Help suggest some US schools for son's largely foreign list

I would love to get some suggestions / comments on my son’s list.

  • rising senior at large public HS in CA Bay Area
  • GPA 3.97 UW, 4.24 UC capped weighted, 4.41 UC uncapped weighted. Our HS doesn’t have weighted GPA or class rank.
  • APs: 10th grade: Chem (5). 11th grade: Bio, US Hist. 12th grade plan: Calc BC, Physics C, Econ, US Gov, Latin. Our school doesn’t allow APs to be taken earlier (so he couldn’t take Calc or Physics earlier for example).
  • SAT: 1380, which is not typical for the type of student his teachers think he is (similar peers at school got 1500+). Probably applying TO where possible, unless next try is better.
  • ECs: school / youth orchestras (violin, principal / soloist level), film making (internship), some volunteering, student organizations, tennis.

Intended major

  • Most likely economics. Also considering combined majors with econ component (such as PPE, environmental econ & policy), or applied math (with either economics or physics / aerodynamics or acoustics), or some type of business major. He really likes math, history, physical sciences, music, film, and is generally very comfortable with tech stuff, but doesn’t want to be an engineer.


  • $40K-60K yearly, with the high end being more of a stretch. Not eligible for need based aid.

Desired features

  • Prefer medium to large university, or large college with lots of resources
  • Prefer campus in or near a city / cultural center
  • Film/video programs with resources / opportunities for non-majors
  • Music ensembles with opportunities for non-majors
  • Student race car competition team (Formula Student / Formula SAE)
  • Prefer school with lots of international students
  • Prefer colder climate but flexible on this
  • Likes the idea of studying outside the US (originally wanted to study in UK), but on the other hand doesn’t want a program with 100% specialization from year 1 and no flexibility or electives

Current list


  • Plan to apply: Edinburgh, UCL
  • Considering: ICL, Warwick, Glasgow. Also considering a few interesting schools that don’t have a race car team: LSE, KCL, St Andrews. Visiting the UK this summer to decide on his 5 choices for the UCAS application.


  • Plan to apply: McGill (currently looks like a top choice), UBC

UC / CSU system:

  • Plan to apply: UCLA, UCB, UCI, UCSD, UC Davis, UCSB, Cal Poly SLO (this list is roughly in order of interest level, not all schools are top choices, but he could see himself going to all of these and the low cost of an in-state option is appealing)

US other schools:

  • Plan to apply: UW Seattle, UT Austin, USC (this last one is a big reach since he would need to get some merit to afford it, but is also a top choice)

I would appreciate additional suggestions for schools that would fit what he is looking for! They could be safety, target, or reach schools (as long as there is some possibility of being affordable).

For the US universities, pay attention to whether the majors of interest have difficult secondary admission processes. Economics and business are commonly popular and oversubscribed majors at large state flagship universities. Math is less commonly oversubscribed, but can be (e.g. at UCSD where the overflow from CS crowds the math major).

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Schools outside the US do not usually allow the type of indecision the OP poses. At McGill, for example, one applies to a major, and is accepted to that major, with corresponding courses. The business and film schools are quite different and do not overlap.

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Thanks! We are aware of how these schools work. He is visiting the schools in the UK in June, visiting UBC in July, and will be attending McGill’s Open House in October, at which point he should be able to determine his choic(es) for each school.

For film, he would like to participate in film as an EC (a lot of these schools have an extracurricular film / video production club for non-majors).

For business, most of the schools do have some options which combine economics with business, although he’s not sure yet whether that is something he wants to do.

Thanks! Yes we have heard about difficulties with oversubscribed majors at some of these schools and that is a concern. For UCB (a reach school for sure), he is looking at either Rausser’s EEP major, or L&S econ or applied math. Thankfully he does not have his heart set on Haas and he is not interested in CS / EECS. Still thinking about major choices for the other UCs.

UCB change to CNR requires a 3.0 college GPA: Change of College | UC Berkeley Rausser College of Natural Resources
UCB change to L&S requires a 2.2-2.5 college GPA: Change Colleges Into Letters and Science | L&S Advising

UCB declaration of EEP major requires a 2.7 college GPA in prerequisites: Environmental Economics and Policy | UC Berkeley Rausser College of Natural Resources
UCB declaration of economics major requires a 3.0 college GPA in prerequisites: Applying to the Economics Major | Department of Economics
UCB declaration of applied math major requires C grades in prerequisites: Majoring in Mathematics | Department of Mathematics at University of California Berkeley

UCB grade distributions can be see at Berkeleytime

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Thanks ucbalumnus! The links are really helpful, especially Berkeleytime.

