What are my chances of getting into a top 20-100 school?

I am in my junior year of high school, and I feel like I am not doing enough for college. I am on the track to take 8 or 9 (possibly 10) AP classes, my gpa is around a 4.0 unweighted (~4.25 weighted). My PSAT score from eighth grade is 1120, and my PSAT score from tenth grade is 1300, and I was in the 97th percentile both times. I am taking the PSAT again for free this year for the National Merit Scholarship. I am predicted to make about a 1390-1400 on the SAT. I plan on taking the SAT for sure, but I’m not sure about the ACT. My class rank is 28 out of 691 (as of March 2021), and I’m hoping to get to the top 20.

I have many hobbies that I am passionate about, such as: art (sewing, drawing, sketching, knitting, etc.), math and finance, and astronomy. I love to look and study the stars in my free time, and I have created numerous art projects ranging from sewn bags to knitted hats and paintings. I have been a member of my schools art club for a semester and plan on running for treasurer this year, I am in gifted and talented, I have competed in art UIL in freshman year but didn’t place, and accounting UIL in sophomore year and placed fourth in my district (I had three weeks to practice, because we didn’t have a sponsor until last minute). I plan on competing in Accounting UIL again this year and hope to get to state.

I also got a paid accounting internship at a small accounting/tax firm for six weeks (this was over the summer while I was a rising junior) where I was a staff member in a audit for a nonprofit (I did all of the testing while in the field), conducted reconciliations of credit card and bank statements, did a lot of payroll for small businesses and helped with two tax returns, one of them being an HOA tax return.

It was not until sophomore year that I realized how important being a well-rounded student is. AP, IB, Honors, and Dual Credit/Enrollment classes are offered at my school. Below is my schedule for school up until my senior year, where I have listed the classes I want to take. I have had straight A’s in every class since eighth grade.

Eighth Grade:

Honors Algebra 1
Honors Art 1

Freshman:

Honors Art II
Regular Biology
Regular World Geography
Honors Geometry
P.E. (required class)
Honors English 1
Principles of Business, Marketing and Finance

Sophomore:

Accounting 1
Honors Spanish 1
Honors Algebra 2
Regular English 2
Honors Chemistry
Regular World History
Professional Communications/Health (required classes)

Junior:

AP Chemistry (Only 9 people are taking it, and supposedly it’s really hard, but I really enjoy chemistry)
AP Biology
AP Psychology
Dual Credit English 3 (All dual credit courses are in partnership with a local college)
Dual Credit US History
Dual Enrollment Precal (Dually enrolled with UT Austin)
Honors Spanish 2

Predicted Senior Classes:

AP Calculus BC
AP Gov/AP Economics (both are semester classes)
AP European History or AP Human Geo.
AP Comp. Sci. Principles
AP Stats.
Dual Credit English 4
Another AP class or Honors Spanish 3

Another thing I plan on doing, is going back to the same accounting firm during spring break for tax season, and using the experience for my resume to get an internship at a larger firm. I was lucky enough to get a beautifully written letter of recommendation from them as well. I plan on majoring in accounting, chemistry, applied mathematics, or computer science in college. My top choices are Wake Forest, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Pennsylvania, UT Austin (I am a texas resident and I have a family member in the military, so I wouldn’t have to worry about student debt), Georgia Tech, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and NYU. Most of the schools mentioned for me are target and hard target schools. Would I be a competitive applicant for these schools based on my current stats as a junior? What else should I be doing to increase my chances of getting into a prestigious college?

Right now, you’re on track to get into UT Austin as an auto-admit, which is fantastic! If you can remain in the top 6%, you’re in and that would be a safety for you.

You’re underestimating the competitiveness of your schools–all except for UW Madison are reaches, most of them high. If you’re at least a decent test taker, do a practice ACT soon to see whether you’re better suited for it than the SAT. 1400 is pretty low for the schools you’re looking at, so the best thing you can do right now is prep for SAT/ACT and keep your grades up. Also, talk to your counselor and see if you will get the “most rigorous” courseload designation.

It looks like you’re on a really good track, and if you nail your standardized tests (or choose to apply TO, which I personally am not a fan of), you’ll certainly be a competitive applicant. Of course, the schools on your list are extremely difficult to get into, but you look like you have a shot. #1 thing I’d say is to maintain rank to get UT auto-admit.

