Need help finding suitable target schools

Hey, I’m an incoming senior and about to begin the college selection and application process. I’ve never really put a lot of emphasis on college during my high school career like a lot of other kids, so I’m feeling slightly late to the game. My stats are a 1510 SAT composite (first try), and about 3.8 unweighted (4.27 weighted) GPA. My school doesn’t rank. I plan on taking the SAT Math 2 Subject test and am extremely confident on scoring an 800. I also plan on taking the US history test…but I’m not so sure about this one. On a side note, my counselor says that essays will matter more than my subject test scores, but I don’t know how true this. Can anyone substantiate this?
I’m really into running—have participated in track and XC for all of high school and will continue to do so next year and into college. I’m decent at it, so no chance of a big scholarship. I haven’t been in many clubs because I don’t really enjoy many of them. I tried model UN and hated it. It just feels disingenuous to pad a college application by attending clubs you couldn’t care less about, and like I mentioned, I didn’t particularly pay any mind to college prior to this summer.
I’ve been in a religiously affiliated volunteer org for my entire life, so I’ve probably racked up more than 1000+ hours of volunteering in various activities like park cleanup, food bank, homeless shelter and nursing home visits.
So, What schools should I target (like what range of admission percentage)? And also how good of a chance do I have at getting into my state school, UT Austin?
My other, crude considerations are U of Oregon, CU Boulder, American University, UNC Chapel hill, Washington University and maybe Rice.
I don’t really want to go to Cali…too expensive especially considering my family is FAR from qualifying for aid (trust me). So I’d consider the northwest, Colorado, and maybe northeast (but not really). I like it where it rains btw.

But ultimately I’d like to save money by staying in-state

UT Austin automatically admits to the campus (but not necessarily to a competitive major like CS or business) if you have top 6% class rank as a Texas resident, but is a reach otherwise.

My school doesn’t rank. I also don’t know what to study. So I might settle on a general science field like biology, or even go undeclared. Do I have a solid chance if not going for a selective major?

Forgot to mention: SAT was 800 math and 710 reading/writing. Don’t know if that matters or not

If you are not able to gain automatic admission to UT Austin, you should treat UT Austin as a reach.

Apparently, UT Austin will assign a guessed rank for you based on your GPA and school profile, which often shows things like quartiles or quintiles of GPA. That guessed rank will be used when evaluating you in competition for the remaining 25% of admission places not given to top 6% rank applicants.

Do they prioritize in-state students for those remaining spots? I feel like my scores and GPA are mildly competitive

Really any advice would be appreciated. Please reply :slight_smile:

What have your parents told you about your college budget? Do they have a figure that they want you to stay under?

Track and your volunteer work are perfectly fine as ECs. Don’t worry about that anymore.

There are plenty of places that admit based on grades and test scores, and don’t require any essays at all. So find a couple of those for your safeties and low matches. If you like them well enough, you might never have to write any essays at all.

OP: What is your vision of college ?

For example: What type of social life / social activities do you enjoy ?

Any interest in fraternity or sorority life ?

Do you enjoy any type of athletic or outdoor activities ?

Do you plan on any religious activities / volunteer work while in college ?

Your numbers (SAT & GPA) open up a lot of possibilities.

Do you prefer a large, medium, or small school environment ?

If you are really into running and want to continue running in college, maybe you should be looking at more Division 3 schools (typically LACs). The schools on your list are mostly D1, and it may not be realistic to think you’ll be able to run at those schools given your description of your times as “decent”. For example, in the geographic area you mention, you could take a look at D3 schools like Colorado College (although it is on a one-class at a time block schedule, so a little unusual and depends on the person), Lewis & Clark, University of Puget Sound, Whitman, etc. (or, in Texas, maybe Trinity University in San Antonio) My son, who also really loves to run, looked at some D1 schools but eventually chose D3, and he is having a great time. On the question of subject tests, I think your counselor is probably right. Very few schools require subject tests or put a lot of focus on them, whereas all schools require essays and they can be very important. Some schools require both Common App essay and school-specific essays, so it can also be a lot of work. If I were you, I would spend time this summer working on the Common App essay so you can get that out of the way. I agree with @happymomof1 on the ECs - a few that you are serious about and have pursued long-term should be fine.


Ideally, my parents would like to stay under 30k/yr. It’s possible for them to pay more, say if I got into an ivy-league caliber there wouldn’t be a budget (haha), but they don’t really see a point otherwise.
I’ll look into the schools that you mentioned.


