Please chance and match my S23 STEM Athlete interested in Top Engineering Schools

White Male/ Mid-Upper Class
US Citizen
Prep Public HS, AP and IB Student, Spanish Immersion K-12
Baseball, Hockey Golf for Club or Rec options
Engineering, CS Majors
4.333 Weighted, AP STEM, IB LA, Spanish Immersion

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.87
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 34 ACT, 1440 PSAT (cold)
    *(AP/IB/Dual Enrollment classes, AP/IB scores for high school; AP Math 5’s, AP Science 5’s, Spanish Immersion Gold Seal

Awards–many academic awards

*NHS, Student Leadership-First Mate, Robotics, Hockey, Baseball, Golf, Global Business Program, Backpack tutor, library volunteer, youtube channel

Looking for Merit Scholarship options if possible

Notre Dame
Carnegie Melon
Harvey Mudd
Santa Clara

  • Safety * Union
  • Likely * Boulder
  • Match–would like 8-10,000 undergrad Engineering Major, and social/rec sport options, Thank you!

What is your budget? That is likely the most important question to address first.

Your list, especially for Computer Science, likely is not terribly realistic as it is top heavy with high reach schools, few (if any) offer scholarships (Purdue does [but seldom to CS students] and Vanderbilt and Notre Dame do [but they are uber-competitive]).

By way of comparison, my S22 is a NMF, 34 ACT, President of his robotics team (2nd place in the state), IB candidate, and 4.3/3.9 w/uw GPA. He is going to Alabama on a full ride (more or less). He was admitted OOS to Texas A&M, Iowa State, and Arizona State. Oh…and he is doing Computer Science.

His best friend, who is a ORM with comparable stats, was denied at MIT and is expecting a denial at CMU. But, he got into Georgia Tech (no scholarship).

If you read the admissions thread on Colorado-Boulder, many CS candidates are not being admitted to the major, but rather to a FYE program (many with comparable or higher stats than your son).

I take it you are in Minnesota. You have an excellent in state option. I believe there is some scholarship for Minnesota students at Wisconsin (another excellent option). Iowa State is both inexpensive and offers scholarships (while being an excellent school).


I very much agree that you should be looking at both UMN and U.Wisconsin.

I have worked with graduates from Wisconsin and at one point worked with a team from Wisconsin on a software project. They were very good and it is quite a good university. My vague recollection is that there is some sort of tuition break between Minnesota and Wisconsin but I do not recall the details.

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Thank you for excellent FB and congrats to your son! My son is focused on Engineering (not sure on specialty) and budget is as much merit as he can get, however not keen on UofM or Madison (too big) We have not looked @ Iowa St. Trying to catch ORM acronym?
(trying to change my username, just emailed the admin)

I don’t think you will see merit options based on those stats. Sadly, merit is pretty rare and especially competitive in STEM. Go for it, but plan for affordable options as well. The landscape has changed a lot. Kids going into STEM have amazing stats and Ecs.


Thank you, and yes reciprocity is granted @ UW/Madison for MN residents which is awesome, but again my son did not love it for size and split campus. Open to other Engineer. Major Schools?

What are your thoughts on the competitive school selection, all reach schools?

Hi, and congrats to your kid on a strong record! I agree with others that this list contains a lot of schools with low likelihood of admit for even excellent students, and that it needs more schools that have higher probabilities of acceptance, especially if you are hoping for merit money. The problem is just one of odds–there are just so many excellent candidates and they can’t take them all. This is true even for National Merit Finalists, 36 ACT, captain of multiple sports, many years advanced in Math, lots of volunteering, etc kids. So yes, still apply to these schools (because he is qualified to do the work) but also add some others schools. I agree with U of MN (where he will get Merit, although they are giving out less than in previous years), and Iowa and Madison if he is ok staying in the midwest. Also if he turns out to be NMF, he may want to consider auto-merit schools such as Arizona, Alabama, and University of Texas Dallas (which is DIII for sports and has a fun quirky vibe) Good luck!

Messaging you.

ORM is “over represented minority” which means mostly Asian/Asian-American.


