Please Match a 3.0 GPA Rising Senior (finally got it working LOL)


  • US domestic (US citizen or permanent resident) or international student US Citizen
  • State/Location of residency: *(state is important if you apply to any state universities)*Massachusetts
  • Type of high school (current college for transfers): Public High School
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity (optional): Male, Latino, Guatemalan-American
  • Other special factors (first generation to college, legacy, athlete, etc.): First generation college student, child of immigrants

Intended Major(s)
Environmental Science, Ecology, Biology

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.0
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 3.2
  • College GPA (for transfers): N/A
  • Class Rank: Don’t know
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 30

Cost Constraints / Budget
(High school students: please get a budget from your parents and use the Net Price Calculators on the web sites of colleges of interest.) Up to 75k a year, obviously would prefer something under 50k but can do up to 75k

(AP/IB/Dual Enrollment classes, AP/IB scores for high school; also include level of math and foreign language reached and any unusual academic electives; for transfers, describe your college courses and preparation for your intended major(s))
Freshman Year: Accelerated World History, Honors Spanish (dropped out of this class in 4th quarter)
Sophomore Year: Accelerated English, Honors US History
Junior Year: Honors 20th Century US History, Honors Spanish 4
Senior Year (future): AP Lit, AP Bio, AP Spanish Lang

None lol
(Include leadership, summer activities, competitions, volunteering, and work experience)

  • Swimming, sometimes competitively
  • Working at parents’ restaurant
  • Designing websites and banners
  • Amnesty International Club Leader
  • International Club
  • Planning to get Seal of Biliteracy (Spanish/English)
  • Working on graduating with “World Leader” (something among those lines) on diploma (school program about working to expand your reach internationally)

3.(Optionally, guess how strong these are and include any other relevant information or circumstances.)*
LOR: Current English teacher (also my future AP Lit teacher), and my Chemistry teacher

Have your grades been trending upward or downward over the course of high school? Is there a clear pattern as far as subjects you do well in, vs. not-so-well? Any identified learning challenges/accommodations?

Are you particularly hoping for an international and/or bilingual angle in terms of your studies and/or career (as your EC’s might suggest)…?

Are you interested in the hands-on, outdoor aspect, i.e. looking for an environmental major with a lot of practical fieldwork? Or more interested in studying these subjects in a classroom or lab setting?

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Those are fair questions from @aquapt - and you’ve not given any preference in regard to size or geography - but your nearby publics (Maine, NH, Rhode Island), UMASS Boston and Lowell to stay in state, Coastal Carolina, Eckerd, small LACs and there’s many but such as Allegheny, Beloit,.

There’s so many options for you - but need to know more.

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My grades have been a mixed bag, at the start of freshman year it was a 3.6, it dipped to a 2.6 because of the pandemic and mental health issues sophomore year, and it rose to a 3.0 this year. Bad at maths, good at science, English, history, Spanish. Difficulty getting work done and turned in.

As in regard to the international angle it would be nice to do an exchange abroad possibly one year.

Interested in both, honestly. Would like a good mix of both fieldwork and lab/classroom time.

Preferences : West Coast (especially Cali), East Coast (especially Northeast & New England). Would prefer to be around a city, would take a suburb though. Would like a school with good student life, good reputation, diverse, LGBTQ+ friendly, good in the sciences, if by the sea that would be nice too.

For California: University of San Francisco, University of the Pacific, Whittier College.

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Look at UNH. They are strong for your major interests, there is merit to attract more diversity, and activities going on all of the time sponsored by the LGBTQ+ community on campus. Train into Boston when you want it, near the beach, and good quality of life. And your GPA should be ok as long as you have a strong fall semester. Apply in the fall for the most merit aid.

You may also like UNC-Wilmington. Lots going on for a smaller city. And GPA would be fine there.


Are you able to afford the full costs to attend public colleges in CA? Or the full costs of private colleges in CA. What about the other OOS west coast publics and the privates in other states.

And the northeast/New England can be tough in terms of affordability.

ETA…I see now you can be full pay up to $70,000 a year. Sorry I missed that.

