Will my stats keep me out of the schools I'm aiming for?

Hi y’all! I’m new to CC, so if there are any missteps I make, pointing them out is appreciated.

I’m going into my senior year, with my dream schools being Princeton, Columbia, and Stanford, and am considering eliminating them from my list of schools to apply to because of my stats. I come from an upper middle class household, have a 3.85-ish GPA unweighted (around 4.4 weighted, I think), 36 ACT, and four 800s on SAT II Subject Tests (Physics, Bio M, Math II, and Literature). I’ve taken the most rigorous schedule my school offers each year, with 1 AP and two honors sophomore year, and 4 APs and 2 honors my junior year. I have four 4s and one 5 on my AP exams. My high school is competitive, ranked 2nd in my state.

I take care of a terminally ill parent, and have been throughout high school. This is a time commitment of about 35 hrs/wk during the school year. During junior year, I ended up taking care of both my parents, as the other parent was injured badly. As a result, I ended up with three 4s and one 5 on my AP exams, as well as a total of 5 B-pluses. Are my chances at Stanford, the Ivies, and similarly competitive schools shot?

Edit: My ECs are okay but not exceptional (I haven’t had significant time to devote to them as a result of my responsibilities at home). I do lab research at my local university, and will continue that position into my senior year. I do a lot of service work, and have started a business with that end goal. I have had a couple of gallery shows for my artwork, and depending on how this summer plays out, may have my writing published online and/or my music played by a city orchestra.

Sorry, one more edit: my school doesn’t rank, but my GC said I’m near the top, for what that’s worth. Other schools I’m applying to include UChicago, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, and MIT. I haven’t written my essays yet, but for reference, I was a TASP finalist (wasn’t ultimately selected), if that indicates a certain caliber of communication.

I think your stats are impressive, especially in light of the commitment of taking care of your parents. I really admire your hard work and compassion for your parents. You are in the range for those schools but at that level, nothing is guaranteed. I would add some target schools and back ups to ensure you have options. What do you like about the schools on your list? What are you planning to study?

Thank you! I’m still working on narrowing down my list, but I’ll definitely add more safety and target schools. What I like about each of the schools differs, but I prefer the resources large research universities have. I singled out Princeton because of their unique undergraduate focus out of all the Ivies, and Columbia because of their Core curriculum. I plan on double-majoring in Economics and Computational Biology.

My main concerns here are my GPA (I’ve gotten eight B-pluses since the beginning of high school) and my AP scores. How well will they be viewed in light of my family commitments? Additionally, how is caring for a parent generally viewed in terms of the time it takes (crucially, the time it takes away from being able to develop depth in a particular field or extracurricular, or being able to keep up with academic work)?

I don’t think it will count against you. I think it is something you should write about in your essays to add depth and understanding to who you are. The amount of time and psychological toll that it takes to care for a parent is very significant and it may be to your benefit to explain how this had an impact on you. You are human and only have so many hours in a day. I don’t think they can expect you to have significant other activities since this is in essence a full time job.

Best if your GC can do most of the heavy lifting on this: a note from the GC saying that what you have accomplished in light of your home situation - with some specifics!- can make a world of difference. If one of your B+ teachers is somebody who would write a good LoR that would be good also: they can comment on what you have achieved despite the challenges you have been facing- a comment that says ‘this grade does not reflect aladyinmoscow’s ability, mastery or commitment’ would be good. You want to use your essay to focus on present and future, not past, so if they can establish the baseline so much the better.

Note that the AP scores won’t be an issue- so many B’s as a junior is the bigger ding.

But: you have a laundry list of famous names, many of which are expensive. Have you sorted out your finances? You need to start there.

And, as others have said, you need to work harder on identifying colleges to which you are very likely to be accepted, and some where you have a good shot. Bluntly, almost nobody has a good shot at Princeton/Columbia/Stanford/MIT/UChic/NU (UC-B would have to see your UC GPA vis à vis your subject).

It’s easy to be in love with the super-shiny names, but you will set yourself up for a happy spring (and possibly save yourself a boat load of pain) if you find a some less shiny names that you would be honestly happy to attend (they exist!!), and who would be likely to want you to come. If one or two of those are EA, so much the better. One of the worst parts of being on CC is seeing the students who wash up here every spring, who have worked their hearts out and built amazing application profiles- and then strike out at all the places that they really want (or, even worse- that they get their dream school and can’t afford it). I suspect there is also room to cull your current list- that’s 7 reaches, and you need at least 1 ‘for sure’ and 3-5 ‘good shots’ (b/c matches =/= certainty at this level), which adds up to a lot of college applications. Good essays take a lot of time.

