Help narrow down college list and chance me

Hi! This is my first ever even using this website, and I need help limiting my college list and seeing where I can get into.

US Citizen
CA Resident
Large Public High School → rising senior (graduate in 2023)
Asian Male

Intended Major(s)
Not sure but engineering focus (Computer Science or MechE or Electrical), I haven’t really thought much but something math and engineering oriented

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores
Unweighted HS GPA(10-12): 3.92
Weighted HS GPA (10-12): 4.62
UC GPA: 4.18, 4.30 (uncapped)
Class Rank: 49/538
ACT/SAT Scores: did not take because I thought many colleges don’t require

AP CompSci Principles (3), APES (2), AP Lang (3), AP Psych (3), AP Art History,
senior year: AP Calc AB, AP Physics 1, AP Spanish, AP Lit

AP Scholar, Honors Gold Robe List

California Scholarship Federation member, PURE - People for Urban and Rural Education volunteer (1 month of volunteering freshmen year and then COVID hit)

haven’t started but I’d say I’m above average at writing

Cost Constraints / Budget
no budget, but in-state tuition is slightly preferable, but don’t mind paying more

super long list, need helping ranking and finalizing
All UC’s
CSU - SLO, Pomona, SJ, SF, SD, LB, LA, Northridge, Fullerton,
Privates - CalTech, USC, Stanford
I like Texas - UT Austin, UT Dallas, Texas A&M
ASU, UofA, Purdue, Ga Tech, UIUC

Here’s a super long list of universities which I definitely should narrow down.
I need helping narrowing down this list, and chancing me for these schools so I know what my chances are.
I haven’t done much research into colleges, but ideally I want to go to an academically strong school, good for engineering, and I am open to size or location.

Thank you!

Purdue is not test optional, but test flexible. I’d recommend registering for a Fall test if you keep Purdue on your list.

  • For Spring, Summer, and Fall 2023, Purdue is test flexible. This means that if a student can take an SAT or ACT, we prefer they do so. However, we recognize that possible cancellations and postponement of national standardized tests due to pandemic restrictions may be impacting students’ applications. With that in mind, we will move forward and review any application from a student who is unable to take a standardized test*.*

  • How is test flexible different from test optional?

Test flexible means that the institution would still prefer an SAT or ACT test score. Test optional typically implies a student is given the option to choose whether or not to submit a test score for consideration.

Glad to see you recognize the need to narrow down the list. I’m not a UC expert - but if for example, if Merced is ok for you, you can probably lose a lot of the other.

For your list, I would encourage an SAT / ACT - but you are right, they are not required. For many schools, they are for merit however. But you have enough to get by.

For Honors, no need to list auto stuff - like AP with whatever title. If you have something you’ve been awarded for doing something impactfu- that’s great. But everyone gets the AP awards just for taking x amount.

Since you prefer in-state tuition - and you aren’t taking a test - you should look at Arizona and you have it already (U of A) - your tuition there will be $11K or so - they just upped tuition but retained the $30K merit for someone with your GPA (if they calculated it a rung lower, the merit would lower). I’d find the two or three CSU you like - instead of so many.

Assuming you are full pay - are you willing to pay $340K for your USC, Cal Tech, and Stanford? Judging by your AP scores - those are highly unlikely.

So your CSU and UC are on their own application so if you are doing some OOS and thus common app - your schools are fine - but UT Austin is highly unlikely, GA Tech requires an SAT or ACT, Purdue requires as @momofboiler1 said - right on their website it says short of not being able to take, they want it.

Mainly - you have expensive OOS schools that don’t offer merit - and you want in-state pricing. So you should be looking at Arizona, ASU - you have both - ASU is not as generous. Maybe other WUE schools - you’d have to look for your major but there are 50 for Mech Engineering - such as Colorado State, New Mexico, Oregon State, etc.

I do think UC campuses are different and you can cull the list although it’s easy enough to apply - same CSU.

But pick for our 5 OOS - but if you’re looking to save, in addition to Arizona, look at Arkansas, Alabama, Alabama Huntsville for smaller, Mizzou or Missouri Science & Tech…schools like that. But for some you’ll need a test score.

Most employers care about ABET accreditation so I see that you looked at the rankings of “top schools” but it’s unnecessary and pointless if your family doesn’t want to afford them. In other words, ask them this - if you get into CPP or SDSU, are they going to send you at 2x the price to Ga Tech or 3x the price to Stanford? If the answer is no, save your time.

Good luck.

