Realistically chance me on top CS schools?


  • US Citizen
  • Washington State
  • Enrolled to public high school and community college (have done a Precalculus class at University of Washington as well)
  • Suburban, medum-sized schools
  • Black/African male
  • Kind of first generation? Am a child to immigrants.

Intended Major(s)
Computer Science, prob Cybersecurity stuff
Computer Engineering is listed as my secondary for most schools

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.82 (includes college classes)
  • My HS does not calculate weighted GPA
  • Community College GPA: 3.77
  • Class Rank: 16/235 (unweighted)
  • ACT/SAT Scores: None, will take ACT in a little less than a couple weeks

Have only done one AP class, World History, my sophomore year. Got a 3 on exam - probably best to submit it anyway right? Have not taken any more APs because I hate the college board and have been doing dual credit at local community college since Jr. year.

Notable courses:

  • Sophomore year [COVID]: Advanced English, AP World History, UW Precalculus

  • Junior year: Calc 1, English Composition 1 and 2, a couple American history classes, Intro to Criminal Justice (A’s). B+ in Intercultural Communication that was quite the fluke and solid B in General Chemistry Prep.

  • Senior year: Now taking Computer Science I, Calc 2, and Survey of Economics. Will take Computer Science II next quarter, alongside some prerequisites to graduate with an AA.
    (may be worth noting those Comp Sci classes transfer directly to UW)

Not much here… just

  • Chancellor’s List (4.0 GPA)

for 2 quarters at local community college. May get it again this quarter. And

  • Most improved in JV Tennis

but that probably won’t do much of anything.


  • Lobbyist in YMCA Youth & Government [Soph.]
  • a small amount of YMCA volunteer work, was right before COVID [Soph.]
  • Adventure Club member, basically hikes and stuff [Soph. & Sr.]
  • JV Tennis [Soph]
  • Track & Field [Freshman & Soph.]
  • National Honor Society [Soph.] (lol)
    Yeahhhhhh all in all a bit dry but it’s what I got to work with thanks to quarantine

Essay is pretty solid, it’s about a trip I took to my parents’ African home country. (+1 to diversity quota seeking colleges perhaps?) Has been reviewed by peers and professionals. LORs will likely be fine.

Cost Constraints / Budget
Try not to take it too much into consideration, but I am not applying to any UCs. The more $ in financial aid packages the better though, obviously. Also quick question - is it true that the common app fee waiver applies at up to 20 schools?

I’m not sure what schools on my list aren’t reaches. I have applied to UW Seattle and Bothell already, I’ve got CMU, UMass Amherst, Caltech, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Cornell, Duke, Northeastern, Princeton, Brown, Yale, MIT, and Harvard on my list. All RA. Very ambitious, I know. Might drop a few of those last ones in that lineup. Would love suggestions on solid CS targets with my stats, preferably urban.

My odds on getting into any of those schools? What if I got a 33+ on the ACT in a couple weeks, or went optional if I got less than that? Recommendations for CS safeties/valid top 50s to consider? General advice on how to improve my odds before submitting?

Congratulations on your achievements.

I can’t chance you, but your list is too reachy. It is unfortunate you have missed the EA deadlines at UMass, GTech, and NEU, because your chances for admission are better in EA than RD.

Where are you on the essays for these schools? There are a lot for these schools, and it will be difficult to write good essays that demonstrate a good fit.

Regarding the ACT, it could help you, depending on the score. Do all of these schools accept the Dec ACT?

Budget is the FIRST thing you should have a handle on. Do you know what your EFC is? Have you run the NPCs at the schools on your list? I can’t suggest more schools until I know your EFC and budget. Is UW Bothell affordable?


I agree, your list is too top heavy.

Why those particular schools? What unified them for you other than reputation? I’m just trying to get a handle on what you want your experience to be like.

I don’t think anyone would consider Ithaca urban BTW

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I agree with others that your list is reachy. Some on your list, such as Harvard and MIT and I think Stanford, do not admit by major. These are however universities with very low acceptance rates.

The University of Washington is very good for computer science. It is probably not much lower than in the middle of your list for CS even only considering the excellent universities that you have mentioned in your post. Even if you did get accepted to every university on your list I would very seriously consider attending the University of Washington (or perhaps put it second behind Stanford – I am biased in this case) because UW really is very good and because being in-state is likely to make it affordable. U.Mass is also very good for computer science but it is probably not a safety for computer science with a 3.82 GPA.

I would be tempted to add another in-state public university as a safety. Washington State is one possibility although I am pretty sure that is it not “urban”.

I also agree with another comment that you need to pay attention to your budget. You should find out what your budget is, and if it is anything other than “full pay, $320,000+ for four years” then you should run the NPCs for the private and out of state schools on your list.


If you want to add a certain safety that is urban and will be reasonable affordable due to WUE, Portland State would be a good option.


I’m unsure of your cost and that’s always the most important thing. On one hand you aren’t taking it into considerations short of not applying to UCs but then you ask about the cost waiver (which if you can afford to pay for even a moderately priced college, you’re not going to earn). btw - there’s many colleges that don’t charge a fee at all - on their own. Or if you get on their mailing lists, they’ll sent you free apps. Or google colleges with no application fee. A list pops right up.

Since you mention urban and i’ll agree with others that your list is top heavy, I’ll throw out a few names. However, I don’t know the geography/area of the country, etc. but some of these may come in affordable. I think staying in-state of course, may be your best option.

Since you mentioned CMU, I’ll throw out Pitt where you’d get in. It’s rolling admission and they give out merit early so you’d need to act quick.

UMASS is not really urban - but how about - still not urban but closer - a Brandeis. Or a WPI in Worcester.

Ga Tech - Atlanta - how about a UAH - not far in “suburban” Huntsville. Or Emory - a few miles from Ga Tech - not easy to get into but for CS, likely easier than Ga Tech.

Duke - the counter would be NC State.

Cornell - not urban but a Syracuse would be “closer urban”.

It really depends on your desires beyond urban - perhaps a UTK or Cincinnati would fit well. U of Arizona is another.

To improve your odds, it’s always best to apply EA if it’s an option or at schools that are rolling - early.

But before any of this - any schools i mentioned or anyone else - you have to know your financial constraints. There’s no point in applying to a school you have little chance of attending…or attending without racking up massive debt which is entirely unnecessary.

You are ambitious - but so maybe kids from W Washington or S Oregon. What you do in your life will be based on your tenacity, not on who stamped your diploma. That may certainly give you a head start, but life is based about you and your efforts and with CS, you’ll likely be fine from anywhere. Sure, maybe not CMU fine but fine regardless.

Good luck.


“First generation” in college contexts usually means first generation to college, which is usually (but not always) defined as parents do not have bachelor’s degrees (from anywhere, including other countries).

As others have mentioned, your list is reach-heavy, and it is best to talk to your parents about the price limit before you finalize your application list. Run net price calculators on the various colleges to see if they will fall into the price limit.


There’s no need for prestige with CS. The degree is ridiculously employable. In fact, after about 2 years experience, employers don’t even ask where you went to school. After about 5 years, the prestige is only good for conversations at office dinner parties. It’s seriously not worth spending THAT much money to go to one of these expensive schools.

If you’re going for CS, just focus on an in-state affordable college like UW or WSU. Feel free to apply for some reaches, but before you apply, run the net price calculator and find out if you can afford the school. If you can’t, don’t waste your time.


The fact that you are African American, your chance is much better than Asian American. Go for it!! Good luck!!

It’s not so much about prestige, it’s about having optionality in case one decides that CS is no-longer of interest. Might be advantageous to go to schools that are strong in nearly every discipline…

Yes and no. Obviously having a known and respected name means your school will always be relevant in conversation.

But at what $$ cost ?

Btw I agree with @PurpleFaithful the OP should take their shots. The rest of my message is about match / safety and most important affordability.


Thank you for the feedback. My EFC is 3065, and Bothell is indeed affordable. My older brother went there and actually got a CS degree, and ended up with no student debt due to a combo of scholarships and a part-time job. That’s my plan as well. I just did an NPC for Carnegie Mellon and… sheesh is the number quite steep versus, say UW. In the OP I implied that I should be fine because my extended family may be able to help with financial hardships that come up.

Essay wise I have plenty of ideas, and consider myself a decent writer so I should be fine before the deadlines (not for EVERY single school listed as I will likely drop a few before January).


Honestly it’s mostly US News rankings with a tad bit of research. Though some really stick out to me like CMU, Northeastern and UMass Amherst because I’ve looked into them the deepest.

Also I would like to revise my urban preference - college town/suburban is fine! Just not middle of nowhere.

Thank you for the advice,
Is UMass really that wild with their GPA requirements? I just googled (admittedly for 30 seconds) some average admissions rates and it’s something like 63%, with 3.9 avg GPA and 1210 ish average SAT. I think that would be do-able given I do good on ACT, no?

Good advice, might add Washington State in event of worst possible case scenario. However I have always vowed to not become a Cougar… @eyemgh mentioned Portland State and I actually added that to my list as a safety.

See my reply to @Mwfan1921 concerning budget stuff

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@eyemgh Checked it out and very much liked. Added to my list. Thank you for the heads-up!

