White male rising senior @ Northeast boarding school - chance me!

I’m a rising senior at a North-eastern US boarding school. It’d be really appreciated if you could tell me what my chances are for some of my reach schools and recommend me some targets!


  • US domestic student from Virginia attending an elite New England prep school that sends 15+ kids to the Ivies and ~5-10 to HYPSM every year
  • White male
  • No legacies or any other extenuating circumstances

Intended Major(s)

  • Political science, international relations, or government

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.99
  • Weighted HS GPA: 4.32 (school uses scale out of 5 with A+s in AP-equivalent courses getting a 5, A+s in Advanced courses getting a 4.66, and A+s in regular courses getting a 4.33)
  • Class Rank: 16/225
  • SAT: 1540 (Reading/Writing 800, Math 740)


  • School doesn’t have AP classes but has AP-equivalent College Level (CL) & Advanced courses
  • 6 CL, 6 Advanced, and 4 Regular courses taken up through Junior year
  • Math level: College Level Multivariable Calculus
  • Planning to take 4 years of English, 4 years of Math, 4 years of Language, 3 years of Science, 4 years of history
  • Doing two guided research projects in Molecular Biology and in History as coursework senior year
  • AP Bio 5, AP World 4, AP Euro 5, AP Calc BC 5


  • 2nd prize in global essay competition with 4000+ entrants
  • Champion at multiple national circuit parliamentary debate tournaments
  • 2x Outstanding Delegate, 2x Honorable Mention at large national MUN conferences
  • Departmental honors in all subjects all 3 years of high school
  • Quiz bowl team national semifinalist & state champion


  • Debate team captain through sophomore & junior years, nationally ranked debater & qualified for NSDA Tournament of Champions
  • Summer intern at technology company, helped with paperwork and risk assessment software
  • Co-founder of US-based free English tutoring network with 400+ students and 300+ tutors, conducting interviews and taking care of administration
  • Student Government President
  • Dorm prefect (think residential assistant) for 25 students monitoring dorm check-ins and lights out times, proctoring study halls, organizing & running dorm events
  • Model UN head delegate with 7 conferences attended & numerous awards
  • JV cross country & track
  • Editor for campus newspaper & political science journal
  • President of campus political forum & discussion space
  • Pianist with 10+ years of experience playing in chamber music groups & performing regularly at student concerts
  • Writing studio staff member
  • Tour guide


  • No idea how those will be just yet, but I have a pretty iffy relationship with both my English and Math teachers (they both like me but I’ve not been receiving the best grades this year in their classes)

Cost Constraints / Budget
None, but preferably a school with merit scholarships and/or in-state to minimize costs. Looking particularly heavily at UVA for this reason because of Jefferson Scholarship + in-state being a Virginia resident


  • Safety
    George Mason, University of Maryland
  • Likely
    Oberlin, William & Mary, URichmond, Bates
  • Match
    Georgetown, Boston University, JHU (non-premed), UCLA, UVA, Boston College
  • Reach
    Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, UPenn, Brown, Stanford, Duke, UChicago, Amherst, Williams

UCLA is a Reach school and test blind. As an OOS student, you will be full pay at $67K/year and offers little merit aid. Regents is the most prestigious merit award but only $2000/year.


So. First off if you’re at a boarding school they should have counselors to give you top guidance.

Here’s some thoughts- the Jefferson Scholarship should not be assumed. It’s highly unlikely. So don’t get hung up on that.

Maryland. Move to match and Poli sci is impacted there. Also you’re unlikely to get much merit. So you might consider a Delaware as a sub. Or UF (lower based cost, Miami (strong merit) or South Carolina - also strong merit and all safeties to you except UF…a match. Pointing this out solely from a monetary POV.

Your match are all reach. Gtown has no merit aid so if you are chasing a cost then don’t apply. Same with UCLA, BC and all your reaches with the exception of Duke.

So if you want elite but you want to try for merit…then Vandy, Rice, WUSTL, etc. will not be easy. Smarter would be to step down some. W&L, macalester, Rochester, Brandeis, etc if you are looking at cost.

For dirt cheap and solid, in addition to the publics above, check out Alabama, Arizona and Florida State. If doing international relations, look at IU too.

Good luck.


I would guess you’re heading in the direction of law school? Hard to believe with your profile you’d be a reach at any school! Wherever you go, if you continue at the pace you’re at now, you’ll crush it. Then you’ll end up at a top law school or other grad program. After is when the real work starts, so pace yourself and enjoy it. Congrats!