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@bobbybilly24, rather than start suggesting colleges to you, I’m going to take a step back and have an honest conversation, so I hope you don’t mind that.

Why CS? Why engineering?
I do not see anything in your list of courses or accomplishments that suggest you have a strong interest in these subjects or have taken more advanced math or science courses that would show an AO you are prepared to succeed in engineering. You have taken AP Comp Sci Principles (typically taken by non CS majors) and received a 3. And you’re looking to do AP Physics 1 (non-calculus) instead of AP Physics C which is what most of your competing applicants will have taken.
So my sincere and well meaning suggestion is to think carefully if engineering is really what you want to do or whether you might be succumbing to peer or parental pressure (maybe not, but I know many do fall into such situations). There are plenty of other rewarding careers that might be a better match for you.

Now, if you do want to stick with CS and engineering - looking at your list of colleges there are far too many reaches and super-reaches so you will want to re-calibrate. You will be applying to extremely competitive majors from a super competitive and highly represented demographic group (both geographically and racially).

In closing, a couple more questions:

  • what is your 9-11 grade unweighted and weighted GPA? You’ve listed your 10-12 and I know the UCs don’t care about 9th grade GPA but most other colleges do.
  • do you have an essay topic in mind? You said you’re an above average writer but topic is super important. A beautifully written essay on a cliched topic won’t do you much good.

It sounds like you are potentially interested in some STEM fields, but aren’t exactly sure what. That’s 100% fine and totally normal. At some of the most selective/rejective UCs (and Cal Poly SLO) that might be a problem. If you enter in mechanical engineering, for instance, but change your mind to computer science, you are unlikely to be able to change majors while remaining at that school. (@ucbalumnus or @gumbymom, please correct me if I’m wrong.) The same thing is true if you get in for CS but want to switch to engineering.

I would look at schools that don’t restrict your major and have reasonable requirements to enter into a major (i.e. notTexas A&M that requires something like a 3.75 in engineering coursework to guarantee getting one’s desired engineering major) or transfer.
I am not familiar enough with the Cal States and UCs to know which of those would be better for you in that respect (I suspect Cal Poly Humboldt might, but again, I will defer to those with more expertise). There may be WUE schools to consider. Depending on what your family’s budget truly is, perhaps look into a private school like U. of the Pacific or U. of San Diego that might give you substantial merit aid.

Additionally, I would strongly urge you to take an SAT or ACT this fall. I would probably do a practice test of each and then do the one which you prefer.

9-12 UW is 3.93 and it is 4.49 W.
I have not thought of essays yet, but that’s my plan right now

Your only activity outside of school is one month of volunteering 2 years ago? What do you do with your non-classroom/non-homework time?? I get the hit that Covid made, but seriously- you haven’t done anything else? even this summer?

Do you know anything about what CalTech is like, or just that it is famous?

Unfortunatey, due to covid I didn’t get a chance to do any EC’s. And usually might time is spent with school, which is why my grades are good, but my EC’s are lacking. And I am really worried about that. During the summer I am taking summer school courses to get ahead.
I know CalTech is amazing for engineers, but doesn’t seem that social.

UCs and CSUs mostly use direct admission to engineering and CS majors, but it can be somewhat difficult to change to a different engineering major after enrolling at the more selective ones (because the majors are filled to capacity). Some campuses are less difficult to change, such as UCM, UCR, UCI, UCD, CPSLO (if not trying to change to CS or SE), CSULA, and probably most of the CSUs other than CPSLO, CPP, and SJSU.

Arizona State appears similar to many CSUs in admission to major, and does not appear to be that difficult to change into engineering or CS majors. UIUC is more similar to the more selective UCs in admitting to major, but also tending to be difficult to change into some of the more popular majors like CS and ME. UT Austin appears similar to UIUC in this respect.

Texas A&M and Purdue, along with many other flagships in the midwest and some other places, start engineering students in a first year engineering program. Students then declare major later. However, GPA requirements vary – 2.0 at Pittsburgh and for non-CS majors at Michigan, 3.2 at Purdue, and 3.75 at Texas A&M (in the latter two cases, those below face competitive admission, though the most popular majors have no space for those below the threshold GPA).

Note also that engineering does not always include CS. For example, CS is separate from engineering at Purdue, so changing between engineering and CS is more difficult there.

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Caltech is highly intense academically, with a large core curriculum that includes proof and theory focused math, various sciences, and humanities and social sciences.


