Sophomore writer match me

Sorry about formatting. I’m a high school sophomore so I know it’s way too early to chance, but I’m hoping to start my college search and could use some help.


  • US domestic
  • State/Location of residency: California
  • Type of high school (current college for transfers): medium-size high school, not super competitive.
  • Gender/Race/Ethnicity (optional): White female.
  • Other special factors (first generation to college, legacy, athlete, etc.): Legacy to WashU.

Intended Major(s): journalism, communications, creative writing, English

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 4.0
  • Weighted HS GPA (incl. weighting system): 4.05. No points for anything other than AP classes and there are only a handful of AP classes at my school. AP classes are given an added tiny fraction of a point.
  • Class Rank: I know this can still change but currently tied for 1/100ish.
  • ACT/SAT Scores: not taken yet. Consistently scoring 1420+ on SAT practice tests with around a 750-800 English and a significantly lower math.

(AP/IB/Dual Enrollment classes, AP/IB scores for high school; also include level of math and foreign language reached and any unusual academic electives; for transfers, describe your college courses and preparation for your intended major(s)) I am on a very specialized track so I know with some confidence what classes I’ll be taking every year.

Freshman with an A in all:
Beginner journalism
Physical education
Honors biology
Honors English
Honors algebra 2, didn’t learn anything
Honors Spanish 1
Community college art history over the summer

Sophomore with an A in all:
AP world history modern
Honors Spanish 2
Honors precalculus, once again didn’t learn anything. My teacher is interesting…
Honors English
Honors chemistry

Junior planned:
AP English language
AP calculus although I will fail the exam.
AP U.S. history
Honors Spanish 3
Honors physics

Senior planned:
AP statistics
AP English lit
AP Government/ honors economics one semester each
Honors Spanish 4
Honors environmental science

This is one of my strongest sections probably. Almost a dozen national and state journalism awards. Majority of these have <5% rates. Way more local and school level ones. Also a few miscellaneous writing awards, including some local and state poetry contests and a few scholastic gold and silver keys. No medals, though.

(Include leadership, summer activities, competitions, volunteering, and work experience) These get challenging because I don’t want to reveal personal information, but here it goes. These aren’t in a particular order.

  1. School Newspaper is by far my main extracurricular. I started this year as a staff writer. You can’t be on newspaper in your freshman year but I found a workaround and freelanced for the newspaper. I have already been told I will be the managing editor next year. Senior year I expect to be the editor in chief, but of course I can’t be sure. I spend at least 10 hours a week doing this.
  2. I have bylines with many prominent publications, including my local newspaper, local broadcast station, a few midsize newspapers, a few small bylines in national newspapers, etc. I freelance and constantly look for opportunities.
  3. I am the president of my school creative writing club. I was secretary last year.
  4. I volunteer reading and teaching literacy skills through a library program. I have over 200 hours.
  5. I have a paid journalism internship at a midsize magazine this summer. Not saying the name due to privacy reasons.
  6. I am a part of a city-run youth writing program.
  7. I am in national honor society and volunteer at school events for about 2 hours a week.

(Optionally, guess how strong these are and include any other relevant information or circumstances.) Too soon, but my passion is writing so I think my essays will be solid. I will have had two of my teachers every year of high school. These teachers are my favorites and they like me so that’s pretty nice.

Cost Constraints / Budget
(High school students: please get a budget from your parents and use the Net Price Calculators on the web sites of colleges of interest.) No cost restraints because I am very fortunate to have college paid for.

(List of colleges by your initial chance estimate; designate if applying ED/EA/RD; if a scholarship is necessary for affordability, indicate that you are aiming for a scholarship and use the scholarship chance to estimate it into the appropriate group below) I only know I want to apply to a few schools so far. I would like help expanding my options.

  • Safety (certain admission and affordability)
  • Likely (would be possible, but very unlikely or surprising, for it not to admit or be affordable)
  • Match
    UC Irvine although it might be a reach I don’t know
  • Reach

This is actually really impressive, you are an extremely spiked student as well. The only thing is that you go to a pretty average high school, but other than that, I see no problem in reaching for T10 schools. I could say almost for certain that you can already be accepted to Northwestern ( I recommend Medill) or WashU if you apply through Early decision if you keep it up, and maybe raise test scores to 1520+ or 34+. USC through the regular admissions doesn’t seem too much of a reach either. If you want to major in Journalism though, Medill is probably the one to go, USC as a second option if you get rejected to Northwestern ED. The other top schools are all prestigious too, but creative writing and English majors from top schools mostly end up in mediocre jobs, and Medill sends huge numbers of ppl to big-name newspapers, so good chance through Early decision. Northwestern is also known for giving good financial aid, so no worries about that compared to other schools either.

