Top unis that require less writing requirements & other stuff


rising senior here.

Which top-ish university has less writing requirements? This sounds bad but I really don’t like English (even though an English teacher is writing a letter of rec for me bc we met a lot this year but I don’t want to do a lot of English in college). Also looking for less politically liberal schools (but not extremely conservative/religious), kinda preprofessional schools, no snow, research opps, partying opps, good food, not dangerous or highly expensive neighborhood, not in the middle of nowhere, good professors, medium-size. preferably West Coast (want to be close to home).

currently planning on applying to most UCs, Rice (possible ED), Emory, WashU St. Louis, Case Western Reserve, Cal Poly SLO

  • will maybe apply to: UChicago, Northwestern, USC, Claremont-McKenna College and/or Pomona, Vanderbilt, Pepperdine

  • will appreciate suggestions for safeties, targets

intended majors: neuroscience & minor/major in education/childcare. possibly premed/prehealth.

stats: 3.97 UW GPA, 4.2 GPA. Cum Laude. by end of senior year will have taken 7 APs out of 15 offered at my small all-girls school in CA.

asian female

*note: years participated is only counting freshman to junior year/up to now & not counting middle school (so since I’m a rising senior the max # of years in HS would be 3)

  • School Yearbook Staff, Section Leader (sophomore year) & Junior Editor (junior year) & Editor-in-Chief (senior year), 3 years

  • JV Tennis, Captain (junior & senior year), MVP, 3 years

  • JV Soccer, Captain (senior year), 3 years

  • Babysitter, 3 years

  • School Future Lifesavers Club, Founder & Co-head, educating students on the healthcare field, 2 years

  • Grade-Level Class Cabinet Member: Secretary/ Communications and Events Chair, 2 years

  • School Service Representative, 2 years

  • Hospital Volunteer, running errands and working in neurology unit, 2 years

  • Young Artists’ Orchestra charity group, clarinetist, President’s Volunteer Gold, 2 years

  • Stem Without Boundaries Chapter President, hosted virtual STEM night for local kids, 1 year

  • Mentor & Camp DELTA Teacher, mentored & taught science/science experiments to elementary schoolers for 3 months during pandemic, 1 year (mentor + science classes)

  • Science Research & science summer programs with various organizations over this summer & last summer, 1 year

  • Galileo Learning Summer Operations Intern (job), (camp counselor-type), 3 months this year

  • local Educational Foundation Summer Enrichment Program Summer Youth Leader, assisted in Mandarin intro to K classroom, Volunteer Award of Distinction, 3 months

  • Chinese tutor, 3 months

  • piano, Certificate of Merit with Branch Honors Level 10, 0.5 year

family income >250K, will not qualify for financial aid, parents willing to pay for any college as long as it is a top/prestigious one

You are one of what CC fondly calls an “average excellent student.” Your college application, particularly your essays are going to be your best hope at gaining admittance to a top school by showing why you are a good fit. My strong advice is to not stop now.

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I think that what you’re looking for in an educational experience is fundamentally at odds with your quest to maximize prestige. The most elite schools are generally looking to develop a high level of critical thinking, as manifested by ambitious reading and writing expectations. (Unless you’re looking at programs that are specifically elite for STEM - but you don’t seem like a Caltech-type person either, and even they have “liberal arts” requirements.)

You sound like you’d be happiest at a school like Cal Poly, which I see is on your list. Pepperdine also sounds like a potential fit. ASU Barrett and other public honors colleges could be a great option (although even there, “the development of critical reading, discussion, and writing skills” is listed as a primary emphasis).

In terms of looking for more “prestige”… most of the schools that come to my mind aren’t on the west coast. Tulane, Wake Forest… maybe Lehigh? (Lehigh will consider you URM, where most schools won’t.) WashU seems like a good choice for a high reach. For lower-matches, SMU and U of Miami.

For heaven’s sake take UChicago off your list - you would positively loathe their core curriculum and their entire vibe. Their application alone is more writing than you want to do, lol, and I think it’s highly unlikely you’d get in there anyway.

