Match Me for Physics major

Before I start it’s probably important to mention that I’m graduating two years early and will enter college when I am 16. I only have three years of high school as I started kindergarten a year early and will be skipping senior year.

White Male, US and Minnesota resident

mid-tier public high school

Family makes 75k


4.0 UW, school doesn’t weight.

Rank: School doesn’t rank

33 ACT

APs Taken:

Freshman year: none

Sophomore: APUSH, AP Calc AB, AP Bio, AP Stats.

Sophomore summer: not an AP but taking Calc II from a uni.

Junior (next year): AP Lit, AP US Gov, AP Macro, AP Human Geo, AP Psych, AP Chem, AP Physics 1 (ima try to switch it to independent study AP Physics C but my school might not let me), Multivariable Calc.

Major Applying For: Physics/math

Extracurricular Activities: As I will be listing on common app.

  1. Science fair at the regional, state, and international level.
  2. Research at the University of Minnesota dealing with biofuel production and later cancer.
  3. Did piano for 10 years with a studio
  4. Have done karate for 6 years (3rd degree brown belt in SKA and Ukai Midwest)
  5. Have done some volunteering but planning to do much more during this summer. I’m expecting ~60-80 hours by the end of the summer counting both the volunteer tutoring I did during the school year and volunteering at food distribution centers I’ll do during this summer.
  6. member of Minnesota Junior Academy of Science (invitations to ISEF finalists, winner of state science fair, and JSHS finalists) we try to expand STEM to more students and plan future science events

Awards (kinda weak tbh): Once again, as I will be listing on common app

  1. 2022 ISEF Finalist
  2. Gold Metal at state science fair (top 5%)
  3. Bolton and Menk young scientist award at state science fair ($500 if that matters)
  4. Planning on listing AP scholar assuming I get good enough AP scores
  5. NHS

extra: I also got an American Chemical Society award at state science fair, but I thought I shouldvary up my awards instead of only listing science fair awards. What do you think?

Letter of Recs: I don’t think I can accurately judge how good these will be but prolly mid. Just assume average for a student similar to me.

Essays: Same as letter of Recs

One last thing. I don’t know if it’s really important, but I only took two years of a foreign language and reached Spanish II.

I don’t have a definitive list yet, but I want to Dartmouth ED.


You better run the NPC for a school like Dartmouth b4 applying ED, especially given your family income.

You can go to very solid Arizona for $3K a year + room and board at current levels - to me, a wiser investment in physics - but Dartmouth meets need - see the cost and make sure it’s affordable…if it’ not, DO NOT ED.

It’s unlikely - Dartmouth - but not impossible.

Good luck.

Edit - just a Junior? Stay in foreign language and check back in a year. Why Dartmouth? Have you been? Go see some colleges - a UMN, a MAC, a St. Olaf, Carleton…an Iowa State, Drake…get a feel for different sizes and different geographies, etc. over the next year…so you can know what you want…you may not like what you think you do.

He’s planning to graduate after junior year, so, applying this fall.

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Why Dartmouth? I have to admit, this isn’t the first school that comes to mind when I think of colleges I’d want to land at as a 16y/o, in terms of the social scene.

In terms of the T20 type schools, have you considered Rice? The very thoughtfully-structured residential college system makes for a social experience that I think could be friendlier to a younger student, and it’s top-notch academically. How about Harvey Mudd? Terrific place for physics, lots of camaraderie as all students go through the core curriculum together, and there’s a lot of supportive dorm culture.

Are you intent on getting out of Minnesota? Carleton and St. Olaf both meet need and could also be excellent choices, not to mention that continuing at UMinn where you already have connections could be a great option.


I am pretty intent on getting out of Minnesota. I will apply to UMinn as a sort of safety I guess, but I would be happy to go there.

I have always wanted to go to Dartmouth because of its location, small size, and D-plan. Although, my biggest reason for wanting to go to Dartmouth is because of its areas of physics research which I find interesting, even if Dartmouth is not known for physics.

Thank you for the suggestions and what do you think my chances would be for the universities you listed as well as Dartmouth ED?

This is important. Determine if Dartmouth is affordable for you. If not, there’s no point applying ED.

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Well, you’re obviously a strong enough student for any of these schools, and AO’s will see that. They all have more similarly-qualified applicants than they can accept, so the question is how they’ll view you within that pool. Some may view your young age as a liability; others may not care - hard to predict. The limited foreign language coursework won’t help - Dartmouth, for example, specifically asks for “3 years of a single language (ancient or modern) with 4 preferred.”