Do either of you happen to have any other US school suggestions that we haven’t thought of, so we can think about planning visits? We already have visits planned (or completed) for all CA schools, UK schools, UW, UT, UBC and McGill, which will help with selecting majors. But at this point I think the most urgent thing is to consider whether we need to plan visits to schools in other parts of the US. Visits to the east coast will require some advance planning, so I hope to concentrate right now on whether there are other US schools we should be targeting.

If he likes math with economics, he may want to consider the math intensity of the intermediate microeconomics and econometrics courses (based on prerequisites) at various colleges:

  • Low math: calculus not required.
  • Moderate math: single variable calculus required.
  • High math: multivariable calculus and/or linear algebra required.

Some colleges offer more than one series of intermediate economics and econometrics courses, with varying math intensity (e.g. UCB offers Economics 100A and 140 with moderate math as well as Economics 101A and 141 with high math).

If he wants to go on to PhD study in economics, more advanced math and statistics is advised. See Preparing for a PhD in Economics | Department of Economics .

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He really enjoys calculus so far, so he would be aiming to do a moderate to high math econ program. He doesn’t think that he will want to do a PhD in econ, but he does like math enough that he might end up doing the advanced math that would be required. The econ and applied math majors at UCB both look pretty flexible. At McGill there are also several options, and it’s possible to start out in the Honours courses (high intensity / high math) with the option to switch to the regular major if necessary. He is definitely looking at these details for each program (including the syllabus for each course, which books are assigned, and how much of the grade is based on the final exam!) Thanks for your comments!

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UT doesnt sound like a good fit. It is very hard to get in out of state, business is quite distinct from economics, and applications are generally received in August and September.


Thanks roycroftmom. Do you think UT is not a good fit culturally, or is your comment mostly because of the business school being separate from econ?

He really likes Austin (has visited before), they have a great student race car program and there is an F1 track right there, which is a big plus. We know that it is a reach school, but we are able to pay the full OOS cost.

His stats arent extraordinary, and tbh from out of state, they need to be. McCombs, the business school, would need solid evidence of related extracurriculars in addition to stats. The college of liberal arts, for econ, is also a reach-The OOS acceptance rate is well below 10%.
If he applies anyway, at least get the app in by Sept 30-students apply early and the school fills up.

He won’t be applying to the business school at UT. As far as his stats, I don’t have a problem with him applying to some reach schools that he likes (USC is a tough admit too, and even less affordable).

Some schools he might want to consider with SAE programs include:

  • U. of Michigan
  • U. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • the Ohio State
  • Michigan State
  • U. of Connecticut
  • U. of Cincinnati

I don’t have access to a variety of my resources, but the first is definitely a reach and I’m not sure about the OOS costs on these. And even for those that aren’t in big cities, the campus tends to provide all the cultural opportunities of a city.

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Would he be interested in Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario?

They also have a first year program in England.


International students tend to be plentiful among PhD students, since PhD programs are typically fully funded.

As undergraduates at most US universities, international students are more likely to be from the top levels of income and wealth (especially in comparison to many of their home countries) in order to afford US university costs while getting no or much less financial aid and scholarships.


At large schools, there often is a critical mass of internationals from both China and India such that those students may self-segregate and not bother interacting with domestic students.


Thanks! It looks like these are mostly within our budget except for UMich.

I agree a large school can offer a lot of cultural opportunities on its own, so it is not as simple as whether the school is physically located in a city. But it’s hard to get a sense of the school before visiting it (and we definitely can’t visit all of them). Do any of these stand out as likely to be great choices for a person who wants a relatively urban university experience with a lot of cultural diversity, significant film / music scene, etc.?

Here are some other large schools I found that have Formula SAE programs and would be within our budget (with varying degrees of selectiveness): Purdue, Pitt, Penn State, Oregon State, CU Boulder, Drexel, U Wisconsin Madison, UMD College Park, Georgia Tech (a big reach for OOS but at least it is within budget). I don’t know much about any of these schools though.

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Thanks for your comments! I would say that my son would like to attend a school which has an international / multicultural flavor, in which he would have the opportunity to get to know classmates from countries other than the US. This is why his first impulse was to study outside of the US, and it is one reason why McGill is really appealing to him. I hope that gives a sense of what he is looking for?

I agree that there are plenty of large state schools that will tick most of the boxes, inclusive of Purdue. My D is a senior there and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Urban though, it is definitely not.