You have to comprehend how nutso fierce the competition is- kids with rigor and 4.0 unweighted, top scores, more 5’s than 4’s, the right variety in their ECs (depth and breadth.)

It’s tricky to explain you spend so much time helping your parents. Don’t inadvertently leave the impression they will be without help and you really can’t leave home.

When you take a good look at more colleges, you’ll find others withthe same spirit as those tippy tops. Get a Fiske Guide to Colleges.

I don’t think that your grades will necessarily preclude your chances. However, between “Princeton, Columbia, and Stanford” and “UChicago, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, and MIT” you have a lot of high reaches. I think that you should pick out three that you are the most interested in. Forget about the rest.

Then find two safety schools where you will be happy. Then optionally find three match schools. Of course, if your safeties are strong enough and attractive enough, you might not need any matches.

You also need to find out what your budget is, then run the NPC on the schools that you are applying to (unless your budget is at least $320,000 for four years).

I’ve narrowed down my schools quite a bit, and have discussed what my family can afford with my parents. Thank you for your responses!

I think you have a decent shot at all these schools. When do you plan to write your essays?

I have a draft of my personal statement done, and started working on school-specific supplements last week. I’m trying to finish as much as I can before my school reopens so I have ample time to edit.

I’m a high school student myself, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. But, you have an ACT of 36 and a bunch of 800s on SAT IIs. That’s picture perfect. It’s okay if you had some B+s, you obviously showed mastery of subjects on your SAT IIs. Not only that, but AP scores aren’t for admissions but credit. You don’t need to report them on the Common App (though, there’s nothing wrong with your scores). I think you’re a pretty strong applicant, especially considering what’s happening within your family, and I’d make sure to note that on your app.

First of all take everything posted with a grain of salt, including my post. Some posters know a lot and some know less but post anyway.

My spouse went to Harvard and about 10 years ago they sent out a publication to alumni profiling some recently admitted students. Every single one had lost a parent or had one who was significantly ill ( Dad was a surgeon who had a stroke and could no longer work). Harvard clearly values kids who have faced adversity and risen to the occasion.

My two cents is that you fit right in to this profile. Of course they are super roaches for anyone but in my opinion your Bs absolutely do not disqualify you. And I would urge you to write about your experiences in the essay, not leave it up to a guidance counselor.

Best of luck to you as you navigate this stressful time, which is much more so for you. Hugs. You are going to do wonderful things!

When explaining special circumstances, it works best is when the kid triumphed over the challenges, kept up grades, found the reight balanace in school or peer ECs, etc. OP has 5 B+ grades, in a context where many applicants to those tippy tops will have all A grades… And adcoms will notice that there was time for the research, some comm service (we have no idea what and starting a business is not a tip,) despite so much time taken by parents. They can ask why time for that and art, writing, but none left for peer involvement,

^ This sounds inhumane.
In addition, why art? Because it can be done at home.
Dealing with a gravely ill parent is a time commitment but also shows a person’s character and their ability to handle something that is emotionally scarring.

I completely understand what you’re saying, lookingforward. I was wondering, however, if explaining to colleges a few things might clear my situation up a little: I go to a highly competitive high school in which my GPA is still among the top 10-15% of the class unweighted, and in the top 5% weighted. In terms of the ECs, MYOS1634 is correct in their identification that most of my ECs are done from home. The research is primarily over the summer, during which I have more time on my hands, and most of the data analysis here, too, is done from home. Aspects of my education like seeking out additional help for challenging topics after school, being present in class in the first place instead of with my parent, and being able to wedge in studying and ECs between my family commitments are the things that have really taken a hit because of the illness. There is a reason I do not participate actively in after-school clubs or competitions: these require me to be away from home.
Is there a way to establish this in my application without making it seem as though I will not be able to be away from home for college? I have already made arrangements with my family to take care of this.

Again, this is where your GC can really be helpful: fair or not, that info from an external adult will carry more weight. Backed up by a brief reference in an LoR from a teacher, even better. That means that you talk to them ahead of time.