Ready to apply, I need your thoughtful comments please

<p>This is my first post and I hope I can get some good advice from the knowledgeable people on this board.</p>

<p>I prefer to go to schools in Massachusetts or nearby. I have visited all the ones listed below. I like every one of them. (May be I am not analyzing the schools right! I really don’t know what to dislike about any particular school until I join there and start classes.) I am thinking of comparing financial aid as a possible means to differentiate. Is that a sound idea? I have question marks against MIT & Harvard as they are big reaches for anybody.</p>

<p>My list: WPI, Brandeis, MIT (?), Harvard (?), BU, Northeastern, Umass-Amherst and University of Vermont (I got a fee-waived application from them).</p>

<p>My major is undecided, tending towards science/math/engineering. My particulars are as follows.</p>

<p>Gender/race: Female, Indian (Asian)
9 – 11th GPA : u.w. 4.0 / 4.0, weighted 6.12 (school weights for A: AP = 7, Honors = 6)
12th schedule” AP Calc BC, AP Physics, AP Stats, + 3 honors courses
Class rank: 2 out of 511 kids in a public high school in MA
SAT-I best scores: CR 800 + W 790 + M 770 = 2360/2400
SAT-II: Maths2 760 Chem 780 Bio-E 750
Possible hook/disadvantage: first language is not English</p>

<p>ECs: Strong in community service, couple of leadership roles, usual school clubs. Not much into sports, due to a medical condition. Work experience. A few honors and awards related to community service and academics. National merit semifinalist.</p>

<p>Essay is going to be good, my English teacher loved the draft. Recs are expected to be very good.</p>

<p>My main questions are: Is my list of colleges adequate? If it were you applying with my stats, which other schools are right fit? I know it is hard to judge chances at top schools, but can you guys please tell me what I can realistically hope for at Harvard or MIT? Shoul I add Yale to the list? Is it worth taking loans to go to these schools if I don’t get much financial aid from these?
Thanks.</p>

<p>For Harvard, Yale, and MIT, it really would come down to your ECs. Your test scores are absolutely fine, but it really would depend on how you stand with your leadership/clubs. You also live in MA, and Harvard/MIT take care of their backyard.</p>

<p>With your stats, you can realistically hope for any top school in the U.S.: Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton, all the rest of the Ivies, Amherst, Williams, (and if you want to go west or south), Duke, U of Chicago, Washington University in St. Louis, Rice, Stanford, CIT... Really, your stats are very, very strong. Almost any school would be very happy to have you in their student body.</p>

<p>Regarding your list, WPI, Brandeis, BU, Northeastern, UMass, and U Vermont are all safeties for you. Harvard and MIT are very much in your range. I won't call them matches because they're both so darn selective, but I will say that your stats would put you in the top 10% or so of all applicants, maybe in the top 5%, and compared to most other applicants, you'd have a very good chance of being accepted.</p>

