Please help chance a rising senior for HYPSM

Hi everyone! I’m applying to colleges this fall, so I’m just looking for a brutally honest assessment of my chances and how I should apply. MIT is my dream school, which is why I’m applying EA, but would there be a better strategy?

In case my application is not up to standard, other choices include REA Harvard (my school has good connections) and Yale (I heard they’re recruiting strong stem students). I was also thinking about applying ED to UChicago or UPenn (though I’d prefer not to), because of strong school connections and legacy, respectively. Thanks for the help!

Demographics

  • US domestic
  • Massachusetts
  • Prep school, strong humanities
  • Asian male
  • Legacy at UPenn

Intended Major(s)
Math, computer science

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 93.6 (deflated grades)
  • Weighted HS GPA: N/A
  • Class Rank: Top decile
  • SAT Score: 1560 (760 RW, 800 M)

Coursework (college level)

Freshman: AP Computer Science A (5)

Sophomore: Advanced Computer Programming, AP Calculus BC (5)

Junior: Data Structures and Algorithms, AP English Language, AP English Literature, AP Latin, AP Physics 1, Linear Algebra

Senior: Data Mining and Analytics, AP Economics, AP Physics C, Creative Writing, Multivariable and Vector Calculus

Note: According to my counselor, the post-APs should look just as good, if not better than APs

Awards

  • USAMO Qualifier, 2 x USAJMO Qualifier, USAJMO Top 60
  • Schoolwide math award (only recipient)
  • Honorable mention in notable statewide piano competition
  • USACO Silver Division
  • National Merit Semifinalist? (223 selection index)

Extracurriculars

  • Research in differential geometry with guidance from a T10 professor
  • Selective math program (e.g. PROMYS, Ross, etc.) for two summers, will learn higher math and conduct research in second year
  • Math club president, organize and lead team in national competitions
  • Created free math enrichment program for middle schoolers in local library
  • Piano, perform in various recitals and competitions, won several school and statewide awards
  • Classical music club president, organized school trips to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, created concert fundraiser to help Ukrainian refugees
  • Programming club president, lead team in projects and hackathons, invite guest speakers
  • Chief writer of school’s student newspaper
  • School leadership positions in tutoring, diversity and inclusion, and wellness
  • JV soccer, squash, tennis

Essays/LORs/Other

Common App: I’m writing about how piano helped me find my place during the difficult transition from public to prep school.

LoRs:

  • Linear algebra teacher and math club faculty advisor - knows me pretty well (9/10)
  • Latin teacher - did well in class (7/10)
  • Counselor - had a lot of meetings, very small class size (8/10)

Schools

  • Safety:

    • EA: UMass Amherst
  • Match:

    • EA: UIUC, UMD
    • RD: BU
  • Reach:

    • EA: MIT, UChicago, UMich
    • RD (in order of preference): Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, CMU, UPenn, Cornell

Your GC has better info on your ‘chances’ than anybody on CC. Here on CC you will get a certain amount of ‘wow, what a great profile - congrats’ and a certain amount of people dissecting and finding imaginary flaws in your cv, and mostly people saying “congrats, but you want schools that reject 90+% of their applicants”

I am going to go a different way: IF MIT rejects you it is likely to be for ‘fit’- it may be your dream, but the question is how well do you fit them. And fit, at MIT, means more than being a really mathy sort of student.

Re: Yale “recruiting” STEM students- yes, they are using that language, but what they really mean is that they want to land STEM students. The program they did last year was to get students who were accepted/going to be accepted to pick Yale over other top-level schools with stronger reputations in science & engineering. It’s not going to give you a boost until you are already on the short list. Would their YES program tempt you to give up your Harvard or MIT acceptance for Yale?

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Agreed that your GC is the one who can most accurately assess your chances. The benefit of being at a prep school is engaged counselors who not only know you, but can assess you within the context of your school.

If you were my child though, I’d expand your list of match schools. And I’m not sure I’d classify UIUC as a match for an out of state applicant.

Boston University’s acceptance rate is now 14% which would put it into “Reach” category for anyone.

With a total of 14 schools, I would balance your list more like this:
7 Reaches
5 Matches
2 Safeties

Possibly might work to have:
8 Reaches
4 Matches
2 Safeties

Put BU under Reaches.

IF you apply for CS (not Math) at UIUC, then it falls under Reach because the acceptance rate there for CS is 15%.

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Agree that your GC is a great resource and will know better than any of us strangers. I think however you are your best resource.

At a prep school you are keenly aware of who your peers are, what your high schools typical placement results are, and what the profiles are of those who matriculate to the schools you have expressed interest in.

For example you say you are top 10%. Does your school typically place multiple kids into MIT and or is there a super achiever or other coveted student who will also be applying.

At most prep schools students are intuitively aware of the “players” for specific schools be they legacy, recruited athletes, top academics, etc juxtaposed against the various students priorities.

So I suspect you know the answer to your question. Nothing wrong with asking on CC but please don’t use responses to recalibrate what you are experiencing mand being told by those who are most informed like your GC.

For what it’s worth my kids prep school would typically send 20+ percent of its class to Ivies plus UC,MIT,S and Duke. Those spots were shared amongst legacy, hooked, recruited athletes and “top” academic kids. Sometimes kids checked all or multiple boxes sometimes just one. In practical terms this often meant kids at the bottom half of the top 10% of class didn’t get into there top choices. Their outcomes were frequently great choices but not those very low single digit schools.

Good luck.

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Agree you need to talk to your counselor. Your prep school may be one that sends 30% of kids to the ivies-plus schools, and well over half to top-30 type schools, in which case as you are in the top decile you have a much better chance than top decile kids in various other schools across the country, plus your stats and rigor are all great. Same with your matches/safeties: those are very different at prep schools who send so many to top schools.

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Agree with what others said regarding your GC being your best resource. But since you asked on this forum I’ll provide my opinion based on applicants I’ve seen the past few years with similar profiles…

You have a strong profile, but at the reaches like MIT you are (to use a popular CC phrase) an “average excellent” applicant. Which means there are going to be plenty of others like you with similar or stronger accomplishments. As an unhooked candidate your chances will be a little lower than the published average acceptance rate.

Good pick. But add at least another safety/highly-likely-chance-of-acceptance school.

While UIUC may be a reach for most OOS applicants, based on my experience with applicants similar to you I agree it’s a match when applying EA.
For both UIUC and UMD you must apply EA to get accepted into CS.

BU: I’d put into the toss-up category. They have been protective of their yield recently, so a high-stat applicant like you may get waitlisted.

My prediction: you will get deferred in EA by all 3. Why?

MIT: defers 2/3rd of EA applicants, particularly unhooked well-qualified candidates like you. They like to evaluate the whole pool together in the RD round.
Chicago: they want you to apply ED, so they will defer almost all unhooked well-qualified EA applicants and then push you to apply ED2. If you don’t, and switch to RD you will likely get rejected.
Michigan: again, defers applicants like you. But I think you have a strong chance in the RD round

Of these I think your best chances are at UPenn and CMU. If you’re fine with Penn, applying ED will give you a significant boost given your legacy status.

One important point you’ve missed out which we need in order to provide you with additional suggestions: what’s your budget? What can your family comfortably afford? (Don’t guess - ask your parents if you haven’t already)

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I am more optimistic than others here, in that I think you have a good chance of acceptance at one or more of these. I base that upon knowing a lot of USAMO/USAJMO qualifiers through my son and knowing how they did in terms of admissions. I also understand just how selective programs like ROSS and PROMYS are, and what math research entails.

In terms of strategy, my recommendation is to apply to MIT first and then ED2 to Chicago. If you don’t want to do ED2 to Chicago, absolutely apply to Yale for RD. Yale absolutely does want to land strong STEM kids. They give likely letters to the strongest STEM kids at the end of February, and then invite them onto campus for a special weekend just for them, called YES-W (Yale engineering and science weekend). My son was really looking forward to going, but Covid canceled everything.

Regarding Michigan, see if you can visit the campus and contact the math department. It’s very possible that the head of the math department will give you a personalized tour.

If you would like, feel free to PM me, as I give detailed free advice to a few kids with your profile each year.

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My view on this is that after a student passes all of the initial screens (smart, good grades, high test scores), MIT screens hard on being nice. They even say that explicitly on the Applying Sideways posting, and my son’s experience with in dealing with MIT kids is that this is absolutely true. In other words, for MIT, it will be equally important what your LORs say about you as a person, as it says about your abilities.

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You should have Caltech in the list

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+1 for Caltech. I have a few others in mind but waiting for OP’s response to:

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Thanks everyone for your replies!

