Reverse - Junior looking for matches/safeties/reaches

Hi there. I’m looking to hear what schools are realistic for me and which ones I have good chances at. I’m aware of the crapshoot nature of admissions but would appreciate your guys’ two cents. I’m a white (well, persian), fairly unhooked student and I’ve been doing my best to build a spike with my focus in STEM. Hopefully someone could give me advice on how to improve my app as junior year comes to a close and refer me to schools that might be a good match/reach/safety for me when I apply in the field of biochem or maybe even neuroscience. With all the posts I see on this app, I’ve become a little insecure about my application and decided I’d post one of these to see how I match up and hopefully get some advice to really get to the top of this admissions process. I also don’t want to come off as snobby or something I really am down to earth and just want help.


GPA - 3.99

  • Suffered one B first semester calc bc sophomore year but “made up” for it with 5 on AP test.

  • Also received a few A-minuses that same semester. The rest of my grades from all other semesters are A to A+ and project to maintain this through senior year)


  • Have taken the hardest classes my school has to offer

  • Accelerated math track, taking BC in 10th grade and plan to take DiffEq or MultiVar at community college senior year

  • APs taken so far - Bio, Chem, APUSH, Lang, Calc BC, Stat

  • APs that I will take in the future - Lit, Gov, Econ, Physics 1, maybe Psych

  • 5 on Bio and Calc last year, I expect to score 5s this year besides APUSH, maybe a 4?

1540 SAT, I haven’t done any SAT II - might do chem or math when stuff stops getting canceled


  • Most important EC - National level rocketry competitor (TARC American rocketry challenge, placed top 16th out of ~800 to 1000 US teams, invited by NASA to compete in University Student Launch Initiative in Alabama. Our school’s team has several sponsors (Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Aerovironment netting $20,000 a year) and I was instrumental in securing some of these. Team social media presence as well as extensive community outreach (we opened the California STEAM Symposium with CA State Superintendent and present each year at the symposium. Also have demonstrations at schools/air shows in our community to spread love of aviation/STEM etc. Undisputed Captain for next year. I am high-powered rocketry certified as well (this isn’t model rocketry)

  • Intern at local free clinic taking vitals, patient intake and interviews, nurse/doctor interviews throughout the pandemic. Larger role compared to other common teen hospital volunteering that I’ve seen. 6hrs every other Wednesday.

  • Selected to instruct 4-hour advanced math class each Saturday at a local math circle center. Community service I guess and it adds to my narrative

  • I have had a 2x per week job tutoring at kumon all throughout HS (lmao)

  • Part of pretty selective UCLA math circle

  • Hobby for personal enjoyment - philosophy and playing the tabla (it’s an instrument). Although I have not done anything college worthy with either of these and don’t really plan to.

  • 2yrs Academic Decathlon, 1 year SciOly. Not even a state level placing in either of these so doesn’t add much but it is what it is.

  • Summer - UC Cosmos internship program last summer - worked in regenerative medicine lab. I hope I’ll get accepted to the Boston Universtiy RISE computational neurobiology program for this summer, I’ll hear back soon. They are genuine internships that have pretty tough admissions rates, not something you just pay to get into. These experiences have shaped my future aspirations in science significantly and will tie into my essays.


  • AP Chem teacher - connected with him personally over similar hobbies + standout performance and participation in his class. Extremely strong letter and he has written me one already for RISE summer program… 9/10? Will be his TA next year as well.
  • School district superintendent and rocketry mentor (he is retiring this year so not sure how that’s gonna work) - very good letter as well, personal connection 8.5/10.
  • AP Lang teacher - good connection, she likes me and has outright offered to write me letters to internships in the past, but has gotten very old and forgetful, unfortunately. Not even sure I’m going to use her letter as I’ve heard she has left typos and errors in recent letters that she has allowed students to view.


  • haven’t written yet but they will tell a compelling, honest, down to earth story. I’m fortunate not to go through significant hardship in my life but I still think i’ll be able to convey a pretty raw message.

I believe that UC Santa Cruz,UW Madison and if you can MIT but the first two don’t sound as good but they have a really strong stem program.

I wouldn’t get your hopes up for SAT IIs – they’re permanently canceled. I second UW Madison as well as RPI, URochester, WPI, but these are all in the Northeast. What state are you from? What schools are already on your list? What geographical area are you looking for? Are you looking for merit aid?

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Congratulations on your achievements so far. No need to prep for sat subject tests as CB does not offer those anymore.