Q#1: In a broad sense, I want a college setting where academics are strong, but where pressure to achieve and the competition between students is lower. I also want to be able to train comfortably without having to stress about finding a place to run. Campus setting matters a lot. With the exception of my state school, UT Austin, I prefer not to attend an urban school.

Q#2: I’d much rather spend time alone or be with one or two very close friends. This goes for any kind of activity. I enjoy reading books. Fiction, research, psychology, self-help, sports science–you name it.

Q#3: If there is one thing I’m certain about, it’s that I have no interest whatsoever in fraternities. I haven’t had many good experiences with these types of people. Drinking culture at the schools I will consider is important.

Q#4: Without question my favorite hobby is competitive running. Like I mentioned before, campus scenery and running trails will play a big role in where I end up going.

Q#5: I may end up joining a club or two. However, this isn’t that important to me. I will likely take up volunteering in my free time such as helping out at the local food bank.

Q#6: Small to medium is preferable, with the exception of UT Austin of course.


You’re right. Running is a huge deal for me. My current times are 4:57 (mile), 10:29 (2mile) and 17:23 (5k). Do these look competitive enough for even the D3 schools you listed?
I’ve been injured for long bouts at a time, so it’s been hard for me to improve upon these marks, and with all that’s going on with coronavirus, it’s even less likely that I will lower them enough by next year to be a walk-on.

I will admit, I chose many of the schools on my “list” purely because of the running scene, not really b/c I thought I had any chances of running for their programs. Also, U of O and CU boulder do offer decent scholarships for OOS students, so if I can’t go to UT, they might be good choices.

On the same note, would you happen to know if any of the small D3 schools you listed offer scholarships for students like me? They seems to be quite pricey which is why I didn’t really consider them. I’m in no place at all for financial aid.

@hansen9952 Your stats would be sufficient for merit scholarships at UNM and the Arizona flagships (although both U of A and ASU are huge; Barrett Honors College at ASU would make a large school smaller). At UNM your stats would qualify for the Amigo scholarship (in state costs - total COA < 20K per year. There is also a presidential award which is full tuition or full ride.

If you don’t mind hot weather, you could run at any of these campuses year round. However, there’s not a lot of rain at any of them!

You’d probably also be eligible for merit at UT-D.

Are you likely to be NMF eligible? That could open doors at Alabama or the FL public universities?

Smaller schools in the Pacific NW that offer merit scholarships include Puget Sound, Willamette, Lewis & Clark, and Whitman. In CO, maybe try U of Denver. Merit for OOS is not great at CU-Boulder. U of WY has pretty good auto merit for OOS.

Western Washington U is in a beautiful location (Bellingham, WA) and with the Western Award for Excellence it would come in at budget. If you are into outdoor recreation, it’s idyllic.

I couldn’t be more grateful for all of your replies! Thanks

I’m unfortunately not qualified for NMF status. My 1410 PSAT is not nearly as good as my 1510, and because Texas is rather competitive, I miss the cut-off by a couple points. Damn, I should’ve cared more :confused:

Running, rain, religion, desire for low cost / easily affordable COA, and strong numbers (SAT & GPA) suggest that you should at least consider large Southern public school honors college as you are eligible for full tuition scholarships.

At the D-I level, the best track & field is in the Pac 12 and in the SEC. Would you rather finish in third place at an SEC / Pac 12 meet or compete for first place in a D-III contest ? (Very different type of athlete in D-I versus D-III programs.)

WashUStL may be a poor fit if you do not want an academically intense environment.

University of Oregon & any large public university in the South should be a good match for you even though you wrote that you prefer a small to medium sized school. The large public honors colleges really allow one to experience both worlds in terms of size.

P.S. I cannot overemphasize the difference between D-III & D-I running.

Well it rains in Columbus. You’d probably get the National Buckeye scholarship at Ohio State and some other smaller merit aid to come in at your price point. There are very active running clubs that compete with other local colleges. The Olentangy Trail is a 22 mile green way that runs right through campus. The campus has a very urban feel along High Street, traditional college campus pedestrian walkways with open green lawns and big trees around the Oval, athletic fields and even some farmland on west campus. A surprising amount of diversity in the way the campus feels depending on where you are on it. Fraternities/sororities are easily avoided, lots of other active organizations on campus.

Do you have any idea on major?

Try to find out an approximate class rank. This will be the most important factor in determining which Texas public universities are realistic for admission for you.

Outside of Texas public universities, class rank is much less important, but getting the costs into your price limit will be the main constraint on your college choice. If need-based financial aid will not be enough, you need to aim lower on the selectivity range to be able to earn large enough merit scholarships.