In practical terms this often meant kids at the bottom half of the top 10% of class didn’t get into there top choices.

I’ll have to ask my GC for my rank. Not sure where it lands right now.

But…my GC showed me a scatterplot of stats for all the students who applied and were accepted to each school. I feel like after a certain stat cutoff (which apparently I made?) extracurriculars matter a lot more. I’m not sure how much pull my extracurriculars have within the context of my school because no one else is doing olympiads.

For what it’s worth, the people who usually make HYPSM are those who have the highest GPA, very strong national recognitions (e.g. Regeneron STS Scholar), and hooks. This year we had 6/100 people make HYPSM, but only 2 of them were unhooked and 1 was the valedictorian. Based on historic results I feel I have a good shot at most T20s, but HYPSM looks very rough?

Would it be worth it applying EA to MIT and withholding from ED2, or am I risking too much getting deferred and wasting an ED slot?

what’s your budget? What can your family comfortably afford? (Don’t guess - ask your parents if you haven’t already)

I’m in the 200 - 250k bracket, and my parents said that cost shouldn’t be an issue. I’ll probably have to take a loan for part of it, but I’m okay with that because cs is high paying.

You should have Caltech in the list

I feel like it’s too small and narrowly focused idk.

Regarding Michigan, see if you can visit the campus and contact the math department. It’s very possible that the head of the math department will give you a personalized tour.

Wow I didn’t know that :open_mouth:. Unfortunately I won’t be able to visit, but would reaching out to them by email help my chances?

That ED to Penn is a high probability option for you. Other people cannot make that decision for you. It is a function of your risk appetite etc.

As @hebegebe said the Math camps should help.
Stellar essays will make a difference for HYPSM.
Also don’t ignore the AP Latin in your package. Indicate a dual interest in the classics. That should help with HYPSM. If you have the time, explore a translation project with someone inside or outside the school in the summer.

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A question you should ask yourself is what type of college experience are you looking for? Do you want a very STEM focused environment or do you want a broader environment? In terms of future prospects (academia or work), I don’t think there is any real difference coming out of the top schools you listed.

In terms of gaming the application process, I don’t believe there is any EA bump for MIT. The question is if you want to get an edge with ED or REA. I believe Penn only gives you a legacy bump ED. However with your credentials and listed preferences, I’d be tempted to go REA Harvard, EA Michigan (and other state schools), and then apply RD to the other schools (as selected based on your REA/EA results). You set yourself up with the greatest possible options vs ED anywhere.

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Do you need all of these? They are all prestigious but quite different.

That said I would consider Brown CS. Think about size, location, “vibe.” Tufts might be better for you than BU.

Umass Amherst CS is very competitive, but you have a good chance with that.

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As others have said, your counselor probably knows your odds better than anyone on this board.

That said…being a USAMO Qualifier will give you a big boost at MIT as well as most of the other schools on your list. Admission to MIT is not a lock for you, but assuming no major issues and decent essays, I think your odds are good.

You haven’t listed your other course work. Do you have at least 4 years of every core subject–not just math, but English, social studies, science and foreign language? That too will help.

Yes, Penn gives no legacy preference UNLESS you apply ED. So going for MIT will weaken your odds of getting into Penn. Methinks however if you applied ED to Penn and got it you’d always wonder “what if?”

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OP can apply ED to Penn and EA to MIT, but should be ok with the possibility of saying no to MIT (his dream school) if he’s in the fortunate position of getting accepted into both.

If having to say no to MIT (however small the probability of being in this situation) isn’t acceptable then I’d suggest applying REA to Stanford or Princeton along with EA to UMass, UMich, UIUC and UMD.

By applying REA to Stanford or Princeton, OP can’t apply EA to MIT

I suspect that very few “HYPSM” applicants get into MIT.

Harvardf and Yale are similar to each other. Princeton is similar to both. Stanford is similar to the last 3, but MIT is really an outlier here. If someone is interested in “HYPSM”, it says they are interested in prestige. And people whose motivation is prestige tend to do poorly at MIT.

Admissions does not want to admit students who will do poorly. It’s their job not to admit students who do poorly.

I have nothing against chasing prestige. But I do question how good a fit MIT is for people who think along these lines. Your dream school can become a nightmare if your ‘fit’ is poor.

Why not Washington? Northwestern? UCSD? Rutgers? These are all places that seem to check your boxes - except “prestige”.

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