Rice requires a minimum of 2 years of foreign language, so at least you’d check the FL box adequately there. Harvey Mudd is also okay with 2.

It could be worth talking with a Dartmouth admissions rep and trying to get a sense of how impactful your possible disadvantages would be. Also, make sure you’re digging into the research areas and curriculum structure at other schools - you may find that there are other equally-worthy or even better options.

Also, as others have noted, compare NPC results among the schools you’re considering. Two schools that both meet full need can end up giving significantly different results.

Other top schools with full-need-met aid that don’t specifically require more than 2 years of foreign language:
UVA (not small, but does meet need for OOS students)
UNC Chapel Hill (same as UVA - large, but does meet need for OOS)
Carnegie Mellon (aid not known for being generous - definitely check NPC before considering)
WashU in STL


Some of the more selective colleges prefer to see frosh applicants reach third or fourth year of high school foreign language; at those colleges, having completed only the second year course is likely to be a disadvantage. Dartmouth recommends that frosh applicants have three years with four preferred.

Also, note that colleges may have foreign language graduation requirements. With a lower level of foreign language completed in high school, you may have to take more foreign language courses in college to fulfill such a graduation requirement. Dartmouth requires completion of its third (or higher) term foreign language course.

What’s the budget? That’s a really critical factor here. Your family also needs to find out how much colleges expect it to pay (which is not necessarily the same as what your family thinks it can pay). They can use a generic Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculator like this one from the College Board. I would also pick some generous meets-need schools like Swarthmore, Williams, or U. of Chicago. Sometimes they will have lower estimates than others. If all of these EFCs are affordable for your family, great! If not, however, it will be important to know what your family’s budget is so we can get a good idea whether a college is likely to provide enough merit aid to bring the school’s price within budget. Many of the most popular colleges do not provide merit aid, so it’s important to know the financial picture from the beginning.

You would like to get out of Minnesota, but how does your family feel? Do they want you to remain a certain distance from home (whether via driving time or flight time)? What kinds of things are you interested in experiencing in college? Do you have a preference between urban/suburban/rural? What kinds of people do you like to hang out with?

Below is a list of schools, divided by general size of the undergraduate population. These are schools that either have produced significant numbers/percentages of alumni who went on to earn PhDs in math or physics, and/or that are noted for their strength in those fields.


  • Carleton (MN): 2k undergrads
  • Clarkson (NY): 2800 undergrads
  • Franklin & Marshall (PA ):2100 undergrads
  • Grinnell (IA): 1700 undergrads
  • Haverford (PA ): 1k undergrads (part of a consortium with Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr)
  • Illinois Institute of Technology: 2900 undergrads
  • Lawrence (WI): 1500 undergrads
  • Reed (OR): 1500 undergrads
  • Rose-Hulman (IN): 2100 undergrads
  • St. Olaf (MN): 3k undergrads
  • Swarthmore (PA ): 1600 undergrads (in a consortium with Haverford & Bryn Mawr)
  • Wheaton (MA): 1700 undergrads
  • Williams (MA): 2100 undergrads


  • Case Western (OH): 5700 undergrads
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic (NY): 5600 undergrads
  • U. of Chicago: 7500 undergrads
  • U. of Rochester (NY) 6500 undergrads;
  • Worcester Polytechnic (MA): 5100 undergrads


  • Rochester Institute of Technology(NY): 13k students


  • U. of Wisconsin: 33k undergrads (as a MN resident you should qualify for the reciprocal tuition agreement)

ETA: Lawrence, Reed, and St. Olaf are all part of the Colleges That Change Lives association.

I just went through and looked up the foreign language requirements based on the universities’ Common Data Sets (source, particularly if you want to look up other colleges’ foreign language requirements).

  • Carleton: 3 recommended
  • Clarkson: No recommendation
  • Franklin & Marshall: 2 required, 4 recommended
  • Grinnell: 3 recommended
  • Haverford: 3 required
  • Illinois Tech: 2 recommended
  • Lawrence: 2 recommended
  • Reed: No recommendation
  • Rose-Hulman: No recommendation
  • St. Olaf: 4 recommended
  • Swarthmore: 3 recommended
  • Wheaton: 4 recommended
  • Williams: 4 recommended
  • Case Western: 2 required, 3 recommended
  • Rensselaer (RPI): No recommendation
  • U. of Chicago: 3 recommended
  • U. of Rochester: No recommendation
  • Worcester (WPI): 2 recommended
  • Rochester I.T.: 3 recommended
  • U. of Wisconsin: 3 required, 4 recommended
  • U. of Minnesota: 2 required

If you’re interested in Haverford or U. of Wisconsin, I would see if there was any flexibility in their requirement, otherwise you can go on ahead and eliminate them from consideration unless you take a 3rd year of foreign language.

