Looking for help on my college list: 3.98 GPA, 35 ACT

Hello! I am looking to reduce my college application list or take more recommendations that I haven’t yet considered. Any help would be appreciated!


  • US Citizen
  • Minneapolis public school
  • White Male


  • 3.98 UW (4 A- freshman year), calculated weighted is roughly 4.5 (school doesn’t do
  • 35 ACT (34, 34, 35, 36), superscore is the same only math is 35 rather than 34
  • School doesn’t rank

Taken all “advanced” classes available in 9th and 10th grade except for bio instead of AP Physics 1 in 10th grade, dual-enrolled in 11th and 12th
9th: Spanish 1, Physical Science, Intro to Engineering PLTW, English 9, AP Geography, Health,
Advanced Algebra, Piano 1
10th: Spanish 2, Bio, Principles of Engineering PLTW, AP Lit, AP US History, Physical
Education, Piano 2
11th: Local Community College: College Writing, World History (1500-1900)
University of Minnesota: Calc 1, Calc 2, World History (Pre-1500), Phys for
Science and Engineering 1 (similar to AP Phys C)
12th: University of Minnesota: Calc 3, Chemical Properties, US Literature, Intro to Computer
Science (Python)
Second Semester Plan: Linear Algebra and DE, Phys for Sci and Eng 2, Statistics, Intro to
Algorithms and Data Structures


  • 5 years of high school soccer (tore acl this year so I won’t technically be playing this upcoming season, but I’ll still be a part of the team)
  • 10+ years of club soccer (consistently one of the top 3 teams in the state)
  • Coding Club 11th and 12th grade (kind of the founder but not exactly so I’ve been the president for the past two years)
  • Math Team 11th and 12th grade
  • National Honors Society 11th and 12th grade
  • Part-time job as a host at a restaurant since summer after freshman year (progressed from seating to taking phone calls to expo and now floor manager as well as lead host)
  • Youth soccer volunteer coaching for the past 4 years (through my club team and high school summer soccer camps)
  • Tutoring high schoolers and volunteering at my middle school to help 1st and 2nd graders
  • Play piano and saxophone
  • Taken 4 online summer classes through EdX (CS50, Electricity and Magnetism, Statistics and R, Circuits and Electronics) and self-studying Spanish
  • Constructed a PC and have been working on various personal coding projects (not sure if these count or not)

I don’t really have any unique awards but I thought I should still include these

  • High honor roll throughout high school
  • Deans’ List throughout dual enrollment
  • AP Scholar (Geo: 5, Lit: 4, APUSH: 4)


  • I’m hoping to get an LoR from UMN Phys TA and prof as well as UMN History TA and prof, but I’ve just been told that this might not be allowed. If not, I’ll have to get one from a math and history teacher from sophomore year. Either way, both honestly will not be the strongest; I only worked with the TAs over distance learning, and my sophomore teachers taught me a while back.
  • Essays will probably be alright but not incredible

Potential Major: Computer Science and maybe a minor or double major in math

Preferences (these aren’t needed but they help narrow down):

  • In the US
  • Cold rather than hot
  • Urban (maybe suburban) campus
  • Diverse student body that isn’t pretentious
  • Midsize
  • No religious affiliation

Cost Constraints:

  • I’m not totally sure about the financial aid I’ll be needing right now as I am still trying to communicate with my dad; my mom is a teacher and my dad is a construction worker and they are divorced if that gives any insight. I’m hoping for financial assistance.

Here are the universities I’ve been looking at (too many reaches):
UMN Twin Cities, UW Seattle, UIUC, UMass Amherst, UMD College Park, UMich Ann Arbor, GIT, CMU, UC Berkeley, Rice, UChicago, Cornell, Columbia, Stanford, MIT

Thank you!

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As an OOS applicant, UC Berkeley will offer little to no financial aid meaning you will be close to full pay at around $65K/year. If your family cannot afford this amount, then you can eliminate it from your list.


Good to know! Thanks!

Yale and Brown

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My D22 is in a similar situation - 4.0\1580\12 APs\AIME\CS major and has many of the same schools.

She has Purdue on her primary list and Wisconsin on her maybe list as the only adds to your list.

MIT, CMU, Stanford, Purdue, UIUC, Washington are on her certain-to-apply list. MD, Mich, GT, Cornell, Wisc are maybes.

She doesn’t have UMN, Amherst, Rice, Chicago, or Columbia. Nor Yale or Brown. I think Columbia and Yale were the only ones on the very initial, very long list. Along with Penn, Princeton, Harvard, maybe a couple other. Ivies other than Cornell dropped early.

(Caltech has drifted on and off - not sure where it is today. Penn State is a state-specific safety as we’re in PA).


I don’t think you have too many reaches - if you’re happy with UMN. Or alternatively UMASS and likely UMD.

If you think you’re top heavy (you can only go to 1), you might add a few more likely - such as WPI, Case Western, Miami Florida.

If it’s $$ you want, look to Arizona, Alabama, UTK.

If it’s $ and private you want, Bradley would pay you well but doesn’t have the rep.

I think the list is fine - if you’re ok with any of these schools.

What is it you’re seeking - or is it just a ranking based choice you’ve made?


