Need to whittle down my selection of universities

I am a high school senior who desperately needs to narrow the list of universities to apply to (to 8).

Overview of myself:

SAT:1490, SAT Math II: 790, SAT Chem: 760
In my freshman year of high school, I self-studied calculus and took the AP Calculus AB Exam. I got a 5 on it and exhausted the math curriculum at my high school so they allowed me to use my AP exam score to enter Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth Online Programs to take individually paced mathematics courses weighted as AP at my high school. They consist of proctored exams, a textbook, and grad student or professor as an instructor over phone and e-mail.
I have taken the following in CTYOnline which show up on my high school transcript:
AP Caclulus BC (B)
Linear Algebra (A)
Multivariable Calc (A)
Differential Equations (A)
Introduction to Abstract Mathematics (A)
Real Analysis (currently taking)
*note: each course I take every semester (I took Linear and Multivariable in the same one)

I have taken the hardest course offerings at my high school with superb grades (all As except for B in Spanish and Honors English in 10th grade).

Significant ECs: Section leader for marching band’s percussion line. I have also written two cadences that we regularly play at performances. I have a wonderful letter of rec from our percussion instructor to back it up. I created the school’s first math club this year which focuses on competition and presentation/seminar. I also am the head lighting designer/technician for our school’s plays. I have more ECs but they are not as significant as these three.

My preferences:
I enjoy cold weather and detest hot and humid weather. I am pretty certain I do not want to be south of where I live (Pittsburgh). I think I would rather have an actual campus than a city campus but I wouldn’t hate a city school just for that reason. I want rigorous academics that could put me in a good graduate program following undergrad (I know I want to further my education past undergrad regardless of whether or not it is in mathematics). I want a more collaborative atmosphere within the uni. My two favorite cities I have gone to are Boston and Chicago.
Not only do I want a wonderful math education, but I also want a well-rounded education.
The main trouble I have is thinking about safety schools.
I would like a place with either a marching band and/or a theater program I could work in.

List (a lot of these are from what a CMU professor recommended I look into based on my interest in math) :

MIT (already applied EA)
UChicago (top pick overall I think. I loved the campus when I visited and I love the core cirriculum)
Cornell University
U of Wisconsin-Madison
U of Michigan- Ann Arbor
U of Minnesota
UC Berkeley
U of Illinois
University of Rochester
Boston College

I need to narrow down this list (preferably to 8 schools). Please even suggest other schools whether it be a safety or a reach school. I feel that I have too many reaches as it is on here. However, I do have confidence that my application will stand out due to my demonstrated passion with math and my ECs. Thank you!

Running the NPC would be a good way to start narrowing your list. For example Berkeley has no OOS financial aid so may be off the table.

Utah would be a good (and cheap) safety school with full tuition and competitive full ride scholarships available (deadline Dec 1). The best math students have an excellent record in achieving national recognition and going on to top grad schools (

Why not CMU? Or Penn State? You might like the University of Waterloo in Canada.

I would start with taking off several of the expensive out of state public schools and adding one or two in state public schools.

A few of your choices – MIT, UChicago, Harvard, URochester – appear in a Princeton Review Sampling, “Great Schools for Mathematics Majors,” which may be an aspect in support of their inclusion.

I definitely do not want to be in Pittsburgh. Both of my parents and all of my extended family are actually from Canada. I have thought about University of Toronto and University of Waterloo.

Do you want to stay in the east coast? I would also eliminate OOS. Some great schools in my area of the country are: Whitman, Gonzaga, Reed, and Stanford (think you may have heard of this school :).
I would keep JHU, Rochester, MIT, Northeastern and Chicago then maybe take out an ivy and the OOS.
Just my two cents, you have some nice stats so sure you will have some good choices.
On my list Gonzaga would be closest to a safety for you, the other 3 are pretty competitive.

At what level do you anticipate entering the math curriculum in college? That is, do you plan on retaking any or all of multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, real analysis and modern algebra? Or is your goal to enter the college math curriculum at a stage beyond the level represented by these courses?

I was going to suggest U of T as well, but the tuition is higher than Waterloo, but still not as high as many US schools. Both U of T and Waterloo will provide you with rigorous academics in math (and other subjects) and access to top research which will allow you to pursue grad school at a top program in the US (or elsewhere).

Are you a Canadian citizen? Was one of your parents born in Canada? If yes to either of these questions, you would qualify for Canadian tuition which is a bargain compared to US schools.

Berkeley off the list would reduce by one.
Full fees of $65K per year, as a non-resident, should deter it from being on your list.

A lot depends on what your parents can pay. Nine of your schools say they meet full need and six (five publics and Rochester) don’t. If you can pay $70K a year, all of the schools are at least possible. If you can only pay $50K, Berkeley is not possible. If you can pay $35K or less, maybe none of the OOS publics are possible.

I infer from your list that you are not interested in small liberal arts colleges. Many of them have outstanding math programs and tick a lot of your other boxes.

Also, your profile just screams CMU. Like, so loud. Any chance you might reconsider?!?

Also also: If UChicago is truly your first choice, consider applying ED2. An ever-increasing % of the incoming class is scooped up in ED1, ED2 and EA. leaving few slots left in RD even for outstanding candidates.

At top schools, I plan on getting whatever I can get in terms of credit from my math courses. If that means studying for placement exams out of the ones I have taken in high school (like MIT’s ASE) then that is what I’ll do. If it means taking harder versions of the courses over again at an amazing place like MIT or UChicago, then I will gladly do that.

Your list is extremely reach-heavy. As several of the prior posters have suggested, add Penn State, leave in Northeastern and Rochester, and cut out several of the Ivies and most of the OOS.

Have you visited any /many of the schools that you mention, in addition to Chicago?

Did you visit Northwestern when you visited UChicago? If marching band is important to you, Northwestern is one of the few private elites with a real marching band. (I think the only other cold-weather one would be Notre Dame, which I believe is also strong enough in math to be a candidate for your list - have you considered it?) In the public flagships, Michigan and Minnesota are great band-wise. Cornell’s marching band isn’t on the same level but it’s more than the other Ivies/JHU/UChicago/URochester have (although JHU and Rochester of course have superb classical music through Peabody/Eastman).

Berkeley seems like an outlier given the OOS cost and not being particularly a match EC or climate-wise. Toronto and Waterloo are, as you say, both top math programs and likely more affordable than your US OOS public choices even if you don’t have Canadian citizenship. (Waterloo’s band has the tagline, “Causing hearing loss since 1966”…)

Sounds like you should have great choices - good luck!

What’s your budget?
Have you run the NPC on them all be shown results to your parents?
I’d cross out all oos public’s unless you’re certain you can afford them and I’d select only 2-3 in the match range I’d you can.
I’d cross out BC.
Add Williams.
Definitely Waterloo for math.

What do you want in a school? Aside from cold weather and a good math program, size? Greek life? Living on/off campus after freshman year? What have you researched about the schools on your list and like/don’t like? Its getting late— aside from MIT, have you applied anywhere?

I wouldn’t cross off Boston College at all. Not sure why someone would suggest that to you. Add Williams. As for BC. Beautiful campus. Best or near top college city. New billion dollar cutting edge integrated science building and department opening in 2020. New billion dollar student center. New engineering school being opened. And an excellent marching band with some good teams to support. And it’s colder than Pittsburgh but similar regular people vibe in the city. It has an excellent and well regarded core curriculum with and innovative 6 credit pulse option. Which includes work off campus with needy and youth. In fact your description defines the school. It’s not Chicago intense but not that fat off in the science math and business schools.