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Thanks for the response! I figured I’d probably have a chance of getting auto-admit to UT-Austin, but personally, it’s not my first choice for a school. I named the schools on my list as targets and hard targets from CollegeVine’s chancing simulator. I appreciate the honesty, and I’m glad I could find a reliable source for accurate chancing for these schools with my current stats. Thank you so much!

The answer to your title question is yes (top 20-100) - yes, and easily yes.

You’re on a great track - but and the leadership role in art club will help. Is there another club you can join - that’s the part to bulk up.

Don’t force yourself into anything - your senior schedule is heavy.

If you get into UT Austin - that’s awesome - if you get in your major, double awesome.

Just keep doing what you’re doing - the colleges you list are reaches and that’s awesome. If you have a safety (UT Austin), you can reach for the stars.

But there are many schools in that top 100 that will work that are matches/safeties and you can look at as well for all of your interests - Indiana, Pitt, Florida State (over Florida…in business, Florida has a ton of online classes even pre-covid but it’s a great school), and so many more. With an unweighted 4.0, don’t forget U of Arizona and ASU - both great Honors programs and Miami of Ohio. You have so many options quite frankly. U of A will be dirt cheap with your 4.0 and they have a great Honors program. ASU and U of South Carolina do to. If you win national merit, you can add USC

Then you have your privates - the Case Westerns, Miami, Syracuse, Emory and don’t forget SMU and I’d take a shot at Rice which is adding an undergraduate business program - check on accounting. I mean Rice is a crazy reach but…

If you could handle small, Washington & Lee excels in your majors including accounting. Not only do they have the Johnson Scholarship (10% of admits get a full ride), but if you’re from Dallas or Houston, they have an extra scholarship for each that’s tuition only. I thought I read someone said Austin but I don’t see that in your post.

Wisconsin is obviously your most likely and it’s wonderful but you can do accounting anywhere - and I’d focus on cost.

Anyway, you’re doing very well and you can apply to where you want - but ensure you have matches and a safety.

And to answer your question - top 20 - ehhhh. Top 100 - absolutely.

If you end up in accounting, you might look at UGA (#6 Niche), Florida State (#10 Niche), Illinois and Ohio State - also top 20 ahead of Wisconsin. Why NYU if for accounting - that’s more for Wall Street type stuff or not worth it. Bentley is unique and you might look to them as well.

But you’ll have lots of opportunities regardless - absolutely reach but have your bases underneath covered.

Good luck.

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Thank you for the response! I greatly appreciate the awesome advice and I will definitely look into the schools you mentioned. I have a quick question—in your opinion, would it be better to go to a top 100 school for their honors program or go to a top 50 or less school with no honors? In case the unlikely happens and I get accepted into a top school, would it be better to deny it for another school’s honors program? Thanks for the advice as well, it has opened my eyes and given me a new perspective on some colleges I have never even considered. Thank you so much!

I think the difference between top 50 and 100 is not relevant. For example, if I had a 4.0, my kid would be going to U of Arizona - and that’s #97 - and your tuition with a 4.0 would be $3K a year. Do you think someone cares if you go to #30 Florida, #97 Arizona, or #133 Nebraska. They don’t.

There are schools that have specialties - for example, if you were doing Supply Chain, you’d look at Arizona State, Michigan State, or Tennessee as top schools.

But I think you’ve been sold a bill of goods on “better schools”. Or rather, you’re drinking the marketing kool aid of people who sell books, magazine, and internet subscriptions.
Yes, elite are elite and perhaps you get a leg up. My nephew went to UNLV for accounting (#258) and they place plenty at Big 4 and industry.

Honors Programs are for the student. It helps state flagships get the “top 20” kid while helping the students get smaller classes and focused programming. My son is at Bama in engineering and filled out a lot of job apps last semester - and he said never once was there a place to put in Honors - so it’s for you.

I think you need to find the right school for you - and fit includes finances.

Accounting is hot, computer science is hot but if you read on the CC, they say outside of a few schools where you go doesn’t matter…chemistry and applied math it might matter if you planned to pursue a PHD.

But I assure you that you as you get into life, you might work with someone from Kansas or Stephen F Austin, or Arkansas or Texas State. And not just work with but work for.

