In Need of Brutal Honesty

<p>Greetings, all.</p>

<p>I'm currently a grade 10 student in Winnipeg, Canada who in the future plans to apply to a few top tier universities in the States, and is badly in need of being slapped in the face with the cold hard truth. Let me begin with a (brief) bio. Last year, during the start of my high school journey, I attended perhaps one of the most ghetto schools in the entire continent, which taught students from kindergarten to grade 9. During my time there, I was taught by teachers who lost nearly all of my assignments, tests, etc., and fabricated my grades entirely based on their mood at the time. Of course I blame myself as well, as I had absolutely no motivation whatsoever until this year. Anyway, I finished the year with a tremendous 83% average, which consisted of a fair share of C's and D's (American D's, mind you, as in 60's).</p>

<p>Fast-forward to today, and I'm in a grade 10-12 high school that only offers two honours courses (both of which I'm taking). Despite the vast improvement, you'd still have to travel quite a bit to find anyone with an inkling of what an AP course is, or what the SATs are. Our final exams for the year take place in about a month, and luckily I've acquired the sense to maintain a 96% average so far. Over the summer and the few months that follow, I plan to study my eyeballs out for the SAT I using the official study guide as well as Barron's 2400, and perhaps some other prep books. For next year and onward, I've already joined what is known to be the best public high school in the city. I decided to transfer to it because it does offer a few AP courses (I believe 7), and I plan to take AP Calculus BC, AP Physics 1 and 2 (unfortunately neither C is offered), AP Chemistry, AP Bio, and AP CompSci. Later on I plan to devote tons of time to studying for my SAT II's (math II, physics, and perhaps chemistry).</p>

<p>Luckily I've also realized the tremendous importance of extracurricular activities for American universities. Another pull factor for the school I'm going to next year is the math, physics, and bio clubs that compete in national contests. In fact, they placed 3rd a few years ago among 450 other Canadian schools in a national biology contest. Besides this, I plan to participate in many other ECs that catch my interest.</p>

<p>So finally, I'd like to ask you: If I end up being very successful in everything I've mentioned, do I have anything beyond a dismal hope of getting into any top tier American university? Also, I'd love to hear any suggestions anyone has to offer.</p>

<p>Thank you so much for your time.</p>

<p>After seeing the preview of this, I sincerely apologize for the length. :P</p>

<p>Ok. First of all, the people of CC are not admission officers, so we do not know about whether you will or will not be admitted?</p>

<p>Don’t do EC’s because you need them. Do the EC’s because you are genuinely interested in them. </p>

<p>Make sure that you do either the SAT or the ACT by the end of your junior year. </p>

<p>Volunteer more and get more leadership roles.</p>

<p>Lastly, people are known to be all talk or no walk, so make sure that you go through the plan that you conjured. </p>

<p>Also, there are other excellent schools beside the “top-tier schools” so don’t go for name and brand. </p>

<p>Good luck and I’ll say that you have the same chance as everyone else. Don’t doubt yourself. </p>

<p>What is your financial situation? Only a tiny number of colleges in the US are need-blind for international admissions and meet need for international students. Honestly, even if you are full pay, I doubt you would be a strong candidate for “top tier” (top 15 or so) schools in the US. But we have a lot more very good colleges than that. The question is probably going to be cost, though.</p>

<p>Thank you for your responses.</p>

<p>@intparent: Currently only my mother works, and she makes minimum wage. I suppose after hearing myself say that, this all sounds a bit insane. Thanks anyway. :)</p>

<p>Not insane… by that I mean I understand why you are asking the questions you are, even if cost is going to be a big issue for you. Nothing wrong with checking out your options.</p>

<p>There are some good resources for international students in these threads if you read through them:</p>

<p><a href=“”></a> </p>

<p><a href=“”></a> </p>

<p>If I were you I would go ahead and make a plan for some applications to US colleges, but also make a backup plan that you can hopefully be happy with for a Canadian university education as well. Good luck!</p>

<p>I think with your approach, attitude, and initiative, you are very likely to be successful no matter where you go. I think you should apply; to not try is assured defeat. At least toss an application to the top need blind schools… </p>

<p>If you maintain the rigor and get great grades, you should be able to pull up your GPA and demonstrate a strong upward trend. I would try to do exceptionally well on the ACT and SATs as you are already doing. Definitely take them by spring of Junior year. My son took the ACT in February and forgot his calculator which brought down his math score which brought down his composite to 32. Taking it earlier allowed him time to retake it in April and he got a perfect score. Definitely review a few old tests before taking it. He took it with absolutely zero prep the first time and to play it safe the second time, he reviewed a few old tests for the math and science sections the week before taking it. He said there was one question on the test he took that was on one of the old tests; that one question could have made the difference between a 35 and the 36. While a 35 is a fantastic score, there is a significant statistical leap in getting the 36, only 6 in 10,000 get the perfect score.</p>

<p>Regarding ECs: I would personally be more impressed with about 3 ECs that a student showed clear passion about and demonstrated leadership in some capacity than a laundry list of stuff… although I do note that most of these students do seem to have an extensive list of ECs that make my eyes glaze over.</p>

