Penn/Northwestern/Brown/Yale ED? Need help picking one

This is my first post, so please bear with me. I’m a junior and just finished visiting some colleges and am looking for input. I’d like to know people’s opinions of these 4 colleges for a math major (I liked all of them) and I’d like to narrow it down to ONE for ED. Would like honest opinions - and if you want to throw in your $0.02 on my chances, I’d welcome that too! Here’s some background about me. Thanks in advance!

  • Male
  • Born and currently living in CA
    -US Citizen
  • Upper-middle class
  • Public IB high school
  • No legacy
  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.99/4.0
  • Weighted HS GPA 4.35
  • SAT: 1560 PSAT: 1520 (prob national merit semifinalist dunno?)
    Currently enrolled in Linear Algebra/Multivariable Calculus
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With Northwestern, if you are not early, you are late :-). Penn also cares a lot of about ED. Yale cares less about, partly because they have no ED – it is an EA. Not sure about Brown – it is quirky.


Based on your intended major of math, this site may be of interest: For Students Seeking a College Strong in Mathematics.

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Are you doing the full IB diploma program? If yes, what’s your predicted grade? Additionally, do you mind briefly mentioning your ECs (just to get a more comprehensive picture of you as an applicant). I feel that if your IB PG is 40+ you should be competitive for any of these EDs! But in determining where to ED, you should be considering how well these schools fit your goals, planned major, personality etc. :slight_smile:


Your stats just qualifies you to be competitive.
What else do you have to differentiate you?

  • AMC12, AMC Qual for 4 years with Distinction, AIME scores?
  • What leadership roles?
  • What committed EC, such as Eagle Scout
  • Internship/research?

My S22 will major in math.
He’s waiting to hear back from 10 more, but he’s most likely going to MIT.

I would not recommend Yale for math, in comparison to the other 3.


Has your family used the EFC calculators at each of those four schools to see what each of those universities thinks that your family will be able to contribute annually? Is your family able and willing to pay that number? If yes, keep considering your ED options (and I think all of these meet financial need without loans, but double-check…that could make a difference to you). If the EFC is not within your family’s budget, stop right there and do not consider ED at any school. You will now need to consider schools that fall within your budget and/or are likely to provide sufficient merit aid to meet the budget.

Once you’ve run the numbers and you’re still thinking about ED, then you should ED to the college that is your #1 choice. The one where you think there is the best fit for YOU (whether that’s the attitude of fellow students, particular faculty, the calendar, special opportunities, the curriculum, etc). Then, if you get in, congratulations, you got into your top choice, rather than trying to play an ED “game” and end up applying to an institution because you think it will improve your chances, but you really would have preferred to go somewhere else if you knew you were going to get in. I.E. if you know you’re getting into your first choice, that’s where you go. Apply EA to others, and RD if ED doesn’t come out the way you want, but don’t apply ED unless a university is clearly your FIRST choice.

Even if you do find a school that you want to ED to, make sure you develop a balanced list of schools to apply to RD/EA if ED doesn’t work out how you hope it will. A balanced list will contain schools where your acceptance is extremely likely (90+%), likely (60-90%), possible (25-55%), and less likely (less than 25%) or even slim (less than 10%). You don’t need schools in the least likely categories, but you do want schools where your acceptance is extremely likely or guaranteed (i.e. there’s a chart or similar with auto admit info that you meet). But the most important thing about this list…every school on it should be one that you would be happy to attend…and the likeliest schools need to be affordable for your family.

If you need help in developing a balanced list, let us know.


Thanks! Yes, doing the full IB diploma, so far only one A-, the rest are As and A+. Unfortunately my weighted GPA gets dragged down a bit by the community college math classes I’m taking (no honors credit etc). ECs are debate, business club, xcountry, track, tutoring, volunteering - all with some leadership positions. Does this help? I’m just worried that the fact I’m an Asian male might count against me…

@huango - good points. Although I sincerely enjoy (and excel in) applied math, I am not particularly interested in or good at theoretical/pure math - the kind of math required for CS or the type involved in AMC/AIME/Ross type programs. Prob more suited to physics (but the math portion). So I’ve never done particularly well in those areas. Leadership roles: started a business club at school and tutoring business and career help site outside of school. Not an Eagle Scout.

While there seems to be a factor against Asian college applicants, you just have to go for it.

My S22 Asian classmates are doing well this year:
our HS is not a feeder school

  • Harvard (1st one accepted in many years)
  • ED Dartmouth
  • ED Cornell
    and a few others.

You should check out ADVITHA’s Asian daughter’s successes.
Her stats are stellar, but so are her applications/essays/research stuff.

Acceptances : MIT, Caltech, CMU SCS, Georgia Tech, Harvey Mudd, UMich COE, UCB, UCLA, UCSB Honors, UIUC, UWashington, UT Austin Turing Scholars, Purdue, Calpoly SLO, ASU Barrett and UMN (90% she applied as CSE, 1 or 2 as EE and Math+CS at MIT)

WaitLists : UCSC. UCI, UCSD, UCD

Rejections : Harvard (probably she was not meant to be there), Stanford

Best thing you can do for yourself is to get a great college essay coach: to help you craft the message of WHO you are.
Good luck.