Find the right fit for you - sure, a Wharton (UPenn) and Michigan, etc. stand above the rest - but I bet you didn’t know one rating…and it’s just one - rated FSU 10th, etc.

But outside of the top 20, you’re way over playing it I think - and you might even be overplaying it on the top 20.

If you get into UTA and you like it - it’s a no brainer - but it will be tough in your majors.

Would you be better going to Arkansas #160 for what you want to do - say accounting than UT Austin and having to major in poli sci - 100% absolutely.

Good luck.

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Thank you so much! I will definitely have to do my research and really figure out what I am looking for in a school other than prestige. You have been super helpful, and I greatly appreciate it! Thank you!

I think that you are doing very well.

UT Austin is a great university. If you can keep your grades up to the point that you are auto-admit that gives you a very strong safety. This should make the rest of the process less stressful.

You do need to find out what your budget is. You have quite a few out of state public universities on your list. They vary with respect to what they are likely to cost. The University of Pennsylvania is of course a reach but quite likely worth applying. You will want to run the NPCs for both it and NYU if you have any cost constraint at all (most students do have a cost constraint given how expensive university has become in the US).

I think that you should google “applying sideways MIT” and read it and take it seriously. I understand that you are not considering MIT. However, what is recommended in this blog applies IMHO to any highly ranked university. The point that I take from this blog is that you should do what is right for you, and then find a university that fits what you have done. This is essentially exactly what I did (and I did go to MIT for my bachelor’s degree). A very similar approach has also worked for other family members.

I also think that your internship is a very good one.

I also agree that you should think about what you want in a university, and find a university that is a good fit for you.

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Thank you so much for replying! I read the applying sideways article from MIT and I think that it gives some really good advice. I hear all the time about how you need to have really good stats, phenomenal extracurriculars, cure cancer, etc., in order to get considered for a top school. It was really nice to read that and learn that I can get accepted anywhere as long as I keep doing what I love, and become passionate about it. It’s a good thing I really love accounting! Thank you so much for your awesome advice, it has liberated me from the stress of college admissions. Thank you so much!

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@Amous, I also think you’re doing very well, though I don’t know enough about your preferred schools to estimate your chances at these, as my daughter only looked at small/medium schools.

The only thing that stood out to me is this: while it’s fine to show your interests in your selection of courses, high school is still the place to get a well-rounded education in all core subjects.Usually the most competitive schools look for a strong foundation in all of these cores…then you can specialize with electives.

So in that vein, they tend to like to see at least one class (don’t all have to be AP) in each of the three main branches of science, and at least three years of foreign language. They also look for US history, and either World or European History at a minimum; Econ and Gov. are a plus.

Since you are interested in some competitive schools, I’d recommend taking that third year of Spanish if you can manage it. I think you should definitely work in a physics class on any level (doesn’t have to be AP) instead of AP European History, since you have already taken a world history class. or, you could sacrifice either AP Stats or AP computer Science Principles,but these do seem more in line with your college interests than history. My daughter is not a STEM student, and struggles a little with mathy subjects, but she was able to manage AP physics I with no prior physics (No other physics class was offered at her school). Since you do well in math and you enjoy chemistry, you would probably have little/no trouble with an entry-level physics class, even if its not your favorite!

Good luck to you! I think your varied interests, from the arts to the stars, make you an appealing and interesting young person!

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Thank you for replying! I am strongly considering taking Spanish 3, because I know that it will definitely help with college applications. I know that some of my school choices require at least three years of a language, so it would probably be best if I did that. Also, kudos to your daughter for excelling in AP Physics 1! I detest physics with a passion, it just doesn’t make sense to me and I can’t understand it very well. It’s ironic since I’m good at “regular math”, but physics has so many more levels to it (I guess it doesn’t help that I’m terrible at reading comprehension too). I will definitely consider dropping Human Geography from my schedule and adding AP Physics 1. That makes me a little nervous though, since I’ve heard at my school that the instructor who teaches this doesn’t teach it very well (or so I’ve heard). I’ve heard really good things about AP European History though, so I think I would really enjoy that class. Overall, thank you so much for your reply, it means a lot to me that you shared your advice and even your daughter’s experiences! I’ve been struggling so much with becoming a competitive applicant, and seeing this is helping weigh that stress off of my shoulders. I will strongly consider that third Spanish class and the physics class. Thank you so much, I greatly appreciate it!