<p>Let me make a few suggestions:</p>

<ol>
<li><p>Even though you'd be a strong applicant anywhere you apply, you need to be selective about the schools you choose. You said your main interests are science/math/engineering, so obviously you should choose schools that are well-regarded in science, math, and/or engineering. But not all top schools are strong in those areas. For example, while Harvard is overall one of the three top schools in the country, it is not particularly strong in engineering. MIT, of course, is, and it's also strong in the physical sciences. Princeton has very strong math, physics, and engineering programs. Cornell is good in engineering. Stanford and the California Institute of Technology are well known for the quality of their science, math, and engineering curriculum. So too are Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon. The bottom line here is do some research. To start, pick up the August 28th issue of U.S. News - the college ranking issue. Take a look at the general rankings, and then flip all the way to the back and look at the rankings of engineering programs. This should give you a good idea of what schools to consider.</p></li>
<li><p>Select 5 or so most selective schools (of the MIT/Harvard/Stanford variety), a couple of somewhat less selective schools with good science/math/engineering depts. and a couple of safeties (moderately selective) schools with good science/math/engineering depts. to apply to. You can use the lists of SAT ranges and % admitted from US News to give you a good idea of selectivity.</p></li>
<li><p>Any school that accepts you is going to offer you substantial financial aid if you need it. Just make sure you fill out the financial aid forms when you apply. And no, it is not wrong to make financial aid one of your major criteria. In fact, I expect you'll be accepted at numerous schools and you'll probably be able to play one school off against another to get the best financial aid deal.</p></li>
<li><p>Pick up The Truth About Getting In and Rock Hard Apps by Katherine Cohen. Both books are full of good advice about how to organize and present your accomplishments to top colleges on your college apps. Ignore her advice about applying ED. It isn't applicable if you need financial aid.</p></li>
<li><p>Go for it. Your stats are really good. You're top tier quality. Don't underestimate yourself or the level of school you could get into.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>amptron2x, thank you very much. You have given me great advice and encouragement.<br>
Now I am going to do some research and prepare a fresh list. As you suggested, I am going to find about 9 - 10 places to apply, keeping my major in mind: 5 super selective + 2 - 3 selective + 2 safeties.<br>
After I redo the list, which may take me a week, I'll ask you and others for an opinion.</p>

<p>Hey, amptron2X, excellent post--and excellent advice. I think you definitely helped this individual out, big-time. (And I hope a few other people are reading your advice for how it might apply to them also).</p>

<p>Calcruzer - </p>

<p>Thanks for the compliment. </p>

<p>Beantowngal -</p>

<p>I'll be looking for your new list.</p>

<p>Armed with the college rankings, it was easy to redo the list. A couple of schools I still have to visit, but I looked at their academic programs and financial aid info on the web. As far as my major is concerned, I will tentatively choose (Chemistry + Math) or, engineering, if available.
I want a school not far from home. So my new list is as follows.</p>

<p>Super-selective (apply to all four??):
Harvard, Yale, Brown, MIT</p>

<p>Selective (will choose two of these):
Tufts, Brandeis, BU, BC</p>

<p>Safeties (will choose three):
Northeastern, UMass-Amherst, Univ Conn, WPI.</p>

<p>I will probably start applying next week because I already have all the testing done. Please let me know if you find my list is not well-balanced. Thanks for your help.</p>

<p>Beantown - </p>

<p>Your list looks good to me, and yes, if you can afford the app fees, apply to all four of your super-selectives. My bet is you'll get into at least three of the four, and get likely letters (letters they send out usually in February saying you're most likely accepted) from at least two of them. </p>

<p>Also, I think you should apply to three of your selectives and two of your safeties. My argument is that you will get into any of the selectives and safeties you apply to, and that if you don't get accepted by any of you're super-selectives (It can happen. Even with your great stats, you're not a shoe in. Nobody is at those schools.) you'd be better off being able to choose among three selectives rather than two.</p>

<p>Finally, make sure all the schools you apply to know that you're applying as a chemistry/math/engineering major, and - this is important - that you are female. Women with stats like yours who intend to major in those fields are relatively rare, and letting them know your gender and interests will almost certainly work to your advantage.</p>

<p>Oh, and I should add one more thing (which you have done or seem to be planning to do): Visit the schools on your list. Actually seeing a school, walking the campus, and talking to the kids and professors there can have a big and positive influence on your decision making process when it's time to decide which school to attend.</p>

<p>Once again, thank you very much, amprton2x. I think you have given me excellent advice. I feel good that I am on the right path now. Your suggestion to apply to 3 of the selectives and only 2 of the safeties is a good one. Will definitely follow that and other advice.</p>

<p>amprton2x thanks so much too! My stats are as strong as beantowngal's with strong EC's and you give me hope :) Good luck beantowngal with your applications!</p>

<p>Good luck to you, too, itida.<br>
amprton2x has been quite helpful. Calcruzer's responses in other posts are very instructive, too.<br>
In my case, since I am limiting myself to schools in my neighborhood, it is somewhat easier. If I were to choose schools from the whole of the US, I'd go mad. It's truly overwhelming.<br>
Which schools are you applying to, itida?</p>