figure out whether rural, urban, or suburban schools appeal to you, etc.

Take an example or two from each type, and do a virtual tour, so that you can connect a category with an image.

Having these in mind will help you next year, and will allow you to use the “college search” functions of websites like Naviance at lot more efficiently. It will also help you avoid being drawn into latching onto colleges which do not really match what you need, but are very popular among your peers or among your parents’ friends.

Also, keep on doing exactly what you are doing now. A good GPA with a rigorous course selection will give you far more options, both academically and financially.


One of the most dreadful parts of looking for colleges in running their Net Price Calculators. It is also among the most important ones. If you don’t believe me, search through tearful CC posts of students accepted into their top schools… for which their parents can’t/won’t pay - The Book of Broken Dreams.
Strangely enough, many of these self-inflicted wounds could be easily avoided, let’s say, someone who got into not-so generous Brown would have a decent chance of getting into much generous Rice, except they didn’t realize it would be 35k per year cheaper (didn’t do their NPC homework) and never applied.


Trying to be a recruited athlete and financial need can make the college selection process very difficult. Especially, if you add on a third requirement of top academics.

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Ok! I’ll keep this in mind. Thanks again!

I’ve gone to a few virtual tours and I think that has really helped me start to get a sense of where I want to go, so I’ll keep going to those. I’m starting a little early to get a head start for the possible recruitment process later this year where I need to have an idea of who to start contacting from which schools, but your advice is super helpful. Thank you!

Yes! I’ll sit down with my parents soon to go through the Net Price Calculators to get more of an idea of my best options, (price and academics wise). And I totally believe you about the issue of getting into a top school and not being able to pay. I’ll make sure to do my homework on costs. Thanks for your help!

That seems like an odd math sequence, since there is usually one year of precalculus and trigonometry between algebra 2 (which you took in 9th grade) and calculus. It looks like you are taking two years of precalculus between algebra 2 and calculus.

When do you plan to take physics?

Cost constraints? Note that UCs do not offer need-based financial aid to non-California residents.

Law school is expensive. Law school admission is mainly based on LSAT score and college GPA. Law school ranking is closely related to the law school’s admission selectivity; law schools ranked top 14 overall or top in the state you want to practice law tend to have the best law employment prospects.

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That’s just the way my school does math. I think they’re changing it to only one year, but it is a little weird. My schedule is a little strange because I take 2 science classes a year with a program I am in, so senior year I’ll take calculus, physics, and a class called environmental law/lit, as well as a few other classes. I need to think more about costs because they are definitely important, but for now I’m just looking for schools that have somewhat generous financial aid programs, so when I do know more about cost constraints I’ll already have my initial list of schools. Thank you, especially for the info about law school!

The net price calculator needs to be done…but more important…how much can and will your parents pay annually without taking any loans? You need to get this question answered.

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There’s a really great rowing thread in the athletic recruits forum that is well worth reading.

Better to consider costs earlier in the search. Otherwise, you may have to throw away much of your list later when you find out they are too expensive and have to hurriedly find other colleges as deadlines approach.

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Hopefully, you also know that woman’s rowing is an equivalency sport. That means that to get a full ride scholarship is very difficult for even a recruited athlete. To get a full scholarship at a place like Stanford, you would likely have to be an Olympic level rower.