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My one piece of advice is major in finance instead of accounting. My DD has two accountants working for her, she is 25 , they are in their 30’s. She majored in finance they majored in accounting. Anecdotal I know, and you still have to take accounting courses in finance.

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Hi, @Amous, AP Physics 1 was far from my daughter’s favorite class, and in full disclosure, she has a dad who is strong in math and science who was able to tutor her through the hard places. Who knows if the struggle made any difference in her college application or not (she did get into her first choice school). Is there any possibility you could get a better physics teacher with dual education?

I do think that many students get into very competitive schools without having every single recommended class, as applications are usually looked at holistically. It just helps the likelihood of acceptance when you can cover all (or most) of your bases wrt the core courses. You certainly show strength in math and social studies! If you think you can’t manage both Spanish 3 and physics, maybe be pick at least one of those.

Something you might want to look into, in the schools you plan to apply to, is their distribution requirements…that is, the range of classes you’ll need to get your degree. Lots of colleges and universities have a foreign language proficiency requirement to graduate, for example, or a few classes not directly related to your major, just to give you a well-rounded education. If you do find you will likely have a foreign language requirement it will be easier in the long run to plug away at Spanish in high school, where the class moves slower. That way, if you have to take more Spanish in college you won’t have time to forget what you already learned, and you’ll be that much closer to reaching proficiency. At some schools, if you’ve already had three years in high school, that alone may be considered enough, or you might only have a semester or two more to do in college rather than starting at the beginning again. Likewise, if it seems you’ll have to do any physics in college, you might be in a better place having taken some basic physics in high school. If you really want to take that European history class, by all means, take it…but remember, unless you’re in an intense program with little wiggle room for electives (such as engineering) you’ll likely have an opportunity to take a history class or two in college.

Best of luck to you!

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Fellow Texas resident here. UT-Austin McCombs would be great. Yes, Ross and Wharton are better but not for accounting but more for finance.

A lot of McCombs students go Greek. Probably same with Ross and certainly Wisconsin.

You might also consider the new Rice BBA. It has a lot of advantages.

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I was a lowly accountant and retired at 40, traveled the world while working too…just sayin’…

if you are really good at what you do (and like it), you will probably be successful in anything you do…

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Thank you for replying! I also have a super smart dad that took difficult physics classes when he was in college, and he’s strong in math and science. I’m sure that he would have no problem helping me in a similar way throughout the class.

There is a dual-enrollment physics course at our school with a different teacher, so I might consider that. My only concern with that is that I would have to check the dual-credit/dual-enrollment policies of the out-of-state schools I’m looking at. I do feel that it would be important to take that third Spanish class, since I know most universities require two or three years of a foreign language. I will heavily consider my senior year schedule and try to check all the boxes.

Other than that, I just wanted to say thank you so much for the awesome advice, and I greatly appreciate the time you have spent helping me! Thank you so much!

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Thank you for replying! I think it would definitely make more sense to major in finance than accounting, even if you take the same classes. I am still torn between what I should major in, and hearing about your daughter’s experience has definitely made me consider majoring in finance. I think majoring in finance and specializing/concentrating in accounting or getting a CPA certification would be stronger than just an accounting degree. Thank you so much for the advice!

Wow! You retired at 40 and was able to travel the world while working? That’s incredible, and I aspire to do the same. I would love to retire early and travel, and kudos to you for doing so, that’s awesome! You seem like you were really good at accounting and loved what you did. I totally believe that as long as you do what you love and are good at it, that you will be successful.

I’m not an accountant but I would disagree with the advise. With all the regulations today, accounting is a fantastic role. I would say it like this - if you want to be an accountant and work toward a CPA, major in accounting.

If you want to do something finance related - corporate, investment, or otherwise, do finance.

I’m a sales/marketing guy - but work with finance people - and they are not over accountants and they do different things than accountants - although it’s all boring to me :slight_smile:
I would say pursue your passion - and you’ll get to where you need to be.

If it turns out, it’s wholly unrelated to accounting, that’s ok too. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re off to a great start already.

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My daughter majored in accounting (5 year MA) and passed her CPA exams after graduation. My son started out as an accounting major and dropped down to finance. He makes more money than his sister (started working just one year after she did, she accepted a job offer junior year in college and they allowed her to bang out her CPA before starting), but she likes the potential flexibility of her career.

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