What is your annual budget for college costs? Without that number, any suggestions are a shot in the dark.

I will say…with your current stats, I don’t see you getting merit aid from any CA college, or OOS public…or most private colleges. But that is my opinion.

You live in MA. Start looking at all of the public universities in that state. These likely will be affordable, and some very accessible for admissions. University of Maine offers a tuition match but it’s not near a city or the sea.

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You’re basically describing Cal Poly Humboldt - the only mismatch being that Arcata isn’t very urban, but it’s coastal and a great college town. Very diverse and LGBTQ+ friendly, and has huge range of environmentally-related programs. Great themed living communities, several of which might be of interest Theme & Learning Community Housing | Housing & Residence Life

HOWEVER… I don’t think you can get into any Cal State school as an OOS freshman applicant. They recalculate GPA without freshman grades, and 9th grade was your strongest year; your 10th-11th grade GPA is under the cutoff of 3.0. If you wanted to get to a CSU, you’d probably have to pick one of the CA community colleges that have dorms, and use the transfer pathway. Not sure it’s worth coming all that way to go that route.

There may be some options among the publics in Oregon and Washington. I think you’d get into Portland State, which has a great urban setting and plenty of programs you’d probably like. Western Washington U in Bellingham is in a coastal city, and they don’t seem to have a hard cutoff GPA-wise; with an 87% acceptance rate, it could be a possibility if you don’t apply to a competitive major.

U of Puget Sound is a private U that might work. With schools in this category, that are stretching their budgets to offer as much merit and need-based aid as they can, being full pay could help tip the balance in your favor. The thing is, full pay for a private university is a lot of money to have on the line if your college academics don’t all go smoothly. It might be wiser to go someplace where you can afford to make some mistakes, take extra time to graduate, etc.

Another transfer pathway to consider could be Miami-Dade College in Florida. This used to be purely a 2-year community college, but it now has some 4-year degrees also… plus it has transfer agreements with both U of Miami (which could be a great one to shoot for, for you) and the FL public U’s. Lots of Spanish-speakers in Miami, big LGBT community (current governor’s anti-gay initiatives notwithstanding…) and you get both urban and coastal. It’s a thought.

Have you considered a structured gap year, like Americorps? AmeriCorps NCCC | AmeriCorps This could strengthen your applications both experience-wise, and by allowing your senior grades to count toward your GPA when you apply. Plus, a year of doing something more practical might help you to get perspective on what you want out of college.


I would add URI to your list — very strong in your areas of interest. Particularly if you decide you’re interested in Marine Biology. Would be a target-ish school for you. UVM would be reach, but also very strong in these areas. UNH probably falls in between the two.

Are you in one the “powerhouse” very competitive MA school districts by any chance?

I am asking because of your “accelerated” classes, sometimes known as “AE” in these districts. If yes, this may be helpful with admissions to schools in New England despite your lower GPA. GPA deflation is very real in these districts in part due to AE classes and extreme leveling, and the New England AO’s understand this.

I actually used to be in a very competitive one, now I’m at a very relaxed lower ranked one where people don’t really compete or care. You’re right those were “AE” classes.

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I see now that you can afford $70,000 a year for college. Just make sure this is a firm amount.

Would you consider smaller schools like Stonehill? Or Wheaton (Massachusetts)?

I agree University of Rhode Island might be OK…but it really isn’t urban or suburban. It’s sort of in the middle of no where.

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I was also thinking about U.Maine or UNH when reading your post. U.Mass Lowell or Dartmouth or Boston might be possibilities. I agree with the other comment that suggested URI. Roger Williams (in Rhode Island) also comes to mind.

To me UVM looks like a reach, and likely to be expensive out of state without merit aid. UVM is good for environmental science. Premed and pre-vet classes at UVM are quite academically demanding (UVM has a very good pre-vet program), and a biology major would overlap with these classes.

I would try to keep your grades up for this coming year (your senior year). On the one hand this will help prepare you for university. Also, in some cases some universities will ask for mid year grades from senior year of high school. With a somewhat uneven high school record this seems entirely possible in your case. Also if you were to start in community college and seek to transfer after one year your senior year grades would be looked at.