You need to know your budget ASAP but odds are that it’ll be low. You may even qualify for Pell -run FAFSA4caster.

UMN Twin Cities = a given

UW Seattle, UIUC
=> likely to be 40k+ even with scholarship, likely unaffordable on a teacher’s salary and depending on your dad’s contribution.

UMass Amherst
=> very little merit aid but worth trying for Commonwealth Honors if you have time after completing other priority apps (odds of sufficient 1id are low)

UMD College Park
=> highly competitive merit aid but worth trying

UMich Ann Arbor,
=> meets full need if your parents’income is 95k and under

=> no financial aid

=>very poor financial aid

UC Berkeley
=> no financial aid

, Rice
=> excellent FA

, UChicago, , Columbia,
=> look carefully at the core curriculum

Stanford, MIT
=> excellent financial aid, highly selective as I’m sure you know.

Add UWisconsin: reciprocity makes it a very good financial choice and it’s nationally famous in CS.
Perhaps add Northeastern ?


My daughter with lower stats got $16,000 from UMASS I believe, it was one of her top choices, and $4000 from UMD.


I would just caution you on UMASS CS - it is a tiny program with 65 students and it gets a ton of applications. My perception is that sometimes students with your stats are rejected if they don’t show interest (for yield protection). For example, our school valedictorian was not accepted for CS and she will be attending MIT. OOS it may be a different situation (we are in MA).


Consider Northeastern, particularly if you are a potential National Merit Finalist. The possible FA award to NMF students is around $30k/yr. Same for USC, though much harder to get into.


You have enough schools on your list.

In my opinion,you should start a thread seeking universities which will offer you an automatic stats (GPA & ACT/SAT) based scholarship so you have at least one other financial safety-in addition to the University of Minnesota.

Unfortunately, your preferences eliminate those with which I am familiar as they are in warm weather locations (Univ. of South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arizona State ASU University, etc.).

In short, you need to add financial safety school to your list.


For a couple more northern schools you might want to consider (run the NPC), add RIT and U Rochester both in Rochester, NY (down the road from each other - UR is closer to the city, RIT has a great intern time and a lot of their graduates I know go on to work where they intern).


I’m glad to see Rice is on your list. It is not cold rather than hot. It is hot at Rice from August through October. Then the weather is nice through April. It gets hot again in May. Go for a visit sometime in the fall or winter to see how you like it. Otherwise it checks your boxes.

Rice offers excellent financial aid. Run the net price calculator at all the schools you are interested in. Some may consider your Dad’s income. Have you looked into the Questbridge Scholar program? Many of the schools you like are Questbridge partners including Rice. If you are selected by QB, you might match to a school for a full ride. https://www.questbridge.org


Is UMN affordable? That might be a good way to get your parents to talk budget. When thinking about safety schools, they have to also be affordable…there’s no such thing as an academic only safety because if it’s not affordable you can’t attend.

I second the Questbridge rec, if your mom’s income is $65K or less. (ETA…QB will include your dad’s financials if he is in your life…because most of the QB partners are CSS Profile schools).

If you do run the FAFSA4caster make sure to add in 401K contributions (or whatever your mom’s retirement contributions are) AND any child support your dad pays. These amounts can change income and EFC dramatically. You can also try College Board’s EFC calculator which is more detailed.

Schools that use CSS Profile will also require your dad’s financials when calculating what they expect you to pay. On your list that includes Rice, UMichigan, Cornell, Columbia, Stanford, MIT. UChicago will likely not require your dad’s financials.



From the Questbridge website…

“ You are required to report non-custodial parent information to us (and to colleges in the future), except in cases where there has been a substantial history of little to no contact. Typically, non-custodial parents are expected to contribute financially to their child’s education, and therefore QuestBridge and colleges need information about their income and assets.”

So…I think it’s not just the mom’s income that is considered by questbridge, but rather both parents.


Agreed…it was unclear to what extent OP’s dad is in the picture. But if there is contact and/or he’s paying child support, it would be included in QB. And of course for CSS Profile schools.


My S22 is in a similar boat, although his stats are not quite as strong as yours.

I work with technology companies, and know a lot of people in the field. In my experience, school reputation is a lot less important in CS than it is in some other fields. As an example, while the number is declining over time, there are still a lot of CTO’s without college degrees. Something to keep in mind if money is an issue.

I think it is also important to keep in mind what the total cost of living in an area will be. I am guessing you will want to go out and have fun while at school, and that is hard to do cost efficiently at some of the schools you listed. There is a lot to do in New York (Columbia), unless you are broke, then New York sucks. Pittsburgh (CMU) is probably a lot more fun for someone on a budget. Most of the Big 10 cities also have a reasonable cost of living.

It is good to have options, and I am sure you will have quite a few.


My 2 cents for what it is worth.
At my son’s school, kids with similar stats seem to get in to Northeastern with merit (it’s popular, and easy to apply to (ie no extra essay, I think?)). Although expensive, the students are required to have a six month internship where they get paid so the final cost may not be that different than other options. His friend who is a NMSF ended up going to FSU for free and even got money for research. Another possibility is UVM, a smaller state school in the Northeast; you would likely get merit money bringing the cost of admission down to the in-state level. Best of luck to you.