Should I apply ED to Cornell or Stanford with a low GPA? ?

Hey! So I am a bit confused if I should ED (or even apply) to Cornell. I would really appreciate your feedback! For some context, I moved to the US about two years ago from the middle east. The move made my grades decline severely and I went from being a straight-A student to a student with Bs (AND EVEN Cs). I was in a completely foreign environment and being socially awkward transitioning into the “culture” at my new American high school was challenging. Not having English as my first language also put me at a disadvantage. On top of that, I was accidentally put into the wrong classes (for example I was put into IB Spanish even though I only had taken one semester of Spanish in my old school). Because of this miscommunication between my counselors, my grades went down the drain and I ended up getting 2 Cs in Spanish. ? I suffered depression for quite a while :frowning:

But despite the blockers I faced in school I was able to do well with my ECs! I won a few international awards ($12k in prizes) for CS! With that I also started getting many job opportunities! I eventually got a summer internship with a CS professor at CMU. I currently work as paid intern for a startup that got their first-round funded :). I also have recently been offered a full-time Machine Learning Engineer offer with a ~100K salary!!

I know colleges like Stanford or Cornell might be quite “ambitious” for me considering that my stats might not stand a chance against other applicants but with my ECs/awards, I might have a chance? maybe? idk

My GPA: 3.5 UW - 3.9W
SAT - Taking next week (1400-1500 on practice though)

Stanford does not have Early Decision, only Restrictive Early Action, which is not binding but has restrictions on where else you may apply early action (cannot apply early decision anywhere if you apply to Stanford early.) Keep in mind that even if you go to high school in the US, if you are not a US Citizen, permanent resident, long-term undocumented or green card student, you will be considered as an “international applicant” for financial aid purposes and your application WILL be considered on the basis of your financial need (need-AWARE.) To what extent that will impact your admissions decision, no one but the admissions office knows for certain, as it’s based on a variety of factors (institutional financial aid budget for the year, required aid etc.) Stanford is need-BLIND for international students, but is also much, much more competitive to be admitted at.

Cornell Financial Aid International vs. Domestic Applicant Status:

Both schools are very different. Stanford’s located in Silicon Valley, the heart of the Tech industry, and has a relatively small undergraduate population (~1700-1800 students per year.) Cornell, on the other hand, is located in Ithaca, which is more than an hour from any major city (and 3 hours from NYC and Cornell Tech, which is a new tech/business/law/design campus,) and is much larger than Stanford (~3000+ undergraduates per year.) The climates are very different as well (heat vs. cold,) so keep that in mind, as you’ll not just be attending school there but LIVING in the surrounding area for 4 years.

Hope that helps! Good luck with admissions!

Are you an international student? Are you applying for financial aid? Have you run NPCs for your schools, and compared the results to what your parents are committed to paying?

I never tell anyone they have no chance of getting into any school. Nor do I tell anyone not to bother to apply. Anyone applying to colleges should look up the admissions statistics and see where they fall in that spectrum. When you are talking about chances of getting into Stanford, the numbers are very small. You have no hook, you did not rise to adversity, your grades are not the top. Your Projected SAT are not the top. So why should Stanford take you when they get applicants way up therein all of these regards? Unless there is something the AO there sees as truly outstanding that Stamford is seeking, your chances are not even going be in the midstream of already low odds.

But you think your ECs are that sterling, and who is to say not for college admissions unless you try. Pick a few lottery tickets schools and give them an admissions whirl.

But most important of all, is to have some schools on your list that will definitely take you, have courses that can challenge you in the fields that interest you, and are affordable. That’s the crux of college search.

This year’s admissions results will be more unpredictable than in the past. I think colleges may be interested in the prizes and awards you won, and may be willing to take your personal circumstances into consideration when evaluating your grades.

If the schools are affordable for you and you would definitely attend if accepted, go ahead and apply ED for Cornell or REA for Stanford, since rules prohibit you from doing both.

Your GPA is very low for both of those colleges. Of course you can give it a try, but make sure you have several other match and likely schools you can afford and would be happy to attend. You might have slightly better luck attending another college for a couple of years, getting excellent grades there, and then applying for a transfer later.

There are going to be applicants with similar stories who got no C’s. There are going to be applicants who have lived in awful circumstances, much worse than yours, who still managed straight A’s. Or who maybe got a few C’s, but they also worked a six hour shift after school to support the family. I’m not seeing anything that make your story particularly compelling, and generally speaking ECs don’t get you into college.

I suggest not mentioning depression on your app. It’s not a selling point and it might come across as sounding like an excuse for why you got C grades.