If you’re dead set on trying to crack the T20 category, apply ED to WashU. Their ED acceptance rate is 36% and the social/cultural//academic fit seems genuine, which improves your odds of making a good case for yourself. Vandy could be a fit too, theoretically, but you have a much better shot at WashU (the ED acceptance rate is literally double) and it seems to have basically the same points in its favor. I think you’d like the culture at WashU better than at Rice, and again your odds at Rice are much worse. (In addition to the very low acceptance rate, even for ED, Rice is need-blind so you lose the boost for being full-pay that you’d get at WashU. There’s a reason WashU has the highest median family income among all US universities.) If you pass up the ED cycle at WashU, your odds of acceptance will drop precipitously.

As you probably picked up, I’m not necessarily advocating for you to take the maximum-prestige path. (It won’t confer any advantage in the education field or in med school admissions, and you may well be less happy than at a school like SLO or Pepperdine.) But if that’s what you want, WashU ED is the clear winner, with Wake Forest ED as runner-up (or as ED2).


Thanks!! Will definitely consider your words. Problem is parents want me to apply to prestige and I kinda have to listen to them since they’re funding my college…

Also why do you think I won’t fit as well into Rice? Thank you.

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Ah, I see your dilemma.

It’s not that I think you couldn’t find your niche at Rice. I just don’t think it’s as good a fit as WashU, from the way you describe yourself, and I also don’t think it’s as good a use of your ED in terms of odds.

My daughter, also an Asian student from California, got into Rice seven years ago. Her qualifications were similar to yours (including music and Galileo and tennis) - GPA and apparent rigor slightly higher, but that’s probably just the public vs. private difference. You haven’t stated test scores, but she had a 34 ACT. My sense was that she was “on the bubble” at that time and was lucky to get in, thanks to lots of demonstrated interest and strong essays. It has gotten much tougher since then. I honestly don’t believe she would get in today, and I see you in that same category. I’ve seen some really impressive kids apply ED in recent years, and no joy.

Apart from playing the odds, Rice’s reputation is strongest in STEM, and engineering/CS are especially dominant. While it’s known as a happy, “work hard play hard” school, it does have a grind streak, with the attendant “who’s suffering the most” dynamic. It’s a little on the nerd-culture side - not to the extent of, say, an RPI, but more so than WashU. You sound like you’re looking for more of a traditional social/party culture, whereas Rice has parties, for sure, but it’s all just a bit quirkier than what you’d find at WashU or Vandy or Wake. You’d find like-minded people at Rice, certainly; I just think you’d find more like-minded people at WashU. (Of course, that’s all based on a fairly limited impression, so, grain of salt.)

Certainly students work hard at WashU too, and there’s the full range of personalities from the “nerdy” to the stereotypical lovers of Greek life. (Although the one more “nerdy” student I knew that went there did not like it and transferred to a “quirkier” school… and my bet is that she wouldn’t have felt that need if she’d gone to Rice.)

All these things are so intangible, but FWIW those are my impressions. And intangibles aside, the numbers alone say that WashU is a better bet. If you do go premed, that’s going to be intense and competitive anywhere, especially at a “top” school full of highly-ambitious students.

WashU also has some pretty cool stuff for students interested in neuroscience. This program alone almost enticed my daughter to apply: Mind, Brain, and Behavior | Arts & Sciences


Thank you!! Sorry forgot to list, my SAT is 1520.

Is there anyway to get more honest input (besides your experience) on these “intangibles”? The problem with speaking to student ambassadors of schools is that they always try to sell their school (well it’s their job so i get it)…is CC or reddit the best resource Ive got?

Based on your criteria, this looks like a great list of mostly reaches. I think your chances are good at Cal Poly SLO and Pepperdine especially. Case Western and Wash U both like demonstrated interest and as mentioned above, ED at Wash U confers a meaningful boost.

I would scratch Chicago and Northwestern (cold!) and as mentioned above, I don’t think you’d like Chicago’s core.

I agree with @aquapt 's suggestions for match/high match/low reach - Tulane, Wake Forest, Lehigh, SMU.