May be hard to believe but that’s the reality. Some schools are reaches for pretty much everyone. And with TO and yield protection even colleges that used to be matches are unpredictable now for unhooked applicants. This year in particular has been brutal for high stats unhooked applicants.

OP @tortoises11 - I’d move UMD to match. And apply EA.

JHU and UCLA are reaches

BU - unpredictable (they might yield protect and defer/WL you)


Based on your academic interests, you may see further ideas in these sites:

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You will get far better info from your college advisor, who knows your school, than from people on the internet, who can’t know the nuances of your application etc.

Bottom line: you will get into a great school!


I’m a bit worried that your grades are dropping this semester. If I were in your shoes, I’d focus my energies on bringing these up, and after finals are over, start thinking about your college applications.


This list is sorted by my very fallible guesses of what the chances might be at these colleges for you, keeping in mind that you’re a Virginia resident.

Guaranteed (100%)

Extremely Likely (80-99%)

George Mason

Likely (60-79%)

Toss-Up (40-59%)

  • U. of Maryland
  • Oberlin
  • William & Mary
  • U. of Richmond
  • U. of Virginia
  • Boston College

Possible (20-39%)

Boston U.

Less Likely (less than 20%)

  • Bates
  • Georgetown
  • Johns Hopkins
  • UCLA
  • Harvard
  • Yale
  • Columbia
  • Princeton
  • U. of Pennsylvania
  • Brown
  • Stanford
  • Duke
  • U. of Chicago
  • Amherst
  • Williams

What kind of college experience are you hoping for? You’ve got small liberal arts colleges in rural areas and huge universities in big metropolitan areas. Although you have no cost constraints (do your parents agree?), what are you trying to keep costs minimized to? Where would you like to live (region, states, climate)? Most of your colleges appear in the northeast, but then you have some in the Midwest & west. Would you prefer an urban, suburban, or rural location (you’ve got all)? What types of activities would you like to pursue outside of class? Do you like the anonymity of large classes or do you prefer smaller classes where people know who you are? What size school would you prefer?

“Unpredictable” and “reach” aren’t the same thing though. Take BU as the example. Median uw GPA is something like 3.8 and median SAT is in the mid 1400’s. So a student like OP, in the top 8% of his class, 1540 and lots of APs, is well within the types of students admitted to BU, stats a bit better than the median BU admitted student. So it’s unfair to call it a “reach.”
Yes, definitely could easily get rejected, as BU plays the yield game. They may even reject because the stats are too good (again, protecting their yield, not offering acceptance to someone who they don’t think will enroll).

I dare say OP’s classifications are pretty accurate. Yes, the matches are very unpredictable – may not get into any of the matches, but his stats and rigor are definite matches.

The only things I would move – U Maryland, I’d move from “safety” to “likely.” Would move Johns Hopkins and maybe Georgetown and UCLA to reaches.
I’d agree that BU, BC and UVA are all matches.

But ultimately, I’d be very surprised if OP did not get into one or more of his reach schools… And applying ED to top choice would certainly help.

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I didn’t say they were.

I didn’t. I said it was unpredictable - same as what you’re saying.

He has a good chance at getting into one of his reaches, but every March/April this forum is filled with upset students and parents that are shocked at being shut out of all their reaches. Doesn’t mean they are unattainable - only that expectations need to be set appropriately.

I agree.


Start pressure testing your list a little and ask yourself why you have them on? Have you done any visits yet? Are there specific schools or programs that really interest you? I would imagine a school like Amherst might seem like a continuation of your existing boarding school. If that is appealing then you might want add on a few other LACs (Bowdoin has a great PS program). If not get rid of it.

Start to think about your application strategy? Do you think you might ED anywhere? Both UVA, Chicago, Gtown and Richmond offer EA as well. You might want to think about getting those in first then if you get into some early acceptances under your belt you can shift your focus to a few other schools you like better.

In looking at your list, most of your schools are between North Carolina and Maine, with a couple in the Midwest and a couple in California. This feels like your starting list for research, not your final list of schools to apply to. (If it’s your application list, I’d love to know how Oberlin and UCLA made the same list or Boston U. and Williams. Those are VERY different experiences.)

You are a very strong candidate and stand as good a chance as most anyone to get into the schools on your list. The issue, however, is that there are far more well-qualified applicants than there are spots, and thus the vast majority of rejected applicants are extremely well-qualified as well. Would you be happy attending George Mason? If so, great! If not, you need to find alternative schools for the extremely likely/guaranteed category. How would you feel if spring of your senior year rolled around and George Mason is your only option, or only one of about two or three acceptances? You’re probably going to have other acceptances, but the way admissions have been the last couple of years, there’s certainly a risk that you won’t. If you would like to feel more assured about having more choices for when you need to decide where to enroll, I would add colleges that are likelier admissions.

Due to your academic & extracurricular interests, I focused on schools that were in or near state or national capitals and indicated how close they were to the state house/capitol building. I don’t know if you will have a car on campus or not, but at these schools it would be feasible to have internships and other real-life experiences in government and public policy throughout the school year, which could make you a strong candidate for grad schools or employment directly after college. The further away the campus, the more likely a car would be needed (Otterbein, Dickinson, Union), but there might be public transportation options for others (and some are in easy walking/biking distance, as well).

These schools all offer merit aid and you’d be likely to get very generous aid at several of them. Most of these also have particular strengths in political science, public policy, and/or international relations.

Guaranteed (100%)

Extremely Likely (80-99%)

  • U. of Hartford (CT): 4 miles
  • SUNY Albany : 4.6 miles
  • Siena (NY): 5.5 miles
  • Otterbein (OH): 15 miles
  • Virginia Commonwealth: 2 miles

Likely (60-79%)

  • Providence (RI): 1.9 miles
  • Dickinson (PA ): 19.4 miles
  • Union (NY): 18 miles
  • College of New Jersey: 3.6 miles
  • Ohio State: 3.5 miles
  • U. of Wisconsin: 1.6 miles

Toss-Up (40-59%)

  • Trinity College (CT): 1.7 miles
  • George Washington (D.C.)
  • American (D.C.)

Possible (20-39%)

Emory (GA): 6 miles

Less Likely (less than 20%)

This and only this. Your school has perfect Naviance data, and your counselor knows the strength of your senior class and who is applying to every school on your list. These (and only these) are the students you are competing against. Nothing said here sheds any relevant light on your particular situation. You’ve already answered the questions people here are asking you; that’s how you and your counselor crafted your list. That person and your CC office have all your answers. Walk over/pick up your phone/make an(other) appointment with your counselor to address your “chances.” They know.

ETA: Also, your counselor would have helped you identify reaches, matches, and likelies (targets) early in this process. I’m wondering if you’re coming here because you didn’t like the advice you got but, if so, no one here has the insight of the person who gave you that informed advice.


But I would just add - and others didn’t comment on it - I tried to - if cost is an issue and you stated up front - you want merit…then you have to build a list to achieve the cost you want and you have not done so.

You’ve named great names, many of which will be $350K by the time you’re done. If your family is ok with that, then great - but it sounds like they are not. So then you need to remove those names and find alternative names that will meet the financial target you are seeking - whatever that target is - and that’s the discussion to have with your folks - what’s the budget??

Agree with @Dadto2NY , @parentologist and @ChoatieMom —-your basic groups of matches are probably correct based on your HS and other details; you NEED to keep your grades up above all else, and work hard to show your teachers your dedication and resilience.

Finally—go meet with the counselor. I am surprised you do not have a preliminary likely/match/reach breakdown already from the school, but they are certainly the ones who have all the nitty gritty details and can advise you well based on them.

Find out what your parents will pay and exactly where they stand so you know going into this, if there are certain schools they won’t pay full price, or there is an absolute budget max for them, no matter what school.

Agreeing with all the “caveats” expressed by others and the suggestions to taper expectations…

…however, to add some positive sentiments: in addition to “checking the boxes” with your U/W GPA and 1st decile class rank, you do list a number of international and national-level successes that should help your application stand out among the thousands of other “straight-A” applicants, as do some of your EC, such as your editor roles.

Totally agree about the financial picture, but that is one of the FIRST elements taken into consideration in the boarding school college counseling/application process. In fact, every BS I’m familiar with starts with a lengthy parent intake form during junior year to suss out any restrictions and/or particular wants/needs. The process is anything but random, parent input is sought and communication lines are established early. The OP states that there are no cost constraints (and the school knows, at minimum, if this student is full pay or receives FA at the boarding school) but merit would be nice, so the college list was crafted based with that information in mind. We said the same thing, “no cost constraints but, of course, merit aid would be a bonus.”


This poster is only competing against the applicants from their boarding school who may also have many of those same level/type of accomplishments. However, it is guaranteed that this poster will earn a seat at a fine college, as will every one of his/her classmates. No worries there.


Hopkins is not a match school for anyone, regardless of intended major. Actually, none of your match schools are actual match schools. They are all reach.