By the way, a lot of students had a tough time with the COVID pandemic. I do not know how university admissions will look at this, but you certainly have a lot of company. My daughter who was in university at the time says that it was really lousy (but used stronger language).

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True. But URI has a very nice campus and most students get to live in beach houses starting in sophomore or junior year! Pretty unique, especially for a New England school. Fairly affordable and definitely enjoyable in warm weather during the fall and late spring.


I see.

I agree with the previous post that your first semester senior year grades will be important. You’ll get a good boost with 3 AP’s if you do very well. Will especially help with your RD applications. You will not have those grades in hand for EA but schools can defer you to RD and ask for them.

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For something smaller with a beach town how about Salve Regina in Newport?

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I see your ACT score of 30, but I’m wondering if you’ve tried the SAT as well? Very different tests.

Sometimes a higher test score relative to GPA will help boost a student’s application.

You arguably fell into an academic hole during sophomore year due to the pandemic and mental health issues. Now, you’re digging out. A higher test score would help show where you are now, rather than where you were as a sophomore.

Have you taken the SAT? Or, a practice SAT?

Also, you can’t perform well on either the ACT or SAT until you have Algebra ll under your belt. What level of math had you completed when you took the ACT? I am asking because you said that math is not your strong suit. Did you take Algebra ll during junior year? It may be worth giving the ACT or SAT another try.

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If you want to keep costs down, look at Marquette. They give huge grants to first gen students. Urban. Right on Lake Michigan.


Some schools you may want to consider include:

California Lutheran: School with about 4k students near the coast just outside of L.A. 98% of students received grants/scholarships averaging about $26k, so there’s a decent chance this might run around $35k.

Merrimack (MA): A big north of Boston, this school has about 5400 students. 99% of students received grants/scholarships averaging about $24k, so this one is also likely to fall within the preferred budget.

Oregon State: Not in a major metro, but is classified as a suburban area, and with a school of this size, the school is a town in and of itself (about 26k undergrads, 33k total students). The out-of-state (OOS) cost of attendance (COA) is about $49k.

Pacific (OR): A smaller school, with about 1800 undergrads (3800 total students). This school is located just outside of Portland, heading towards the…Pacific. :blush: 95% received scholarships/grants averaging $29k.

Point Loma Nazarene (CA): This San Diego school has about 3200 undergrads. 100% of students received scholarships/grants, averaging $15k.

Portland State (OR): About 18k undergrads at this urban campus. The out-of-state (OOS) cost of attendance (COA) is about $47k.

Roger Williams (RI): About 4500 students attend this school near the water. 100% of students received scholarships/grants averaging about $19k/year.

Saint Joseph’s (PA ): About 4300 undergrads attend this school in Philadelphia. 99% received grants/scholarships averaging $29k.

Salisbury (MD): This public school is part of the Maryland peninsula that is surrounded by water, and its location is classified as urban. The OOS COA is about $36k, so well within budget.

Seattle (WA): Has about 4200 undergrads and is in an urban location. 98% of students receive scholarships/grants, averaging $25k.

U. of Delaware: There are about 19k undergrads here. The OOS COA is about $53k.

Western Washington: There are about 14k undergrads at this place by the water, about halfway between Vancouver, BC and Seattle for easy day trips. The OOS COA is about $44k.


I’m glad that you’ve finally got it working! Under the circumstances (history of mediocre academic performance, family business that may need your help intermittently), it seems to me that you can get your major at a nearby UMass (Lowell, Boston, or Dartmouth). You could start off there for basically the price of in-state tuition and a commute, and if things go well, you could consider transferring to UMass Amherst, or anywhere else that you want.

Look at it this way. You can start off at a UMass for 17K/yr plus commuting costs, or you could wind up spending a ton more to go to a private college that has little advantage over UMass for about 50-60K more/year. It doesn’t sound as if your family would qualify for fin aid, unless they are grossly under-declaring the income from the restaurant. Couldn’t that extra 50K/yr be put toward better use?

Two semesters at the local UMass, then transfer to UMass Amherst, which is a great school, fantastic bargain for in-state.

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