Maybe take a look at U Rochester if you want a match school akin to Case Western (Rochester is cold and not on the west coast but Cleveland has cold winters too).

However, I think the subset of your list that I highlighted above is really solid, if you would be genuinely happy to attend Pepperdine or Cal Poly SLO or a mid range UC, in case none of the others work out. I doubt that will happen but you never know, especially with the continuation of Test Optional at many schools for this coming year. TO made this past application round very unpredictable, especially at the top, where schools were deluged with additional applications. I remember one parent reporting that their son got turned down or WL at Cal Poly SLO but got into much higher ranked schools. And none of the UCs are sure things these days. So be sure to have some safeties you genuinely like in your lineup! Also if a strong ED favorite emerges and your parents agree, it might be worth considering.

Nine applications is a considerable amount to work, especially for somebody who isn’t particularly into writing. You may do some adding and subtracting before you get to your final list but I’d try to keep it to around 10 well-chosen schools at most.

Good luck!

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Rice is expanding its class size now, and it would be a good time to apply to such a good fit.

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Any chance of doing visits? Those aren’t foolproof either but they add another dimension, plus, they help you quite a lot in the “demonstrated interest” dimension, with schools that care about that (which Rice and WashU both do). The aforementioned daughter and I visited Rice, UChicago, and others that wouldn’t interest you at all (i.e. Carleton) during her senior year October break. (She didn’t end up applying ED anywhere, but she still could have if those visits had convinced her to do so.) It seems as if in-person visits are starting up again, so maybe you could plan something. Pretty good idea if you hope to do a binding ED app. (My younger daughter was toying with applying ED to Carnegie Mellon, and our in-person visit convinced her not to. It’s really good to get those in-person impressions if you can.)

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Pretty much any good school will require a lot of “writing”, but if by writing you mean what you did in high school English, any school with broad distribution requirements will have lots of options other than the typical high school content of read classic literature, write analysis, read some poetry, do some creative writing. IK you didn’t mention it (even though it seems like a good fit if you’re willing to consider east coast snowy schools), but Cornell’s requirements come to mind. Their requirements can be fulfilled with classes like food journalism, scientific writing, etc. Just stay away from core curriculum. If you want to go somewhere prestigious, there is writing in your future.

Have you looked at the University of Oregon as a safety? West coast, seems to fit lots of your criteria. Not necessarily a “top” school but it’s a high-quality state flagship with good teaching. You’d probably get decent merit aid if you’re worried about parents not paying.

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Given OP’s preference for a politically balanced-to-conservative environment, I would tend to look to the southwest publics (ASU Barrett, U of Utah Honors College) rather than the PNW flagships. But I agree with the principle of considering OOS flagship universities in addition to UC’s. (And within the UC system, I’d give strong consideration to UCSB, which is strong in the sciences as well as education, and also has a vibrant social scene and a less “activist” vibe (no value judgment ascribed, just for lack of a better descriptor) than UCB and UCLA.


I think you need to go to a big state school and get lost in multiple choice which happens in large classes. Stay away from Honors which which will require more writing. Also you didn’t mention costs but you’ll want to watch as grad school is in your future.

For prestige I see USC, Northeastern, BU.

Honestly I see Arizona a fit. Lots of really smart kids chase the money and attend flagships so you won’t be alone. And you’ll go in expensively. Perhaps the Honors College will not be over the top.

Trading your email you want what doesn’t truly exist nor should it.

You will be miserable at most schools you mentioned if you don’t want to write aggressively.

Good luck.

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Pepperdine has a strong religious influence on campus life. Does it match your religious preferences and denomination?

That describes CSUs better than UCs. In other states’ universities, it more commonly describes non-flagships more than flagships. Among private schools, some like Northeastern and Drexel have a more preprofessional flavor than others. Among prestige private schools, some like Cornell and Penn have a more preprofessional flavor than others.

Medical schools typically expect applicants to take some English composition / rhetoric / literature courses, whether or not these are required at your college.

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Good point, although if OP is interested in greek life at UO I got the impression that their members tend to be more politically balanced. Utah is a great suggestion.