Posters need more info to give you good recommendations, especially for targets and safeties (the reaches are easier!).

Do you live in California? What are you looking for in a college…major, size, geography, vibe, etc?

What can/will your family pay for college each year?

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Is 3.99 unweighted?

Your stats, rigor, ECs are all fantastic and it sounds like your essays and LORs will turn out positively as well. No need to feel insecure! Unless you’re hoping for tippy top schools like MIT?

How about Rice and Carnegie Mellon, reaches for everyone? Seems like you would be a shoe in to Case Western (great for Biotech), Santa Clara (CS, Eng), and some competitive big state schools… do you have location, size, cost parameters?

i’m from california and yes the 3.99 is unweighted. weighted is 4.5 or 4.6 i can’t remember.

luckily i don’t need aid but i’ll apply for merit scholarships anyway as I come across them. I would honestly prefer a medium to smaller school over a huge one but it’s not a big factor for me.

Do you want to go to grad school? How about a LAC with amazing STEM like Carleton?

My track for stem is preparing me for med school. I was thinking easier matches for me would be any of the UCs, with tougher matches that are a little more like reaches being USC, UCLA, Rice, maybe Duke? Then of course there are the true reaches of of Ivys, northwestern, stanford, etc. I still feel like if i applied to all these schools, i’d get into 1-2 of the reaches as well as most of my matches that are listed here. What do you guys think?

oh my im a junior right now and im intimidated looking at your app, you should apply to UVA its super competitive and im sure has a great pre-med program. Other schools that may be good are public ivies and stuff like that


Be sure to prepare for alternate career directions, since medical school is highly competitive.

Any major is ok, as long as you take the pre-med courses. Biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and neuroscience tend to have poor major-related career prospects at the BA/BS level.

Also, medical school is expensive. Consider whether lower cost undergraduate can allow having more money for medical school.

All of the listed schools are reaches as all are under 20% acceptance rates. Some of the UCs will be matches, I am pretty sure biochem and neuroscience are impacted at UCs that offer those majors. @gumbymom can you help?

What are your UC GPAs? GPA Calculator for the University of California – RogerHub

Did you take the PSAT? Will you be a National Merit Semi-Finalist?

I second looking at UWisconsin, CWRU, and Santa Clara for matches. Other match schools to take a look at: Occidental, UWashington, UMass Amherst, Bucknell, Lafayette.

Agree on the comments about cost, and spending less on undergrad if med school is in the future.

The UC’s use 3 GPA’s in their application review are most will be test blind for the 2022 admission cycle so your excellent SAT may not help your chances. You are a competitive applicant but UCB and UCLA should always be considered Reach schools.

Here is the UC GPA calculator: GPA Calculator for the University of California – RogerHub

Here is some admit data for 2020 Freshman using the capped weighted GPA and not major specific for all the UC’s:
2020 Freshman admit rates for UC GPA of 3.80-4.19 capped weighted and not major specific:

UCB: 14%

UCLA: 8%

UCSD: 39%

UCSB: 40%

UCD: 55%

UCI: 38%

UCSC: 82%

UCR: 90%

UCM: 97%

2020 Freshman admit rates for UC GPA of 4.20 or above capped weighted and not major specific:

UCB: 37%

UCLA: 38%

UCSD: 78%

UCSB: 81%

UCD: 86%

UCI: 60%

UCSC: 92%

UCR: 97%

UCM: 98%

2020 UC capped weighted GPA averages along with 25th-75th percentile range:

UCB: 4.22 (4.13-4.30)

UCLA: 4.25 (4.18-4.31)

UCSD: 4.16 (4.04-4.28)

UCSB: 4.15 (4.03-4.27)

UCI: 4.11 (3.96-4.26)

UCD: 4.11 (3.97-4.25)

UCSC: 3.94 (3.71-4.16)

UCR: 3.88 (3.65-4.11)

UCM: 3.68 (3.40-3.96)

Best of luck and I highly recommend you find 2 safety schools that you are willing to attend before formulating the rest of your college list. You should several great options and keep up the good work.

Not sure what you think of Alabama, but UAB has an Early Medical School Acceptance Program and they have neuroscience undergrad major. Your stats are slightly above the range for the program averages (apply by Dec 1 senior year of high school). With your stats you are guaranteed admission into UAB honors program and $18k per year scholarship, then only question would be EMSAP. They have over 300 applications per year, invite 36 to interviews, and 8-12 are ultimately accepted.

If you are interested in practicing medicine in inland southern California, UCR has this program that may be of interest: