Help me revise my college list and assess my chances!

Hello everyone, my name is Veronica and I am currently a Senior in NY! I posted in this group a couple of months ago and was met with incredible advice that really guided my college list revision and answered many of my questions. I wanted to reach out once again to see if anyone can assess my chances at getting into my target/reach schools, as well as recommend other potential matches (would like to get 2-4 more schools on my list)!

About me as a student: I am extremely passionate in everything that I do (specifically herbal medicine, dog rescue, and biology!), and my aspirations are to one day obtain my P.hD in neuropharmacology. The most important thing I look for when considering a university is research opportunities for freshmen students, particularly relating to the field (cell biology, neuroscience, etc.) I am on the search for colleges that:

  • Has extensive research programs available to undergraduates (Major plus if actively pursuing research in psychedelic medicine and/or neuropharmacology)
  • Is in the northeast or mid-Atlantic (within 6-8 hours of NY)
  • Offers significant financial aid (90-100% need-met, loan-free) and/or full-ride need/merit-based scholarships


  • US citizen, located in NY
  • Public high school
  • First-generation immigrant (Polish), Female

Intended Majors

Cell/Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Neuroscience (Planning to Double Major, possibly minor)

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted GPA: 98. 86 (HS does not offer on 4.0 scale)
  • Weighted GPA: 101.083
  • Class Rank: Top 5% (not offered by HS)
  • ACT Scores: Composite (34), Science (35), English (35), Math (33), Reading (32)
  • Not submitting SAT

Coursework (AP courses)

*9th grade: All honors, students are not permitted to take APs

*10th grade: World History (5) (only permitted AP)

*11th grade: Psychology (5), Language (3), Biology (5)

*12th grade: Physics, Calculus BC, Chemistry, Macroeconomics


*Neuroscience and neuropharmacology: I spend a significant portion of my time studying textbooks and research articles, primarily the Neurochemical Basis of Neuropharmacology and the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. I have extensive notes on all of my studies.

*EdX courses: The Foundation of Neuroscience (The Brain) ([Harvard]EdX), Cell Biology: Cell-Cell Interactions (MIT EdX), Cell Biology: Transport and Signaling (MIT EdX), and will be taking a course in Biochemistry (MIT EdX) next.

*Study of Herbal Medicine: I am currently taking a 2.5-year, 1000+ hour course at Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine (began mid-freshman year) and will receive my certificate of completion by November 31, 2022

*Etsy shop (3 years): Focus on herbal medicine and currently over $1000 in sales

*Practice yoga independently since the beginning of high school in conjunction with holistic medicine, meditation, and spirituality.

*Volunteered at Recycled Paws Rescue (~3 years): 7th-10th grade; Lead Volunteer, volunteered every Saturday for adoption events, responsible for guiding younger volunteers, answering questions, processing applications, writing for social media; independently fostered 8 dogs.

*Volunteering at A Good Dog Rescue (~2 years): 10th-12th grade; Fostered 2 dogs, currently process applications, assist in the management of all social media platforms, manage Sunday adoption events (facilitating meet and greets, processing applications, going over contracts, etc.), write crowd-funding campaigns, created/running an advocacy program, and much more.

*Dog Rescue Club: President/Founder of interest/volunteer club mid-junior year for dog rescue. I have been planning this club for a few months and have over 20 members thus far. I am planning to train ambitious volunteers, educate them, and throw plenty of drives, fundraisers, and events!

*Exam Room Technician at Veterinary Hospital: Began interning late sophomore year and was offered a position. I work every Saturday assisting in procedures/surgeries, filling prescriptions, taking patient history, following up on patients, training new ERTs, etc.

Some activities I have not yet accomplished but am planning to in the near future:

*Will be a member of NHS and NSHS Senior year (will apply for officer positions)

*Will attend a fall program at Burke Neurological Institute

*Completing therapy dog training (in 4-5 weeks) and will visit pediatric hospitals, senior citizen centers, and libraries.


*Not yet fully complete, but surrounds my journey with fostering, highlighting my love of volunteering and the profound effect it has had on my life

*I have a great relationship with both my AP Bio and AP Calculus teacher so am expecting great letters of recommendation

Cost Constraints / Budget

*EFC: $3,850, need to find a University that offers 90%-full-need met

College List


  • Cornell University (CALS) (applying ED, DREAM SCHOOL!)
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Tufts University
  • Brown University


  • Boston University
  • Brandeis University
  • University of Rochester
  • Colgate University
  • Case Western Reserve University


  • SUNY Albany
  • Syracuse University
  • Mercy College or Westchester Community College (last choice, both within commuting distance)

May be small but since you have Colgate - Franklin & Marshall, Lafayette, Bates and Skidmore - all meet 100%. U of Rochester is another.

Good luck.

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You are a really impressive candidate. I love dogs too! However, I am concerned that some of the matches on your list are more reaches- BU and Colgate come to mind. Does your school have a history of students similar to your profile getting accepted?

