What are my chances for MIT, Stanford, Caltech, and Berkeley EECS and how can I improve them?

I’m currently a junior a fairly competitive public school (among the top 30 in my state) and hope to study electrical engineering/computer science and applied mathematics at the schools I listed. I’m also considering others, but those 4 are my top. I feel like I’m a fairly competitive applicant, but I’m still stressed and have some apparent weaknesses. I’m hoping you guys can give me some insight about my chances and some advice for how I can improve.

I’m not including freshman year because I don’t think it counts very much, but nevertheless, I only got 1 B the whole year.

Mixed Russian/Japanese Male From California with 250k+ income (lol)

Current GPA 10–12 Excluding PE (W/UW): 4.5/3.9

Sophomore Year:

AP Euro: A/A

AP Comp Sci: A/A

Adv English: A/A

Spanish 2: A/B

Honors Pre-Calc: A/A

Junior Year Classes and projected grades:


Community College Calculus (equivalent of AP Calc BC): A/A

AP Stats: (50/50 A or B)/A

AP English Lang: A/A

AP Physics C: B/A

Spanish 3: A/A

My first semester of junior year is my biggest weakness so far. It’s likely that I might get 2 or even 3 B’s this semester; however, I should still score well on my AP exams and SAT II physics, which I hope will be an offsetting factor. I haven’t had any extraordinary circumstances; I’m just taking on a very rigorous schedule and as you can see am involved in many extracurriculars.


SAT Math II: 800

SAT: 1540 (790 Math, 750 Verbal)


Quizbowl (9)

Science Team (10): participated in STEM competitions, organized events

VEX Robotics (10-present): president & lead programmer: 11-present

Math Team (10-present): lots of competitions

MIT Launch Entrepreneurship Club: president: 11-present (essentially creating a startup)

Technology Student Association: president: 11-present

Robotics Volunteer at Elementary School: 11-present

Science Olympiad (optics and micro-bio): 11-present

organizing STEM outreach events

lots of personal coding projects and hackathons

working on robot motion planning research project as well as a computational biology project as of this November

Android and computer vision intern at NOAA

Android intern for startup

competing in lots of STEM competitions

Thanks guys!

Quality counts, not quantity.
A nerd is obsessed with one or two things, not many things.

I disagree. I think many of your activities show a clear STEM focus, and most schools don’t want “nerds”. They want someone who is pointed, yet well rounded at the same time. I think your coding projects and STEM related activities are your point, while Quizbowl might make you look well-informed.

I think your experiences look pretty strong! Are your standardized tests (including SAT II’s strong? AP scores?). I would try to get recommendations and use your essays and supplements to talk about who you are - and why you are so passionate about CS & EE and the activities you have been involved in. And what do you want to accomplish and how what is offered by a particular school will help you and what you’ll do there as a student etc. Go see as many of the schools you are interested in as you can even if they say they do not care about interest - you’ll be able to write stronger essays and perform stronger in interviews. And please understand it is very competitive so include in your application list, a good number of schools that have strong programs but not the most selective - Michigan (great EECS), Georgia Tech, Rice, Case, RPI, etc. Best of luck to you - keep working hard and doing what you love!

Yeh, it looks good. Probably a match for Berkeley. Top schools want at least 2 SAT IIs, and AP scores are significant. MIT, Caltech, and Stanford are very tough, particularly since you may be considered Asian. OK to apply to those mentioned, but you might look at Harvey Mudd, lower Ivies, and other schools about the Berkeley level, and maybe UCLA as a safe.

These are all reaches for everyone. (Berkeley EECS is more selective than Berkeley generally.)

UCLA would not be a safety, particularly for CS or any engineering major.

Thanks everyone. A lot of this seems really encouraging but I’m still a little scared just because of the really low acceptance rates. Mainly, will getting B’s my first semester of junior year hurt me a lot for these programs even if I show an upward trend and get straight A’s next semester. Will my extracurriculars and test scores help lessen the negative effect?

And by the way, I’m probably among the low top 10% of my class at school (probably between 25-40 out of a class of approximately 400).

If you rank high in one or two of the competitions then you will have more chance for MIT, Caltech, Stanford.
That’s why I said quality counts.

@coolweather yea, I could probably get a few accolades within the next 15 months since I’m planning to compete in about 5-10 major competitions and lots of little ones like hackathons. Of course it will be difficult to win something like Siemens or the Google science fair, but I’m hoping to at least make it to semi finalist.

How badly will my grades this semester hurt me as long as I can get it up next semester and do decent on my AP exams. Has anyone here gotten into any of these programs with multiple B’s, especially junior year, or knows someone who has in recent times? How much will my scores and extracurriculars help offset the hurtful effect of the B’s?