Your story is actually a nice example of someone who is doing pretty well without attending an elite university. Why those two schools? Because one challenge you will face is convincing them that you need to be there and that you fit with their culture. Frankly, I can imagine you will succeed at most schools, not just Stanford or Cornell. Make a balanced list and don’t latch on to an idea that it’s got to be one of those two colleges or nothing.

ETA: Sure, apply to one early, but not at the expense of a better choice where your one ED card might get you a much better shot. Remember, ED or REA will not compensate for grades. It doesn’t give you a true advantage, just a perceived one.

@pleaseeacceptme STANFORD IS ACTUALLY NEED-AWARE FOR INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS. Sorry for the mistaken information in my original comment.

Stanford Admissions International FA:

Hope that helps!

Look at your life goals. Some of the most successful people in the tech industry DROPPED OUT of some of the best schools, and their having been at those best schools didn’t necessarily help their careers - they were to busy building their careers to benefit from college. You sound as if you might be one of those people. You might be better served by racing through a Comp Sci degree at the best state college you can get into, and getting done in two, two and a half years, and getting out into the tech world.

Thank you for that @parentologist ! One of the main reason I want to go to these top colleges is for the connections. As ambitious or cliche as it may sound, I eventually want to be known as the next big successful drop out (or at least startup founder). I already have had some decent achievements in the startup industry. I have also taken the first year of CS classes through MIT Opencourseware so that I am on track for that plan haha. I have great ECs but terrible grades.

I recently got offered a job offer at one of silicon valleys hottest startup with a decent salary. I was so inclined towards taking the offer. Considering my situation (as @cptofthehouse put it “You have no hook, you did not rise to adversity, your grades are not the top. Your Projected SAT are not the top”) I had lost. However, I figured I should probably apply to these amazing schools. I might have a chance?

Idk ?‍♂️ I have been soo confused the past few week. Especially because there is literally no one to help me navigate this process

Thank you @PikachuRocks15!!! I am actually a permanent resident (I hold a green card). So I qualify for all the fin aid a US citizen would be eligible for (obviously with a few exceptions)
My GPA and stats might not be the best but do you think I should still apply to either schools for the early round?
And yes I am also applying to a few other easier to get in schools!

@pleaseeacceptme If you’re a permanent resident, then most selective to highly selective colleges meeting full need will be need-blind for you, which allows you to cast a wider pool (however, every school WILL calculate your “need” differently, so make sure to run the FA calculators at each school, or at least at your ED/EA school.) While both of the two schools are extremely hard to get into, IMO, the application necessary to get into Stanford or HYPSM is far, far higher than that necessary to get into a T20. Although the Ivies don’t consider demonstrated interest on paper, applying ED IS the ultimate form of demonstrated interest, and these applicants tend to have researched more deeply their “fit” with the school than just applying right before the deadline. However, as I noted in my original comment, the two schools are VERY different, so apply to the one that you feel is a better “fit” and hope for the best. :smile:

A pros and cons list might be helpful, while prestige/brand name should not be your only pro (although DEFINITELY a Stanford CS degree > Cornell CS degree, but they’re both extremely strong programs,) strong alumni networks, access to internships, curriculum strengths etc. ARE good examples.

If you school has sent students in the past to T20s, you might try asking your counselor (or using Naviance, although this doesn’t account for legacies, recruited athletes etc.) about the stats that were competitive for admission.

Hope that helps! Good luck with admissions!

I’m assuming you’re not a California resident or you’d have Cal Berkeley on your list. There are lower cost public options, such as San Jose, which have good industry connections in The Valley. I imagine Cal Poly SLO does, too. Another option easier to get into is Santa Clara.
I’d make a list of more “likelies” first.

They’ll want you to know them and want them for better reasons than “connectons.” It may be true, but this level of colleges focuses on the four year experience, the community.

The problem with lower grades is they most often reflect a bit less mastery of the course material. Meanwhile, as said, there are all those 4.0 kids vying for a seat. This isn’t made up for by ECs, job, or awards. Again, they want a picture of how you’ll thrive there and contribute, academically and socially.

Plus, if you get heavy handed about the awards, job offer, etc, they can wonder what your true commitment to college is. Or how these things might distract you from, again, community aspects. Though drives are important, they aren’t the only thing.

Don’t worry about the Spanish issue. You have an acceptable explanation, let the GC say something. Foreign lang can be the one area where STEM kids can have a hiccup.

You need to review your transcript (adcoms will.) Not just gpa. Your strongest grades should be in STEM. It can help if your GC writes a bang up letter about how you overcame, triumphed, etc. Same with teacher LoRs. Let the GC and Teachers do some of your bragging for you.

It’ll be tough. You do need a lot more research into what these schools are about, in order to form a solid app/supps. Some strategy, beyond ‘but look at how advanced I am’ and gpa.