Reverse Chance Me: Matches and Safeties (aiming for Ivies/top LACs)

I’m considering Duke, Rice I think is rather too far

I understand this, but to be honest I’m not entirely sure yet how much I can afford. Whenever I bring up cost to my mom she says we’ll work something out and to just apply and not worry about it now. I assume after I get my decisions I’ll get more concrete answers

Maybe share some of the responses on this thread with each of your parents?

You really do need a budget first because it dictates where you apply. CSS Profile at most schools will include your NCP’s financial info. So for example, if that gives you a result that is unaffordable for you and your parents, meet-full-need schools will have to come off the list. Another potential sticking point that students can run into is an uncooperative NCP when it comes time to fill out their portion of the CSS Profile…do you expect this to be an issue?

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I don’t expect the NCP forms to be an issue, the only thing is that is what is going to account for the bulk of my efc

My budget should be about 20-30k. I am willing to do some work study/summer job or take out a small amount of loans.

Also, if anyone would like to chance me for the schools I’m applying to (including the reaches I listed in the original post) feel free to do so

As someone who just wrapped up his college decisions process (though stuck in waitlist limbo), absolutely do not put finances off. I was in a similar situation to you in terms of interests and “dream” schools; I had very little guidance along the way, coming from a school whose graduates stay local 95% of the time. The most important thing I learned (besides how to market oneself as an applicant) was how to manage financial aid applications. I had a similar EFC, and I expected those dream colleges to match that if admitted. Turns out, their calculations found my EFC to be 3x of what I imagined it to be (of course I appealed these, albeit unsuccessfully), and it I PROMISE you it is that much more painful having to reject your dream school(s) admission offer because it is just financially impractical.

You will not regret sitting down with your mom and getting this information collected, I promise you. Having this perspective will help you assess if it is worth applying to these schools, or perhaps it will push you to apply to schools which place an emphasis on merit-based aid.

p.s. I do think you should still consider Rice, and add to your considerations WashU! you are incredibly talented, and deserve to show off your accomplishments to as many schools as you desire!


I encourage you to sit down with your both parents and get a firm budget. If both parents combined can’t contribute their EFCs you need to know that sooner rather than later.

As far as meet full needs schools go, Vandy and UChicago do not require NCP financials, so something to consider. Here are all the CSS schools, you can sort by ones that don’t require NCP info. CSS Profile Participating Institutions and Programs


Thank you, for your feedback, I appreciate it. Maybe I will start considering schools further away.

As I said a bit earlier, my budget is about 20-30k, please use these numbers as a guide going foward.

Also, I didn’t know that about Vanderbilt so thanks for letting me know!

You should definitely check how strong each university is for computer science. In-state public universities are often as strong if not stronger for CS when compared to some famous schools (such as most of the Ivy League schools). My understanding is that some of the SUNY’s are quite strong for CS but I do not know the SUNY’s particularly well.

To me this makes sense. One thing that people sometimes forget is that there are a lot of different types of companies that need computers. I do not specifically know what sort of software engineering is needed for environmental science work, but it seems likely that there is a need in this area.

AI makes quite a bit of use of mathematics, or at least logical thinking, as well as computer science. As a math major with a sort of informal CS minor I took quite a few classes in AI, and I felt that my math background helped me quite a bit.

You might want to run the NPCs.

I was thinking that U.Mass Amherst or McGill might be schools to consider, but I am not sure whether they would fit your budget.

Definitely take a close look at the SUNY’s.

Even if that is your budget, you really need to run the NPC calculations now to see if the colleges will give you enough grants and other financial aid so that you stay inside that budget.

It really doesn’t work out well to apply widely and then to see which ones are affordable.


From what I’ve seen the SUNY schools are not very strong for CS, however it is true that some state schools, esp in the south are pretty strong

SUNY Stony Brook’s CS program is very well regarded, off the top of my head.

Also, as you’re looking at schools you will want to see how easy it is to get into your desired major. Do you need to declare when you apply, do you get time to decide, how easy is it to switch, etc? Also, for CS, the application stats are usually significantly higher than those for the rest of the university (if it’s admit-by-major) and if it’s not direct entry, then you will need to find out what secondary admission requirements are to complete the major.

  1. make sure the essay is about you. It can touch on your sibling slightly if it is something that can demonstrate your growth/skill acquisition/something related to your academics/interests.

  2. definitely run the NPCs now. Your list will be in state publics and high endowment/generous aid selective universities. You may want to try to select a couple of less selective schools for merit, but your SUNY options will be of similar/better quality without the hassle.

  3. in terms of geography, if you’re willing to do Nashville, there’s not an appreciable difference in terms of flight time until you get to the other side of the Great Plains

  4. based upon what you’ve told us and the competitiveness of CS, some of the schools on your list seem unrealistic. Of the Ivies, your best CS reaches are probably Brown and Dartmouth. Cornell is probably the least selective Ivy overall but not for CS.

  5. id strongly consider adding Rice and WashU to the mix with Vandy. Those three and ND are probably your best bets among “T20” private schools for CS admission. Other universities I’d consider that are good with aid are Emory and Tufts. Tufts is need aware, but run the NPC. They don’t completely slam the door shut on applicants with need. Other schools you may want to think about that can be more of a mixed bag on aid would be BU, Case Western and Rochester.

  6. I don’t know enough about the relative quality of CS in various LACs to comment but there are some bargains there w aid. The only thing I’d caution about LACs is that many are more selective than their test scores suggest. It’s easy to see a 1440 LAC and assume it is an easier shot than a 1500 national university. But many of those LACs are quite small with an ungodly number of sports. If you remove the athletic pref students, those averages come up.

If I were you, I’d just run down the list of highest ranked CS undergrad programs on US News and run NPCs like crazy on the private universities first. Omitting maybe 9 schools that are a reach too far, a few others for distance on the west coast, maybe some that are primarily engineering schools like Rensselaer if they aren’t your thing. If you do that for those schools, you’ll have a good starting point of 20 or so universities to compare. Add your state options and a dozen or so price friendly LACs and that’s your starting list you can really dig into. Just a method to get you a fairly comprehensive list in your price constraints quickly.

In your case price is the key determinant for your non state options.


I feel as if CS has turned into the default “I need marketable tech skills” major for high-achieving students… but it’s not the only major that imparts computational skills, and it’s not necessarily the best choice for someone who’s interested in environmental applications. Do you really want to spend four years studying the theory and “guts” of computer programming and data structures? Or do you just want to acquire marketable computer-related skills that are readily applicable to the environmental field? If it’s the latter, you could very well be better off with a major in data science, data analytics, information science, informatics (all more-or-less the same thing but different schools call it different things) or a GIS-focused major, which is sometimes its own thing and sometimes a track within Geography. For example, the Geography major at Binghamton has a “Computer Applications in Human-Environmental Analysis” track. The skills you’d get in a major like that are in high demand, and you don’t have to be a computer science theorist to have skills that employers want.

If you truly want to major in CS, go for it… but a lot of students get themselves shut out of schools they would have wanted by applying to a super-competitive CS major that ultimately isn’t even the right thing for them.

Here’s a cool interdisciplinary major that you might like: B.S. in GeoDesign | USC Spatial Sciences Institute USC meets full need according to their formula, but they aren’t always generous, so run the NPC.

Denison meets full need (and gives merit), and their Data Analytics major requires a second academic concentration which can be enviro science: Data Analytics | Denison University

Allegheny has Integrated Informatics with a potential Enviro Science focus, and it’s a great school for all things environmental. They don’t guarantee full-need-met aid but they’re generous with merit so your total package is likely to match your EFC. Integrative Informatics | Allegheny College

Clark is also in that category where need-based aid plus merit aid could get you the price you need, and this program might be of interest:

Check out the Emory QSS major also. (They also don’t consider freshman grades, which would be nice for you.)

Northeastern’s combined majors might be just what you’re looking for:

Chapel Hill does meet need for OOS students, which is unusual - UVA is the only other state flagship that does this. (And UMich to a more limited degree - only for very low-income OOS students.) Run the net price calculators and see if they look affordable (although with divorced parents, it can be tougher to get an accurate prediction. Others like UMass and Rutgers are very unlikely to be affordable. But you have some great in-state options in NY.



This post is exceptionally helpful & should be pinned!


This is a great point. If someone is interested in a particular field, but feels they need certain computer/data-related technical skills for employment in that area, CS is probably not the way to go.

In enviro science/sustainability, students generally have the option to get exposure to r and basic programming language, GIS and remote sensing. If someone wants more, double concentrations in a natural/social science field + data science are doable. It’s more useful to study a field + have a decent technical background in data/programming than it is to be neck deep in CS…unless someone is not interested in a non-CS field and wants to be neck deep in CS as the field.

Just doing a quick Google search of “schools with environmental science” and selecting those that I know are generous with aid:

WashU, Northwestern, ND, Rice, Rochester, Trinity College, JHU, BU, Brown, Colgate. NU/Brown/JHU are the biggest reaches on this list. I removed the NYC schools and those on the opposite coast. There were others that probably give good aid not on the list. Niche probably has a listing of other schools for example. I’m sure the list I pulled up wasn’t an exhaustive list of all Environmental science programs. I am confident that all of those schools would offer a program that is well grounded in both natural sciences + social sciences/policy with ample opportunity to get data science exposure.

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@Luckgirl, you take for granted what is in your own backyard.

For a person living in NYC, the 84 SUNY and CUNY Schools (Not including the land grant schools at Cornell) is like going to the Walmart/Amazon of colleges. There are more than a few schools that are strong in the areas that you are looking at. SUNY is the 2nd largest public university system in the country, CUNY is the 3rd largest public university system in the country and the largest Urban university system in the country. How many other states would love to have what you are turning your nose up at for $7k/year in tuition?

What you need to do is make sure that you are taking a bottoms up approach to make sure that you have an affordable option so that you have some place to go.

Apply to CUNY
City College punches way above it weight when it comes to computer science.
Also, don’t sleep on Brooklyn and Hunter which should be part of your list all which have both computer science and environmental science programs.

From what I’ve seen the SUNY schools are not very strong for CS, however it is true that some state schools, esp in the south are pretty strong

What have you seen? Stony Brook, UB and SUNY Poly all have extremely strong computer science program. I am amazed at the number of people who sleep on SUNY Poly’s programs.

Look at Colgate, which meets 100% demonstrated need that is looking to grow its CS and gives a of time and opportunities to their students.

While schools may not ask for a non-custodial profile, they may have their own forms for gathering information.

As others have said, you need to sit down and have a conversation with both of your parents. You state that based off of your mother’s income, you are pell eligible. This means the lion’s share of this of this 20-30k (120K) is coming from your dad. Is he on board with this?

I think that you should also look at schools where you stand a good chance of getting merit aid.


Thank you so much! I am applying to northeastern and have been looking into their combined majors