Just really freaking out about my grades right now. I’ve heard that GPA is extremely important and that junior year is hands-down the most important year. How badly would this slight downward trend hurt me if my GPA still remains high?

Competitions won’t erase less than A grades. And lower grades just when you upped the rigor in jr year can be an issue for tippy tops. It’s not just gpa, they look at the transcript.

But you also need to stop and look at what else those colleges want. You’ve only listed stem activities, let us know what else, how you engage beyond that. Read the MIT admissions blogs. Any kids aiming high need to try to understand the whole they want to see, right from the source.

@lookingforward yea, I know a downward trend is never a good thing and unfortunately I don’t have any excuse for it such as a death of a family member or a severe illness, just the dramatic increase in rigor and my huge involvements. Yes, there are people at my school who have 4.0 unweighted, but many don’t and still go to top schools (we send about 10 to HYPSM each year and about 40 to UCB/UCLA). I’m going to do whatever I can to ensure I don’t get any more than 2 B’s this semester and all A’s next. Will it be a huge weakness on my application which could mean the difference between acceptance and rejection? Will it even be seen as much of a “downward trend” if I get a 4.0 next semester?

Btw, I forgot to mention that I do debate and am also working to create a startup; however, I don’t think there is necessarily a problem with an all-STEM applicant wanting to do engineering.

Here’s the list of places I plan to apply to and am wondering what my chances are at each (still have not decided on whether I’ll do EA yet):

Caltech (probably out of reach cuz of the B in physics)
Berkeley (EECS & MET)
Princeton (SEAS)
Cornell (Engineering)
Penn (Engineering and Wharton)
Columbia (SEAS) (my mother went to the teacher’s college so maybe that’s a legacy??)
UCLA (Engineering)
Umich (Enfineering)
Georgia Tech
UCSD (CSE) safety?

Will send you a pm.

I don’t know how you have time to participate in 6 EC areas: robotics, math, programming, quiz bowl, science (which one is it? there are many of them) and Science Olympiad. My daughter is also a junior. She participated in robotics in the last two years. Each week she spent almost 20 hours or more. This year she had to drop it because of another extremely time consuming EC. She may apply to some colleges on your list but right now she does not think about them at all. She just enjoys her school work put passion into her EC.

Why do you take AP Stats and take Calculus in community college? It takes time to go to classes at two different locations.

Did you grades slip because you spent too much time on ECs?

UCSD for CSE is not a safety even if you are a competitive applicant. Find yourself a real safety first, followed by a few solid matches and then you can apply to all the Reach schools you want.

Don’t worry about two or three Bs in a semester. They should not affect your overall UW GPA by more than maybe .1. If you keep around a 3.85 UW and a solid top 10% ranking in your high school, you are fine because your standardized test scores are great. Keep narrowing your focus on ECs. You want to be president of at least two clubs and you want to win several awards on a state or national scale.

@coolweather i know my ec’s may sound like a crazy commitment, but honestly, it’s not as bad as you think. Some of these clubs meet for no more than one hour a week. The majority of the time is spent the days before a competition. As for robotics, many weeks, we only spend about 5 hours. Again, we spend the majority of our time prepping before the competitions and we can assemble a very good robot in roughly 10 hours. We design the robot with CAD before building it which saves huge time. PM me for more details.

Also, the community college classes are taught at my high school, which is a huge convenience. I’m taking AP stats in addition to calculus because I feel it’s useful and honesly it’s what all the top STEM students seem to do.

Yea, my mindset may be bad, but the truth is that I only have about a year before I’ll be finalizing my college apps and I only have one shot to get in most of the time.

For the HYPSM level schools, I’m just going to apply and see what happens. Luckily, they’re usually a little forgiving about grades as long as they’re not horrible and an applicant is good overall. Tho I’m completely prepared for ivy rejection. However, Berkeley EECS seems like a realistic goal and I’ve heard that about 60% of their decisions are based off of grades. I have the rigor and my GPA is very strong; however, I just fear that the downward trend will raise a red flag. And that the B in physics will tell them that I’m not capable of the work. I’ve heard that extracurriculars, personality, and essays are only about 10% of the decision so I fear that stellar ec’s will not make up for B’s.

The unknown I’m admissions is kind of fearful and I just wish there was a clear pathway to getting in. I’m not a URM, I’m not poor, and I haven’t cured cancer, so I don’t have a clear hook that will get me in.

UCLA and UCB are reaches for all. B’s will not help you there.