But if you can draw a quality stick figure, you ace the Art for Rocket Scientists course. hehe

just going to say my small school D23 is looking at engineering. She’s had APCS; dual enrollment physics (non-calc based), AP calc AB. THOSE ARE ALL that her school offers for pre-engineering type classes. she is excited about engineering and will do great. She won’t apply to high end schools because of cost - but to suggest someone reconsider engineering because of those exact classes – well - I just dont know what to think.


Context matters and you bring up a good point that this student may not have the option to take those courses. That is not held against a student!

That said, if Physics C, Calc BC, AP chem, etc… are offered, then it can make a difference, especially with some of the highly selective schools on this student’s list.

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That was not my main focus (and I’ll be surprised if a large public school like the OP’s doesn’t offer more APs). There are no activities or clubs or online courses suggesting an interest in engineering or CS and the 3 in Comp Sci Principles is going to give an AO pause.


Start narrowing your list by eliminating several of the Cal States. What is your local admission area CSU? If it is one of the CSU’s you have on your list, then it could be a Very Likely/Safety school depending upon impaction. A lack of EC’s will not too much of an issue at the CSU’s with the exception of Cal Poly SLO, however with the UC’s, Activities/EC’s can set you apart from the rest of the competitive applicants that are applying to CS/Engineering so it can be a negative on your application.

Here is the local CSU admission areas:

Cal Poly SLO will be a Reach school for CS and many of the Engineering majors which have acceptance rates below 15% and in some cases like CS around 7%.

SJSU is highly competitive for CS/Software Engineering and several other Engineering majors. You can determine if you are competitive by calculating you Impaction Index and then compare to last year’s thresholds by major. SJSU’s CS admits last year needed around a 4.35 if you did not have any additional points in the calculation.

### Impaction Consideration Factor ### Impaction Point Calculation Value
A-G Grade Point Average (GPA) 800 points x A-G Coursework GPA
Local Admission Area 200 points
Eligible for Cal State Apply application fee waiver 40 points
Military Status (Active Duty, Veteran, National Guard or Reserves) 40 points
First Generation (Applicant is first generation of their family to earn a four-year college degree) 40 points
### Impaction Consideration Factor: College of Engineering Only ### Impaction Point Calculation Value
Math Coursework Grade Point Average (GPA) 400 points x Math GPA
Impaction Thresholds: Freshmen Impaction Results | Admissions

I would drop CSULA, CSU Fullerton, CSUN and SFSU from your list unless any of these schools are local.

I would pick 3 of the 5 CSU’s from SLO, CPP, SJSU, SDSU and CSULB.

If you are ELC eligible (top 9% of your HS), you may not have to apply to UC Merced. ELC eligible applicants that do not get accepted into their choice UC are referred to UCM (default campus) if room is available.
For the rest of the UC’s, you can use this table to see how you compare however the GPA’s listed are Capped Weighted and not major specific. CS/Engineering will have lower admit rates.

Campus 4.20+ 3.80-4.19 3.40-3.79 3.00-3.39
Berkeley 30% 11% 2% 1%
Davis 85% 55% 23% 10%
Irvine 60% 31% 14% 1%
Los Angeles 29% 6% 1% 0%
Merced 97% 98% 96% 89%
Riverside 97% 92% 62% 23%
San Diego 72% 25% 2% 0%
Santa Barbara 73% 28% 4% 1%
Santa Cruz 91% 81% 46% 9%

Best of luck and if you have any specific questions about the CSU’s or UC’s, do not hesitate to ask.

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OP has Cal Poly Pomona and SLO in his list where he could pursue engineering with weak ECs or club activities.

A strong core curriculum should be enough to get into engineering in a lot of schools without courses like AP CS Ppl or AP CS A.

SLO does consider EC’s in their application review but CPP does not.

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Can someone also chance me for all 9 UC’s for cs/engineering?

UCM: Safety
UCR/UCSC: Match. (CS at UCSC probably closer to a High Match)
UCD: High Match
UCSB/UCI: Low Reach
UCSD: Reach
UCLA/UCB: High Reach

As I stated above, your lack of EC’s will make the UC’s a tough admit for these very competitive majors. You have solid rigor, your AP scores are acceptable along with your Capped UC GPA but not outstanding especially since many 4.2+ UC GPA applicants this admission cycle were either admitted to 1-2 UC’s or completely shut out.

Apply widely and consider some of the OOS suggestions since the UC”s are difficult admits. Some of the Cal states will offer you a great education in CS or Engineering which are majors that do not require you attend a top school to be successful.

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With UCSD CS becomes a capped major this year, wouldn’t UCSD CS be at least as high a reach as UCLA CS?