Education will likely also require a decent amount of writing, but it seems like that varies greatly among schools.

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The other thing I should have said explicitly is that your “pre-professional vibe” criterion is more clearly met by WashU than by Rice. This may shift a little now that Rice is introducing an undergrad business major - I am curious to see how that will go, especially given their open door policy re: major choice - will be interesting to see how big a surge of demand they see for the new major.

The contrarian version of my advice is… if it’s really more your parents’ dream than yours, for you to attend a T20 school (to the tune of probably $350K out of pocket by the time you’re done)… forget the strategizing and shoot the moon if you apply ED at all. ED wherever you like, without regard to odds. Apply to Stanford if you like! If you don’t get in, your parents can be satisfied that you tried, and you can head happily off to SLO or UCSB or Pepperdine or ASU Barrett Honors or Utah Honors or wherever you like best of the offers you get. (Consider Santa Clara too, btw.) Win-win!

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Hamilton, Grinnell, and Smith have no distribution requirements, you can take whatever classes you like. May not be your political vibe.

I’m an incoming college freshman this year, and here are a few thoughts I have after recently going through a similar process:

Mostly it seems like you want to be in a geographic region that’s the West Coast, South, or potentially the South-Atlantic, which is totally cool. As a kid who looked at the East Coast a lot, I’ll give you some insights about schools I know more about and not those on the West Coast, as I’ll leave that up to more qualified people. Having lived in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, its cold, snowy, and there aren’t lots of cities unless you’re near a body of water, so there aren’t a ton of spots that I would feel that would go with your geographic vibe. Of course, I do believe in exceptions, but off the top of my head, I think lots of more schools in the South.

-If you are looking at Chicago in the Midwest, I think Northwestern fits you a lot better than UChicago as the latter will have writing, is in a less safe neighborhood, and has less of a party scene… That said Chicago is snowy, not crazy so, but definitely a lot more than you’re used too and definitely colder :frowning:

-Down more south, I have a friend going to WashU now, and I think it checks a lot of boxes for you as a school on your list. They have solid research, it barely snows if at all, lots of PreMed help (its literally the school for that, a top neuroscience program which my friend is in, and its safe within St. Louis’ backyard (not in it really, but like right adjacent inside the suburbs)… The only thing I can’t speak for is its party and culture vibes which I expect aren’t perfect, but I feel like you would be an amazing fit here and there would be fun in St. Louis to explore.

-Moreover, I would strongly consider Duke in NC if you’re okay with going out that far east! They have phenomenal research, a great work hard/play hard vibe, great professors and are in a pretty nice/semi-urban part of the state.

-Further down the line, I think Vanderbilt and Rice meet some of your expectations… Case Western meets your academic interests for sure, but geographically it maybe might not fit you (I’m not sure I’ve only driven through Cleveland twice)…

One last thing to note, is that there are a lot of schools (especially those that are LACs or have no core cirriculum) that will have usually some writing reqs, but will offer you lots of different writing courses: writing about food, poetry, neuroscience, biology as opposed to studying literature/English itself… At my school, kids take these classes to relax and or pursue their majors, so its not viewed as a burden at all…

This might make schools like Pomona or Emory great for you, which too are in the South.

Hope some of this helps and good luck!

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Here are a couple of possible match schools: Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas; Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

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@worryingabtcollege If you are interested in lower writing requirements, you should not include any liberal arts colleges in your list. As a rule, LACs have a really strong focus on writing, and not only do their graduation requirements include intensive writing courses, but the amount of writing required for all courses tends to be higher than the amount required at other types of schools.

Like others have written, many of the more popular private universities also tend to have high writing requirements, colleges like Emory, Rice, Vanderbilt, UChicago, and possibly Northwestern, and CWRU as well.

Larger public research universities are likely the best choices, or public and private polytechnic colleges (or ones that are similar to polytechnic colleges).


Duke has long had a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most writing-intensive universities. In addition to the writing components of normal courses, several courses specifically designated as writing and research classes are required for graduation, including the Writing 101 course required of all first year students.

Duke is currently ranked #3 in USNWR’s writing-in-the-disciplines ranking.