Thank you, I agree that those two are closer to reach (hard targets). I do know of a student that got into Boston University with lower stats, but they did so through Questbridge and for a humanities-based major, so it is hard to compare.

You might want to change your username to something else if this is your real name!


I believe Case Western considers demonstrated interest, so keep that in mind as well!

There are other schools that would be generous with scholarships, but might not be within your radius. How strict is that criteria?

It is pretty strict. Sadly I had to let go of some very amazing schools (WashU, UMich, Tulane, etc.) as they were 10+ hours away.

Consider adding a few more SUNY schools such as Binghamton, Stony Brook, Buffalo, Geneseo as some options.


I would agree that BU and Colgate would go in the reaches category. Except for BU, I don’t think any of the schools in your Targets or Safeties category are need blind. So although they might be appropriately bucketed if you were a full pay student, the admissions office will be cognizant of how much financial aid you will need to attend and that may decrease your chances. Thus, a school like Syracuse which would seem almost like an auto-admit for a student of your caliber might be a bit iffier because of the financial aid component.

I agree that adding more SUNY schools would be a good idea, as I believe there are additional aid programs for New Yorkers from low income families.

Some other schools that meet 100% of financial need (as the school defines it) that you may want to consider based on your interests include:

  • Connecticut College (target)
  • Union (NY) (target)
  • Franklin & Marshall (PA ) (target)
  • Vassar (NY) (borderline reach)
  • Smith (MA) (target)
  • Mount Holyoke (MA) (target)
  • Wellesley (MA) (borderline reach)

The last three on that list are women’s colleges.

Some other schools where I think you are likely to be offered admission that meet at least 90% of financial need (as the college defines it) are:

  • College of Wooster (OH)
  • Stonehill (MA)
  • Wheaton (MA)
  • Lycoming (PA )

I’d check out the schools and run their Net Price Calculators to see if they are likely to be affordable.

All of the schools I’ve mentioned are smaller than most of the ones on your original list, but you’re extremely likely to have lots of research and other opportunities at them, particularly since undergrads are the focus at them.


Have you used the net price calculator on each college’s web site?

If your parents are divorced, be aware that many of the private schools want both of their income and assets to determine financial aid.

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For some reason you haven’t included the school that developed the first undergraduate neuroscience major in the nation, Amherst. For additional ideas with a similar focus on undergraduates, look into Swarthmore and Haverford.

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Yes, I have! All of the schools in the reaches and target categories would be affordable for me based on the net price calculator. Any SUNYs I apply to, Syracuse University, and Mercy College will only be affordable if I am offered significant grants and merit aid. My parents are married so that will not be an issue.

If your “safeties” are not affordable without merit scholarships, then move them into other categories based on estimated chances of getting large enough merit scholarships to make them affordable. Then find some actual safeties where you are assured of both admission and affordability.


You may need a local SUNY to live at home. They have TAP but I don’t believe that covers room and board.

A school like Syracuse likely not going to meet need with a $3850 EFC.

I might suggest some more meets needs schools and then SUNYs in Westchester - only one I can think of is Purchase but maybe there’s more - could you go there and live home if need be?


If SUNY Purchase is too far away (or not to your interests), then you may want to add in SUNY Westchester Community College as an option where you could commute from home, and then transfer to a 4-year university where you would only need fewer years to pay for living expenses.

I’d also reach out to U. of Maine to see your likelihood of receiving the Presidential Flagship Commitment scholarship and what size. Of course, you’ll never really know unless you apply, but if they give a full-ride to National Merit Semifinalists, you definitely seem of at least a similar desirability.

Other options where I think a full ride is very likely are not within 6-8 hours of New York. If you change your mind about locations, let us know.

SUNY Binghamton should be on your list, as a Likely/Target.
SUNY Albany is the weakest of the 4 NY State universities, and you would likely get into all 4.

Brandeis and University of Rochester are both well placed matches for you. While I would call Boston University a “target,” their acceptance rate has gotten notoriously low in the last couple of cycles. So while it does match your academic profile, it’s more of a “high target/low reach.”

Few schools to possibly add – Wesleyan, Skidmore, Northeastern, University of Vermont. – These all should be matches.

WCC is fine to go ace classes for 2 years and then transfer. But then you may as well do SUNY Purchase. You can also do the longish commute from Westchester to Vassar in the north or Fordham in the south.

Vassar requires students to live on campus with extremely few exceptions. Even students from immediately surrounding communities are required to live on campus for two years.

Maybe UDel as a safety- they have an honors program and are very generous with aid
Previous poster is right about showing interest at case western - my D (who ended up in CALS at Cornell) was deferred there until she visited and interacted with an admissions counselor- they want to know they are not just a safety
Skidmore gives basically no merit aid but I believe is generous with need based
Also maybe add Binghamton and Stony Brook