Please help me finalize my college list!

Hi everyone! I am a rising Senior and am having trouble finalizing my college list. Any advice would be amazing. If any of you can give me some input on which schools to either add or remove that would be great, thank you!


  • US citizen
  • CA (Bay Area)
  • public HS
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity: female hispanic/latina

Intended Major(s) political science / public policy (I am planning on going to grad school for either law or public policy)

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.86
  • Weighted HS GPA: 4.32
  • UC GPA: UW - 4.0, W - 4.55


  • freshman: honors bio, honors geometry
  • sophomore: honors English, honors spanish III, AP European History
  • junior : AP Spanish, AP Lang, APUSH
  • senior (intended): AP Lit, AP Gov, AP Econ


  • Model UN (logistics officer)
  • Girls for Politics (Organization Founder, Executive Director, & Club President)
  • Youth Activism Society (National Project Director & Member)
  • My city’s philanthropy program (Leadership Board Member)
  • Teen Tutoring Club (Vice President & Tutor)
  • Multiple congressional/democratic organization internships
  • Operation Four Magazine (Head of Activism, project manager, & politics writer)
  • National Honors Society
  • Latino Student Union

Cost Constraints / Budget
My EFC is around 45k which my mom said she would be able to afford. My father has never been apart of my life & lives in Guatemala so my mother will be the only one paying for my undergrad.

(?) = still considering

Safety (certain admission and affordability)

  • Santa Barbara Community College

  • San Francisco State University

  • Likely (would be possible, but very unlikely or surprising, for it not to admit or be affordable)

  • UC Riverside

  • The New School

  • UC Santa Cruz

  • Match

  • UC Davis

  • The George Washington University

  • Reed College

  • Occidental College

  • Bryn Mawr (?)

  • Scripps (?)

  • San Diego State University

  • American University

  • UC Santa Barbara

  • UC San Diego

  • Reach

  • UCLA

  • UC Berkeley

  • Northeastern University (?)

  • NYU

  • Barnard College

  • UPenn (?)

  • Pomona (?)

  • Swarthmore (?)

  • Yale (?)

School Wants

I would prefer a school that is in a city or at least very close to an urban area. I also think I want a small school but that is subject to change. I would also like a school that is either on the west or east coast.

i’m also a rising senior wanting to go into poli sci !! (but i want to become a journalist lol). we have a lot of overlaps in our list. why barnard but not columbia?

I visited both campuses and fell in love with Barnard’s small atmosphere, it felt better for me! I am also not a fan of Columbia’s Core Curriculum but would love to go there for grad school.

oh that’s so cool !! i love columbia but i’m going to apply to barnard’s fly in <33 good luck in the college app process !

If you want small, why the UCs - yes, it’s in state I get it. But they are not small. Perhaps ASU - Barrett Honors - great journalism school. Washington & Lee has the Johnson scholar and is a great journalism school You don’t list a test score and you may need it outside of California.

There are schools with great merit - like Arizona - but again, you want small. Your list has a lot of big schools - and if you want small and in/close to a city (which W&L isn’t), you need some lower end privates (like Oxy) - how bout Eckerd, Puget Sound, Rhodes, Franklin & Marshall, Rollins and Kalamazoo. Also, Lewis & Clark and Willamette.

Poli Scit - journalism - you want to go CHEAP. These fields don’t pay and you see grad school.

So run some NPCs…and just because you can afford 45K doesn’t mean you have to pay it.

Good luck.

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This should eliminate some of your schools right away, such as NYU, Northeastern, and GWU (maybe Barnard and Swarthmore also), because you will need to save your money for graduate/law school, and I don’t think you are likely to get enough aid to make them financially worthwhile. Echoing the comments of @tsbna44, if you know that some sort of post-graduate education is a definite, then go to a less expensive school for your undergraduate education and work hard to get good grades and recommendations, and spend your money on a high-quality post-undergraduate education. That will have more of an effect on your job opportunities than where you got your undergraduate degree.

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i think you may have confused me (the prospective journalist) and OP who wants to go into law school / public policy. although the point of going cheap still stands as OP wants to pursue grad school one way or another.

Take a look at Macalester.

since its capped with an 8 semester ap bump. UCGPA generally tops out around 4.40
you might want to recalculate with that tool.

Either way, you are a very strong applicant to all of the schools you list. I might make a few tweaks but you seem to have a pretty good handle on your chances.

i think i’d swap Sac for SF as a Safety. Its proximity to the state capital make it the perfect place to study poli sci. (UCD is appealing for the same reason.)

Good luck

Northeastern gives merit aid in addition to need based aid. Swarthmore only gives need based but I gather it is more generous than some packages.

I’m not a CA person. Do you apply to all the CA through one application process? If so, you may not need to whittle your list down all that much.

The California public schools will be within your budget.

However, many of the private schools on your list require both parents’ finances for financial aid purposes (check their web sites to see if they require the CSS Noncustodial Profile or other form for the noncustodial parent). Will your father cooperate with financial aid forms, and will his income and assets materially affect your financial aid situation? For colleges that require both parents’ finances, be sure to include his income and assets when using those colleges’ net price calculators.

no, its not one application that is sent to all UC campuses if that’s what you mean.

Any number of UCs can be applied to with 1 UC application.
Any number of CSUs can be applied to with 1 CSU application.
Any California community college application goes through a common OpenCCC application portal.