@huango - Thanks!

MIT does not admit by major.

Statistically speaking, I think your ED chances of acceptance are highest at Northwestern. Followed by Brown, Penn (assuming A&S) and Yale.

If your parents are able to pay in full, you should also think about ED2. There are some top notch schools like Vanderbilt, WUSTL and UChicago which deserve consideration in case you don’t get into your ED1 choice.

I would probably put them in the order NW, Penn, Brown, Yale – only because Brown is quirkier.

Congratulations on your achievements. You will definitely be a national merit semifinalist with a 1520 out of 1520 on the PSAT.

Have you visited all of these schools either virtually or in person? Looked at the gen ed requirements? Math major requirements and elective offerings? Looked at the types of research the profs are doing? If you do those things, I would think things would start to clarify for you. I believe it’s easier to double major at NU and Brown because of the quarter system and open curriculum, respectively…something you might check into as well.

Beyond that what type of student vibe are you looking for? NU would have the best sports/most school spirit relative to the others (but not nearly to the level of Alabama or Miami). Penn is more work hard play hard compared to the others.

I understand the importance of the decision, as none of these schools have ED2, so basically where you don’t apply ED/SCEA, going RD means a reduced admission chance amidst the low single digit RD acceptance rates at each of these schools.

I agree with the poster who suggested you have an ED2 choice as well. Please spend time identifying at least one safety school that you would be happy to attend. What about Pitt rolling admissions? If you apply in August, you should be accepted in October.

Lastly, if you aren’t full pay, run each school’s NPC to make sure it’s affordable.

Exactly! ED is only appropriate if BOTH of the following are true: (i) It is affordable (either you are fine being full pay or you have run the NPC and it shows a likely financial aid that makes the university affordable for your family, and your parents agree); and (ii) You are sure that the school is your top choice. I would not apply ED anywhere unless both of these are true.

I would not worry about this. Universities will look at your actual transcript in detail. It is not going to hurt at all to have taken a community college class assuming that you did well in the class. Different high schools compute GPA so differently that the stated number is pretty much useless anyway.

It will, at least at top universities in the US. However, do not worry about anything that you cannot change. Make sure that you apply to safeties and you will be fine.

I was a math major. In graduate school (at Stanford) I discovered that the other students in the same program had gotten their bachelor’s degrees at a huge range of universities. Many had gotten their bachelor’s at an in-state public university. There are not a lot of secrets in mathematics that MIT and Harvard have somehow managed to hide from the professors at U.Mass Amherst, Rutgers, or any one of more than 100 other universities.

I was exactly the same. There fortunately are lots of things that you can do with a degree in applied math. Some computer science knowledge would be very useful. MIT for example has a “math with computer science” major (course 18C) which combines the two. You might want to look at Operations Research as one possibility, although I did this as a master’s degree after a bachelor’s in mathematics. AI and Machine Learning are other things that you can do with applied math. There are many other options also. Most of these will use some computer science along with mathematics.

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But putting aside this very true statement, there are 2 ways to look at ED:
1 – Get your 1st choice, Dream school earlier…Lets the school know that they are your first choice. Let’s you know if you are getting into your dream school before even submitting many of your other applications.
2 – Using ED to somewhat increase your chances of admission. The extent it helps is debatable, it probably depends on the school. But at most schools, it would seem applying ED does somewhat increase your chance of admission.

These 2 factors compliment each other, but do not always perfectly align. It’s a question of the realism of your dream school, and your backup plan. For example, hypothetically, imagine that ED increases your acceptance chances by 50%.
Let’s say you’re torn between 2 schools… 1 is extra prestigious, your chances of admission would only be 2%. The other is a good school, but less prestigious, you love the location, they have a program that is perfect for you… It’s a match, with a chance of acceptance of 40%.
Now, if the first school is totally your complete dream school… maybe go ED there and cross your fingers.
But again, if you also really love that second less competitive school… maybe it’s worth playing the odds and using ED there, even though it potentially means giving up your chance at the other school.

Basically… only apply ED if it’s your top choice. BUT, factoring the odds of acceptance can go into whether it’s a realistic top choice… whether you would regret that you never even got to apply to other choices.

In looking at your background, you would have a chance anywhere. I do suspect your odds at Yale would not be great. You have the stats, but your background and ECs don’t stand out.
I dare say you’d have a very decent chance of admission at Northwestern and U Penn. For Northwestern, you are above the 75th percentile for SAT, you have lots of rigor. For U Penn, just below the 75th percentile.
Both schools give a good boost for ED.
On the other hand, Yales ED acceptance rate is about the same at the Northwestern RD acceptance rate.

So apply ED at your top choice… whatever it may be. But recognize that the card may be more valuable at Northwestern or U Penn than it would be at Yale.