<p>Congratulations on the great work despite situational adversities. I think your situation of hardship and being first generation attending college may help in terms of perspective in evaluating your candidacy… I believe it does with U.S. applicants and I am not as familiar with international applicants. Wishing you continued success…</p>

<p>@intparent I will definitely take a detailed look into those links. Thanks again for your help.</p>

<p>@1203southview Thanks for your inspirational words. He forgot his calculator??!! :)) Anyway, congrats to him for achieving a 36! I plan to take the SAT I as early as possible, and that’s why I’m going to start this summer. In those few months, I’m going to try to get in as much practice tests as is humanly possible. Do you recommend taking both the SAT I and the ACT? Also, do you have any suggestions as to when I should take my SAT subject tests? I’ve heard somewhere that you should only take them after you’ve finished the most advanced courses of those topics in high school. The AP courses I’m going to take at the school I mentioned are only available in grade 12. Good luck to your son, and hopefully his excellence continues!</p>

<p>If you want to go to college in the US, you may want to take both the SAT and the ACT. Some students do better on one than the other. Note that the SAT is changing format soon, I believe in March 2016. So your current study materials will do you more good before that time. I think you can probably find more information on the upcoming change on the College Board website.</p>

<p>My kids took subject tests shortly after they finished the coursework related to the test. But I have to say, both generally had better scores in their junior year on the subject tests. They also studied specifically for the subject tests as well as doing their regular coursework. But they didn’t have APs in any subjects before taking subject tests (also none in their school until seniors). They did pick subjects they were strong in to start with (which may seem obvious :slight_smile: ).</p>

<p>Yes, I agree with taking both. You might start out with the ACT; if you hit a 35 or higher, some say that’s good enough and don’t need to do any further. Several schools do not require an SAT subject test so if you get a great ACT score, that may be all you need. If finances are an issue, you might send your 4 free reports to your safety schools in Canada. Then you can select which scores you pay extra to send to exactly the schools you want to share those scores with. Some schools do require that you report all scores but many do not.</p>

<p>I would take the tests in junior year; it is unlikely for most students to do exceptionally well at the end of sophomore year. My son took ACT in February, SAT in March, retook ACT in April due to the calculator mishap, did SAT subject tests early May, and is now in AP week. He is taking Math 2 and Physics AP tests and those were the subject tests for SAT that he took as well. It has been intense but then, that’s junior year for you! He will work on his college essays this summer and be poised to take on a rigorous load senior year and send in his applications. We think that is a pretty good schedule. Hope that helps…</p>

<p>Here is a list of schools that accept the ACT (with writing) only:</p>

<p>ACT in lieu of Subject Tests</p>

<p><< back to map list</p>

<p>Amherst College
Barnard College
Boston College
Boston University
Brandeis University
Brown University
Bryn Mawr College
Duke University
Haverford College
McGill University
University of Pennsylvania
Pomona College
Rice University
Swarthmore College
Tufts University
Vassar College
Wellesley College
Wesleyan University
Yale University</p>

<p>Being a Canadian student, McGill is a must for me to apply to (they’ll have my head if I don’t). As for the rest, I’ll research them to see how strong they are in my intended major. Once again, thanks a lot for your support. :)</p>

<p>What I tell my own daughter, I’ll tell you. Stick with the standard format of safety schools, matches and reaches. There are plenty of good safe and match schools. Find some that you will be happy with. That means you pick one of Canada’s excellent state schools (like McGill). If you can’t find them, the problem is with you. (And make sure they are matches and safety schools. Many state colleges in the US are hard to get in and fairly expensive.) You say aloud to yourself and your mother that you would be happy if that is the only school you get in. Try to expand the list. The safe and match schools are more important than the reach. As the other posters have said, see who would give aid to someone like yourself.</p>

<p>Further, you are only in 10th grade. Taking every AP your school offers might be unrealistic. (I don’t know you but it would be for most smart kids.It would also be quite painful and unpleasant.) So taking 3-4 APs as a junior is fine for some (usually the best prepared ones), but often very unpleasant for others. Doing better in fewer may be more rewarding. The same goes for academic clubs. Consider “shopping” the academic clubs to see which ones you like best. That usually works the best, i.e. you do best in the club you enjoy the most.</p>

<p>Perhaps you should talk to your current teachers and see what they think. Or try to find some other way to gauge your likely success. You could take a practice SAT Math or achievement test. Or you could email the math team advisor at your new school to get some old math league tests to practice over the summer.</p>

<p>The school doesn’t offer any APs to juniors and my current one offers none at all, as I mentioned earlier. So unless I want a total of 3 APs over 4 years, I’m going to have to take the 5 that I mentioned out of the 7 available. Besides, they’re all subjects I’m genuinely very interested in. With the lack of any APs junior year is going to have a much lighter course load for me than senior year, so I might self-study a couple APs next year.</p>

<p>I would recommend you consider taking 4 APs junior year and 3 senior year if you are determined to take them. I understand schools like to see increasing rigor so I am concerned doing 5 junior year and then 2 may look like slacking off.</p>