Thanks for the advice! Yes, I will apply to Medill. I should’ve made that clear. I’ll try my best to raise my test scores. I am practicing my math skills so hopefully that score will go up. I’ll consider applying to Northwestern ED and tour it next summer. Do you have any suggestions for other schools to add to my list?

If your SAT score as a sophomore is 1420, you will most likely have over 1500 once you take AP English and Pre-Calc.

Seriously, my daughter scored 150 points higher on her SAT than she did on her second PSAT 10 without any test prep - just taking AP English (one semester) and Pre-Calc honors.

Second - do not start focusing on any particular college - it is too easy for “present you” to get locked in on some colleges, making it difficult for “senior you” to find a good fit for the very different “you” who will be attending college.

Third - you have finished exactly three semester of the 6-7 which will be considered by colleges, and these are the easiest three semesters. Now some students do better the more challenging classes become, but it is hard to know now what your GOA will be after Junior year. SO making plans without that info is useless.

Finally - STOP focusing on college. Focus on doing your best at school, and taking everything that you can from your high school years. Do you really want to waste these years focusing on which college will accept you? You should be focusing on figuring out your strengths and weaknesses, your interests and passions, and what direction you would like to take in your life. THOSE are things that will help you figure out which colleges will be the best places for you to spend the next part of your journey, the places which will help you to continue your education.

By all means visit a number of colleges in the summer, but look at these as a way to figure out what each type of college could provide you with what you need.

Remember - your main question about each and every college should NOT be “how can I get THEM to accept me?”. It should be “will this college provide ME with what I need?”

The problem with looking at specific colleges as a sophomore is that you don’t really know what you need from colleges. That is one of the reasons that you should be focused on doing your best at high school. The results of that are the best indicators that you will have of what you will need from a college.


btw - PSAT score goes up to 1520 but SAT does to 1600, so that’s why it might seem like there was a significant score boost.

I’ll give you an answer and not the “what you learn is more important than where you learned it”

If you want the general list for writing, including school prestige, writing-related major rankings, etc. Here’s my list:

  1. Northwestern
  2. Columbia or USC
  3. WashU or JHU
  4. NYU - it’s in New York, okay school for journalism
    I know I wrote overwhelmingly top, top schools, but if you plan a good admissions strategy taking advantage of ED, EA, or even ED2, you could make one of them if you maintain a good GPA, keep up the awards and EC’s, and raise test scores.

For safeties with good English programs, I’d say Oberlin, College of the Holy Cross, Kenyon, and Macalester. Match could be Mount Holyoke and UC Irvine. I agree with you that the schools you mentioned are reaches with a 1420 SAT score, but you have plenty of time to improve that if that’s something you’re interested in.

Thanks for these suggestions, I’ll definitely look into them!

Thanks for the advice! I totally understand that there are a lot of factors that can still change. I’m just looking for some preliminary ideas. I will make sure to keep an open mind.

You may want to try the ACT; math is only one subscore out of four, vs one out of two.

Scripps might be a good fit for you - they love students with specific areas of strength and passion like yours. Even though the college itself is small, the five colleges of the Claremont Consortium have 7000 students, and the student newspaper, The Student Life, is joint among all of them, so it’s very well-resourced and high quality. The placement of student journalists from TSL in career-track jobs upon graduation is impressive - recent grads are at the NYT, WSJ, and SF Chronicle. Scripps has a Writing and Rhetoric major that’s ideal for aspiring journalists. (Pomona could be great too, but a very tough admit for unhooked California applicants.)

UC-wise, look into the College of Creative Studies within UCSB. This requires another layer of application in addition to the UC app. The philosophy of CCS is to create an environment that is like “grad school for undergrads” - it gives you a lot of freedom to focus on your specific areas of interest. There is a Writing & Literature major within CCS that could be a good fit, and it could be augmented by the minor in Professional Writing offered outside of CCS.

None of these are safeties for anybody, especially Macalester. Even Oberlin is likely not a safety.