Just to clarify, you WOULD be happy to go to UMinn or you would NOT be happy to go to UMinn?

For reference, Dartmouth has about 4500 undergrads which is usually classified as a mid-size/medium school.

Yes, I think that Rice is a great suggestion. Also, Franklin & Marshall also has a residential college system somewhat similar to Rice, so it might have a similar feel in that respect.

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For hot schools for physics, look into Pomona and Hamilton, which have graduated multiple students who have received recognition by the American Physical Society (APS) as Apker recipients/finalists (the highest award in the nation for undergraduate research in physics) in recent years. Additionally, a Hamilton professor was recognized recently by the APS for his contributions to the field of physics (in fundamental neutron physics) and his mentoring of students. Williams, whose graduates have received more Apker Awards than those from any other school of its type, should be considered as well. Reed, which maintains a nuclear reactor on campus for research, Haverford and Bowdoin also may be of interest.


I graduated high school at 16 and started university one week after my 17th birthday. In retrospect I think that I might have been better off to take a gap year if I could have thought of something sensible to do during the gap year. The academics was not a problem at all. Everything else is a bit tough when this young and far from home.

To be honest you sound quite mature for your age and probably more ready to start university than I was. However, you still might want to think about whether it would make sense to take a gap year and what you might do. If you get into Dartmouth ED, you can ask them whether they would allow a gap year and hold your admission for a year.

I agree about running the NPC on Dartmouth. If there is nothing unusual (parents not divorced, no rental property, no private business, …) then the NPC is likely to be reasonably accurate.

You will want to take a few computer science classes. There is for example a lot of use of computers (and math) in the parts of physics that I was most familiar with over the years. I was “physics/math” until quantum physics, then decided on applied math (which I really liked, but which goes well with some CS knowledge and ability).

To me it seems reasonable for you to apply ED to Dartmouth as long as it is clearly your #1 choice and the NPC suggests that is is likely to be affordable. Make sure that you also apply to safeties, and keep your budget in mind.

If I were you I would ED to Middlebury or Wesleyan. I think those are much likelier than Dartmouth and meet full demonstrated need.

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If your family makes $75,000 or less, Rice is free if you can gain admission. It’s top notch for Physics/Math.

Dartmouth is great, but you need to have other options that are both attainable and affordable because there are no guarantees at a school like Dartmouth.

I’m wondering what the area of Physics that you’re interested in studying is because need to have a list of schools, not just one to aspire to.

If you would like to view colleges by their number of physics majors, IPEDS can be useful for this. Dartmouth, for example, graduated 9 physics majors in a recent year: College Navigator - Dartmouth College.

TBH, if you are 16 y/o and applying to all T20 universities and LACs, you better have a hook. Right now you only have one: Your geographic location vis a vis the best-known eastern seaboard schools. IMO, an interest and probable major in Physics would earn you a second look by an adcom at some of the smaller universities like Dartmouth. What was the break down in your ACT composite scores?

Someone mentioned the Apker Prize upstream. Wesleyan is the only LAC in the last 20 years to have multiple winners and finalists in the separate University division (which, btw, would include Dartmouth) because of its small doctoral program. If you like Dartmouth’s size you might also take a look at Tufts and Wesleyan. With a family income of $75,000, it would be hard to imagine not getting substantial need-based financial aid from these wealthy Ivy and NESCAC colleges. But, do your own research and by all means, run as many NPCs as you possibly can.


Note that on Haverford’s current CDS (2021-22), the spaces for the foreign language expectation (section C5) appear blank.

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If you’re interested in small and want Physics and Math, I’d second Wesleyan. My D did Physics at Wes. In addition to the points referenced by @circuitrider, Wesleyan has a very good complimentary Astro Dep’t, if that is of interest. To say it (Astro) punches above its weight would be an understatement. A small sampling of Astro news:

As for Wesleyan Physics as a stand-alone, in addition to @circuitrider ’s point about Apker winners and finalists in the big-boy division, Wesleyan Physics is frequently cited as among the best in the LAC category:

Wesleyan also tends to outspend its LAC peers in research spending dollars (often by a wide margin) and will have a brand new science facility by fall of 2026.

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Didn’t mean to reply to @circuitrider but rather to @saasd_asdasd