tl;dr - Typical high achieving kid gunning for the stars, but has little idea where else to consider applying. It’d be great if she could identify a safety or low match school she would genuinely be happy to attend.
My daughter just started her junior year. She’s taken 2 APs so far (AP Comp Sci and AP World History) with 5s on both. She’s taking 7 APs this year (Calc AB, Lang, US History, Bio, Japanese, Psych, and Studio Art). She got 1 B+ (in her honors pre-calc course) one semester but otherwise all As. Assuming she maintains her grades this year (which could be a big assumption given her course load), that’ll put her around a 3.98 UW GPA. She’s also planning on maxing out the rigor of her schedule her senior year as well, winding up with about 14-15 APs in total. (Context: Her school offers 22 APs. It’s a highly regarded public school in Washington state. Last year, about 5-10 kids went to Stanford, Princeton, MIT, Harvard, etc.) She keeps signing up for the ACT, and they keep rescheduling on her, but in her practice tests, she usually averages around a 35 on each section. Sometimes a 36, sometimes a 34. She would probably be the first to admit that her grades and test scores are more due to her strong work ethic rather than everything coming to her naturally and easily.
I think her main EC is genuinely pretty impressive, and I don’t know of anyone else doing something similar. Essentially, she designs and creates things for people. (I apologize for being vague, but I don’t want to doxx her.) She was supposed to go to YYGS (Applied Science and Engineering section) this summer but obviously had to postpone due to COVID. She also paints a lot (thus her taking AP Studio Art this year) in her spare time, but in all honesty, I don’t think her art would be considered among the best in the country or anything. She paints because she enjoys it. I think if there’s a theme to what she’s interested in, it’s creating stuff. Whether that’s art or making physical, useful things or even baking, she just likes making stuff.
What she’s looking for:
Right now she’s thinking of majoring in engineering–either mechanical or bio. The Product Design major within Stanford’s engineering department sounds ideal, since it’s got a good combination of engineering and the arts while emphasizing creating things. The Product Design major at a lot of other schools is a fine arts degree, which my daughter isn’t interested in. However, she doesn’t want to go to a nearly 100% STEM school like MIT either, since she wants the flexibility to see if there are other things she might want to pursue instead of engineering that she’s currently unaware of.
Finances aren’t a concern. Most private universities are around the same price, and we won’t qualify for financial aid. She doesn’t have a strong preference for geographic location. She doesn’t like hot climates, but she said for the right school, she could deal with it. There are things she likes and dislikes about large vs. small schools, so in the end the pros/cons cancel each other out, so school size is pretty much a non-factor.
Culturally, she would like a collaborative/friendly rather than competitive student body. (She puts enough pressure on herself, so it’d be best not to have a pressure cooker-type culture adding fuel to the fire.) That said, she wants to be around people of her ability and work ethic. Essentially, she wants to be at a school where people are there to learn and work. Don’t get me wrong: fun is great too, but only if the students are taking their academics seriously. (She attended a summer program on neuroengineering at the University of Washington a year ago, and she said it was like a breath of fresh air. During downtime, the other kids there were talking about the material they had just learned, classes they were going to take, projects they were working on, college admissions, etc., rather than their favorite YouTubers and TV shows.) She is not interested in Greek life, but it’s not a showstopper for her unless Greek life dominates the social scene. Same goes for sports. Last but not least, she’s currently very fixated in prestige, but I’m trying to help her move off of that!
Where she’s currently thinking of applying (in very rough order of preference since she doesn’t know them that well, and we sadly can’t visit):
Reaches - Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Rice, Duke, Cornell, Penn, Northwestern
High matches/low reaches - University of Washington (engineering department has separate admissions process, otherwise it’d be a match), Berkeley, UCLA, CMU
Regular matches - University of Michigan, Northeastern, Boston U, UT Austin (these could still be on the high match side tbh)
Low matches - Colorado School of Mines, Case Western Reserve, University of Rochester
Safeties - Purdue?
(Everyone defines reaches, matches, etc. differently. My definition is that for a reach, her chance of getting in given her stats and ECs is <10%. High matches are 10-35%. Regular matches are 35-60%. Low matches are 60-95%. Safeties are 95-100%.)
I realize the list of schools is very reach-heavy and also probably has too many schools on it. How might you modify this list? In particular, she’s very concerned she might have to settle for a low match or safety school, so if there are any safety schools you can think of that would be a great fit for her that she’d be happy to attend, that would be enormously helpful.