@tsbna44 Thank you for the recommendation to find no-fee colleges, am now checking out Tulane. Thanks for all those counter recommendations as well, will take them into consideration. Also, what do is your insight on being

? Is it the connections you could get at CMU? Thank you.

@coolguy40 Yeah my brother said something similar, and this is often what I hear. I certainly should have included this in the OP, but I am very strongly considering Air Force ROTC at whatever school I go to, which would mean a pretty good scholarship. So I’m aiming for the sky a little bit. If I get into some reaches I will absolutely evaluate the benefits vs. (literal) costs. Thank you!

I’ve heard this a lot - is it true? I know demographics are optional on the common app but I put down black and African (Kenyan). Do admissions officers glance at race and say “well, boss did say to up that diversity this year”? Or is it more of a policy thing? Idk the definition of “holistic” is pretty vague on every admissions page I visit


UMass is extremely competitive for CS and very well could fill up in EA for that major. It is also unlikely to be affordable because they don’t meet full need. I would probably take it off the list.

What was CMU’s NPC estimate? Even though they don’t meet full need, they do meet full need for a large proportion of students.

Run the Princeton’s NPC and let us know the result. NPCs may not be accurate if your parents are divorced, own real estate beyond a primary home, or own a business. Are any of those the case for you?


The rest of this is advice to the OP:

One school I would strongly consider is University of Utah. It has a very good computer science program, is in Salt Lake City, and the degree travels well, especially in the west. I believe they are also relatively generous with aid, although I am not an expert on the program. I have a friend that went there with a much weaker resume than the OPs. He got a great job right out of college during the depths of the 2008 recession, and his career has been amazing since he graduated.

Dig in beyond the rankings. Some of the schools you have discussed, like CMU and MIT, are brutally difficult, so make sure that is what you want before you bother applying. Purdue is another program like that. Some of the schools on your list are well respected names, but are not that strong in CS and probably not worth $80k a year less whatever schollies and grants you can get, unless you have money to burn. One school on your list is very well respected nationally, but a friend of a friend goes to the school and thinks the program is a joke and a waste of time and money. That might just be one person’s opinion, but that is why I recommend digging in beyond the rankings. You can probably network your way to someone who attends every school on that list.

And don’t forget, University of Utah.

U.Mass does admit by major, and is quite competitive for computer science. I think that your chances of admission are good, but I would not call it a safety. I do not know what your chances would be for a merit scholarship given that it is out of state.

I also do not know how much being African American will make a difference. Most of the people that I know who graduated in CS from U.Mass were Asian (some Asian-American, some just Asian) and most of them were very strong students (and are now very strong coworkers).

I agree with others about looking for affordable safeties among the WUE schools. I forgot to mention this in my first email.

I’d strongly second this. My son’s stats were very high, and The U was almost his final choice for ME (he graduated from Cal Poly BS/MS), despite the fact that they let almost everyone. SLC is a vibrant town, minority Mormon, majority Democrat, in an idyllic mountain location. The campus is pretty. The dorms for the most part are amazing. The whole community is rabid about the sports. Certainly worth at least a look.

The challenging thing of admit stats is that most schools report an aggregate, but many admit by college or major. Engineering and CS are more competitive at those school, but there’s no way to know how much more.

Finally, as others have said, debt is a major drag on wealth building. Avoid it if you can.

BTW, love the Kid President avatar. :wink:


Both my CMU and Princeton NPC results end up being practically full tuition, but…

Two of these are true for me. Is that what’s affecting the results so much?

Yeah I just did some digging and apparently Massachusetts residents tend to get full rides, and OOS not so much. Appreciate you looking out, I might still apply so if admitted I can check out the aid options. Their essays are super short anyway.

@CTDad-classof2022 @eyemgh Thanks for the recommendations, aid seems to be decent at Utah. But the overwhelmingly low black student body is a slight concern.

I don’t hate the prospect of being a black dot in a sea of white, but I’ve gotten so used to the diverse and laid-back environment (concerning race) Washington has given me. This makes it nerve-wracking to entertain facing even the slightest racial hate at an institution/city I may commit to being at for 4 years… I know it’s not Mississippi but a 1-2%~ black populus on campus AND city-wide… sheesh. And considering I wanna do AFROTC, I’d be a black dude in a practically all-white military environment. I don’t know how that would pan out, as I don’t know the people, but it’s still a spooky prospect.

To be fair I did just google into the rabbit hole of racial testimonies regarding the city, and they were pretty good! Utah seems to have a reputation for being fairly accepting and nice folk. Perhaps I’m just expressing some unjustified racial paranoia!

I really got carried away typing all that. Racial concerns aside, the school seems like a solid safety/target. Thank you guys for the recommendations and testimonies.

if you don’t mind sharing, what are the respective schools on my list?

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