I do not know where people get the idea that a college with an acceptance rate of 25%-30% is a safety. For a college to be a safety, they would have to be accepting > 90% of all applicants with similar stats. For colleges with holistic admissions, and with acceptance rate below 40%-50%, there are few SAT+GPA ranges for which this is true.

That is why most safeties are large public universities, because even most publics which claim to have holistic admissions weigh stats much more heavily than do private colleges.

Furthermore, the idea of designating a college as a Reach, Match, or Safety for a student who only has GPA for the first three semesters of high school gives “jumping the gun” and entire new meaning. This is especially true about designations of “safety” and “match” (since some colleges will be reaches no matter what a student achieves in their high school career).

You mention that you are a legacy at WashU. If you look at Section C7 of the Common Data Set for the university, it should tell you what (if any) weight legacy status is accorded by the school as a non-academic admissions factor.

In terms of universities, you might look at the University of Iowa (they have a very fine creative writing program, here BA in English and Creative Writing | English | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | The University of Iowa), and also Ohio University (they have long had a good journalism/writing program, here E.W. Scripps School of Journalism | Ohio University). Both of these universities would probably be matches for you.

Thanks so much! I looked into Scripps (I hadn’t looked into the Claremonts much until now) and it looks like a college I will explore more. The Writing and Rhetoric major looks fantastic!

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I looked it up for WashU and it says that legacy is “considered.” I’ll make sure to check those schools. Thanks!

I double checked with a chancing engine on another site before putting that, but we could say “likelier” instead of safety. And I think it’s fine that OP is interested in looking at what choices will be if the rest of high school continues on the track it’s on. It’s hard to love the schools you apply to if you only have a short time getting to know them.

You need to be careful with many of these chancing engines. They base their calculations on where a student fits in regards to accepted students. So they will then call a school a “safety” if a students is better than 90% of accepted students. However, this is incorrect.

To get an idea of chances, you need to see what percent of students with similar stats were accepted. In many colleges with holistic admissions and low acceptance rates, they will reject most of the students whose stats match the top 10% of accepted students. So colleges with single digit acceptance rates will routinely reject 80% of the applicants with stats that match the top 10% of their accepted students. So a college like Holy Cross would likely be a target for such a student, not a likely, while Oberlin would be a likely, not a safety.

That is why the scattergrams in Naviance are so useful - if the student’s data point is surrounded by students who were admitted to that college, it is a likely or a safety, if the college rejected half of the students with similar stats, it is not, even if the student’s stats are in the top 10% of accepted students.

Sometimes, a high school will have good connections with a college, and admission rates are higher for students of that school than they are for students from other schools with similar stats.

Of course, we haven’t spoken of financial safeties - many schools which are academic safeties are out of reach financially.

There are two problems with Naviance for my situation. The first is my school is fairly new. The second is that it basically hasn’t sent anyone to top schools. Not a single person from my school has gotten in to Northwestern. Same goes for most of the Ivy leagues. So there is pretty much no data for me to go off of.

In that case, you need to go by acceptance rates, and assume that any college with an average acceptance rate of below 30% or so is a reach.

As a legacy for WashU your chances are far higher than they would be based on your profile, and if WashU is similar to most colleges which consider legacy, the benefit of legacy are highest if you apply ED.

However, since we still do not know what your stats will be, not what accomplishments you will have, it is, as I wrote, premature. For example, my own kid’s profile when applying for colleges could not have been predicted based on her profile when she was in her second semester of sophomore year.

I do recommend though, that you look at summer creative writing programs for next summer, since I think that it may be too late for this summer. Also, when you are ready to start looking at colleges, remember this list: Thirteen Colleges Every High School Creative Writer Should Consider [Updated for 2019!] - The Adroit Journal

That’s a fantastic list! I’ll make sure to save the link. Speaking of summer writing programs, I actually have a question about those. I was accepted to two for journalism, both of which being somewhat selective. One was free, one I would have had to pay. I didn’t know about this site at the time and I declined both for my internship. In my mind, it seemed like a better option to get paid to improve my writing and use my journalism skills, as opposed to pay for a similar opportunity. I wasn’t really thinking about college when I made this decision. I mostly just considered which opportunity would be the most fun, cost the least and teach me the most. Will this hurt me when applying to college?

Internships are great, and are just as good as a program. Your choice will not hurt you at all, just the opposite.