Unfortunately these schools on your list do not offer merit scholarships:
Carnegie Mellon

and Notre Dame offers very little merit.


Looking at some of the schools that you listed.

MIT I probably know more than the rest, since I went there. With a 3.87 unweighted GPA, the first obvious question is where did his small number of B’s show up. Any B’s at all in math or science classes are a red flag for MIT. B’s in a few humanities classes probably really do not matter. If I assume A’s and A+'s in math and science classes, and mostly A’s and a few B’s in other classes, your son is probably not very far off from the average applicant to MIT. It is a reach.

Yale is not particularly known for engineering or computer science. “Mid-upper class” sounds to me like it is hinting at “no need based aid”. I do not think that I would want to pay $80,000 per year to be an engineering major at Yale if I could do Wisconsin for a third of the cost. I do not think that Yale admits by major and it is also a reach.

Carnegie Mellon has one of the very best CS programs in the US. It is also a reach. Harvey Mudd is similarly a reach.

I do not know whether UC Boulder is likely. One daughter got in with very similar stats and was offered merit aid. However, she was not a CS or engineering major which probably makes a big difference (and not in your favor). I do not think that it is a safety for a CS or engineering major out of state. I do like Boulder as a small city.

I do not know the other schools that you listed as well.

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If you are looking for as much merit as possible, then you probably should consider: Bama, Bama-Huntsville, New Mexico, Nevado-Reno, Iowa State, and Arizona (though the scuttlebutt is that is going away). You will find that you can see whether a university offers auto-merit by searching the university website.


My son has higher stats in all categories and has been rejected/wl at all but safeties. White male is really going to hurt you (same boat). Purdue is possible, not familiar with Santa Clara and having spent lots of time in this process this year, your son will likely not get in any of the other targets you listed- doesn’t hurt to apply but its incredibly unlikely. Kids with 1600 and 4.8s with 15 APs are getting rejected at top CS programs - go look at the UIUC or MIT thread this year. Top programs are really unattainable without a hook. If your kid is a recruited athlete that changes everything but they should already be in recruitment cycles as a junior. I’d forget the top 15 and start finding favorites among the 15-30 range.


Your son has some very impressive stats and is likely to do well anywhere he lands. College admissions, however, have become extremely competitive and difficult for even the most highly qualified applicants. There are far more qualified applicants than there are spots at the most selective universities, so chances are very slim for all. Thus, if your son has a particular favorite or two that he would like to apply to, I certainly think he would stand a shot, but I would not have the schools you’ve listed make up the bulk of his college application list.

Computer science and engineering are among the most competitive majors at any university, and because they are so popular, admissions standards are often significantly higher for students aiming for those majors (as an example, SAT scores might be 100-200 points higher than the university’s average). One thing to be aware of is whether a college is “direct admit” meaning that your child is accepted as a computer science or mechanical engineering major (or whatever particular major he indicates), or whether he’s accepted into pre-CS or pre-engineering and then would need to apply for the major after 1-2 years at the university. As nearly all of the students in the “pre-majors” have very competitive backgrounds from high school, the competition can be stiff to then get into the major. How competitive it is, however, can vary from university to university.

Here are a few lists that may be helpful as your family undergoes this college search:

* Best Colleges for Computer Science

If you say, “My son is not a “B” student!” I totally agree with you. However, admissions have become so very competitive for CS majors that these are the schools where the likelihood of acceptance is higher. And even here, there are some that are becoming very competitive in CS, like UT-Dallas.

If you are able to give any kind of a number (like $x/year after all aid) that would be very useful to avoid giving you names of colleges that are unlikely to meet that figure. Also, pick one of the schools that you have on your list and use the NFC calculator to see what the college thinks your family would be able to pay. If that is a number that your family is able and willing to pay, then let us know. If not, that means that you will be searching for merit aid to meet your number.


This list might look a little overwhelming, but it contains either 1) the schools you mentioned in your first post, or 2) colleges that are ABET accredited (pretty much necessary if your son decides to go into engineering) that have hockey, golf, and baseball. Some are a bit bigger than 8-10k and some are a bit smaller, but all stayed in bounds of what you had on your original list. As budget is a big question mark, that is something you will need to determine. But, generally, the likelier a university is for admittance, the more generous a merit aid package is likely to be.

This list is sorted by my very fallible sense as to what might be your son’s chances for acceptance. Your son doesn’t need to apply to universities in all of these categories. But every university your son applies to should be one that he would be happy to attend. And your son definitely should include universities in the guaranteed/extremely likely category to assure himself a spot at a college he’ll love. Frankly, I often find it best to start a college search by looking for universities that excite a student that are likeliest for admission, and then work towards adding less likely admittances, if they are desired.


  • Iowa State

Extremely Likely (90+%)

  • Marquette (WI)
  • U. of Dayton (OH)
  • U. of New Hampshire
  • U. of St. Thomas (MN)
  • Seattle University (WA)
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology (MA)
  • Western Washington

Likely (60-90%)

  • College of New Jersey
  • Gonzaga (WA)
  • U. of San Diego (CA)
  • U. of Denver (CO)
  • Bradley (IL)
  • Michigan Technological
  • U. of the Pacific (CA)
  • U. of Colorado

Toss-Up (40-60%)

  • Colorado School of Mines
  • Santa Clara (CA)
  • Worcester Polytechnic (MA)
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic (NY)
  • Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ)
  • Syracuse (NY)
  • SUNY Binghamton (NY)
  • Loyola Marymount (CA)
  • Baylor (TX)
  • Union College (NY)

Possible (15-40%)

  • Lehigh ( PA)
  • Villanova ( PA)
  • Case Western (OH)
  • U. of Miami (FL)

Less Likely (less than 15%)

  • MIT
  • Yale
  • U. of Notre Dame
  • Vanderbilt
  • Carnegie Mellon
  • Harvey Mudd

So looking at your list and I know you’ve already been told about Merit. So if you are full pay (and we don’t know), but if you are and you can’t afford $325-340K or you don’t want to afford it, that’s an easy way to eliminate some schools.

Of your list, I think Santa Clara is likely and Boulder would be more likely than Santa Clara but is strong in STEM. Union (if in NY) is not a safety but a match.

If you say 8-10K undergrad and I assume you are talking about the school, not just engineering - Purdue would be too big. But as others said, UMN and Wisconsin would make sense as both are strong but Purdue is relatively inexpensive at full pay so I understand why you would have it.

Harvey Mudd is less than 1K and Union barely 2K kids so if your goal is 8-10K, the same way Purdue is too large you could make that argument to the other side.

You say engineering and CS majors - so do you think if enineering that it’s Computer Engineering or another type?

Rather than CU Boulder, a school within your size range and one you’d likely get in is Colorado School of Mines. You might also look at RPI - which I’d say is a target. I think UAH would be a great safety (in your size range) with excellent job prospects and merit that you would crush.

Best of luck to you.

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The list you have is challenging. But you should still try. I am always the optimist. But there is room to be creative. Start with U Mn – your state flagship. Lock that up early. Think about Madison as someone suggested up-thread. Show a lot of love in the application. Have a coherent narrative of who you are, and why that particular school fits you like a glove, and why you can’t think of being anywhere else. Also explore options that are easier admits – as it stands, the list by itself is risky, perhaps with the exception of Santa Clara that I know nothing about. Choose an ED wisely and start with that first.

Think of UPitt rolling admission. Look at Rutgers, Penn State. EA to all these.

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As the parent, your job is to figure out what budget is actually doable without parent loans or compromising your retirement or college funding for any younger kids. Knowing what the limit is will give context when searching for colleges to see what is more or less likely to be affordable, based on net price calculators and merit scholarships.

You mention Union as a safety. Are you certain that it is affordable? List price is almost $77k per year, according to Financial Aid | Union College . If it not affordable for certain, it cannot be a safety.


I agree. Even though the university is larger than they indicate they want, the school of science and engineering gives it a smaller feel. Many of the STEM students live together in an LLC. Another option is to join the Honors college and live in the honors dorm. A good friend of mine’s child had very high stats indeed, ended up at the U of MN, and is happy there.