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Chance me for CS at top UK schools

sr55662sr55662 15 replies2 threads Junior Member
Posting this for DS.

GPA: 3.8/4.6 (w) (junior)
ACT:36
AP: Comp Sci (5), Micro (5), Environ Sci (5), Human geo (5)
AP -Predicted: Calc BC (5), Stas (5), Bio (5), Chem (5) (junior year)
Awards: USACO Platinum, 2 times USABO semifinalist, 3 times AIME qualifier. AMC 12 this year 138 (top 1%) expecting AIME -9 (may make USAMO)
Research/Publication : Computational Biology (cancer research) under a Oxford PhD professor. Paper under publication.

We want to explore UK schools being an Asian male in CS chance of top US school are quite low.

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Replies to: Chance me for CS at top UK schools

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7072 replies66 threads Senior Member
    Good news: except for Oxbridge, you can pretty much chance yourself: each university puts their (very specific) requirements online. With those test scores achieved in May and a decent Personal Statement and LoR your son should be able to get unconditional offers from most top programs. The important thing will be to read the program descriptions **carefully**- they are more different than you might guess, and especially at the beginning there is little to no choice.

    For Oxford OR Cambridge (you can only apply to one), both have an admissions test for computer science (the Math Aptitude Test- MAT- at Oxford and the CompSci - CSAT- at Cambridge, plus a subject-focused interview. Again, read the course descriptions to see which suits your son better.

    paging @HazeGrey, whose son is a current CompSci + Math student at Oxford and @Twoin18 who is a Cambridge math grad whose son just went through the Cambridge process.
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  • sr55662sr55662 15 replies2 threads Junior Member
    @collegemom3717 thanks a lot.

    Just an additional data-point. DS recently took last year MAT as practice. He scored 100%
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1802 replies18 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    As I noted here https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/united-kingdom/2091170-oxbridge-admissions-for-americans.html#latest I wouldn't encourage US applicants to pick Cambridge over Oxford without good reason (in fact my S18 applied unsuccessfully to Oxford because he wanted to do PPE). That means showing why you wouldn't just be using them as a backup to HYPSM if you were admitted there (or it being clear that you wouldn't get in there - ironically enough if your S had an even lower GPA with the same math qualifications he might potentially be in a better position at Cambridge - the one US kid I know who went to my college was unschooled and had done nothing but math in his HS years and wasn't admitted anywhere in the US because he didn't even have a HS diploma - call it the Ramanujan method, but Tara Westover is another more recent example https://share.trin.cam.ac.uk/sites/public/Alumni/The_Fountain_Issue_25.pdf). The one thing you might consider doing to demonstrate commitment is to take the STEP papers this summer, with an S in STEP 2 and 3 you are pretty much guaranteed entry (though it is math rather than CS oriented).

    Your son would be well placed, make sure you think carefully about colleges (one thing we didn't think about enough, which led to my S applying to the hardest college to get into, all the stats by college and subject are online, you want a critical mass in the subject but not a college with the lowest acceptance rate), practice for the MAT (and make sure his school is registered as a test center), find a math/CS teacher to write his reference (and give them plenty of time since it is completely different to a US teacher recommendation) saying he's the best math student in the last decade (which is probably true from your description).

    And plan for him to go to Oxford on the published dates, don't do a video interview - he has to know he'd like it there (and they do a great job, I don't know anyone who didn't love spending 3 days in college, however badly the interviews went, though unfortunately it often means the kids are devastated if they are rejected), and the college will like to see he's committed enough to travel there.
    edited March 2019
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7072 replies66 threads Senior Member
    sorry, @Twoin18, for the mis-attribution!
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  • sr55662sr55662 15 replies2 threads Junior Member
    @Twoin18 Thank you very much. This is very helpful. My son goes to a pretty competitive school. They have 5-7 usamo qualifiers every year and IMO team member every couple of years. Hence while his recommendation will be very strong. He is certainly not the best Math student in last decade. Do you think it would be better for him to take recommendation from the university professor with whom he has done research for the past one year. Professor is PhD from Oxford and they are publishing a paper together.
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1802 replies18 threads Senior Member
    That is definitely worth considering. My son's reference was from a teacher who'd done a masters at Oxford (which helped to get him an interview), and I believe @HazeGrey's son had his reference from a teacher who was an Oxford grad. Oxford may consider they are likely to have a better insight into what Oxford is looking for.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12673 replies29 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    Definitely get the recommendation from the Prof. I'd say you have a really good to terrific chance everywhere in the UK outside of Oxbridge, where you still have a pretty good chance.

    However, do note that CS in the UK tends to be more theoretical than in the US norm (so akin to U of C CS instead of, say, UMich/UIUC).

    What goals does your son have besides the CS major?

    Your son is really strong acdemically, so while I wouldn't rate his chances at HSPM high (just because really strong applicants like your son aim for those schools), other schools would like someone like your son (in the ED round especially). Northwestern has an ISP program (that is like a Caltech/Cambridge Nat Sci curriculum with a small cohort within an Ivy-equivalent B10 school) they want to fill with future PhDs and is strong in AI (in CS). I think the U of C would like your son in the ED round too. I would say also Brown (strong in CS) and Dartmouth & Georgetown (not as much) simply because they simply won't get as many applicants like your son; probably hardly any in the case of Dartmouth and none in the case of Georgetown so your son would be seen as a catch. Caltech concentrates mostly on academic potential and doesn't take race in to account in admissions. In fact, I would say that your son would have a decent to good chance in ED to nearly all of the Ivies/equivalents who have ED (so not HYPSM). Ivies+UofC+Northwestern+Rice+JHU+Duke+Caltech. Sadly, Georgetown doesn't have ED. A good chance at other top schools like ND, USC, Vandy, and Emory too, even in RD. And I believe that Cornell admits by college which is an advantage to you as engineering profs would be the one evaluating your son's application.
    Don't ignore the state schools that are strong in CS like Cal, UCLA, UMich, UIUC, GTech (though the GPA may be a concern at the UCs). I'd say he has a decent to good chance at UMich and UIUC.

    What state are you in?
    OK, I saw your previous post.

    CMU SCS is obviously very difficult to get in to. Especially as a guy (though probably still easier than MIT and Stanford). Best chance would be through ED.
    Still, I may use ED (and maybe ED2; depending on goals, even LACs may make sense) elsewhere. What does he love so much about CMU SCS?
    edited March 2019
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12673 replies29 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    I would not ignore WashU, Duke, Brown, JHU, and USC (and Cal, UT-Austin, UW-Seattle) for computational biology.
    A strength, especially at privates in the US, is the ease at which to double major. Not a small consideration for someone interested in an interdisciplinary field like computational bio. Really look at what classes are in or allowed in the CS curriculum at UK schools. There's a bit more leeway at Scottish unis, but still not as much as in the US. I think, for someone like your son, a uni that has a good computational bio group would be a real positive.

    So what goals does he have after undergrad?
    edited March 2019
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  • sr55662sr55662 15 replies2 threads Junior Member
    @PurpleTitan Thank you very much. Your response is so valuable. We definitely are going to research more about the
    schools/programs you mentioned. My son intendeds to do PhD in computational bio. He is not after HYPS. MIT is his number one choice which very unlikely. Our thought process is to get a good solid CS degree for UK and then apply for PhD in US.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12673 replies29 threads Senior Member
    ^ That is certainly possible but the US has a lot of good computational biology groups, and while they nearly all are at schools that are strong in CS (or are generally elite), not all of them are as difficult to enter for undergrad as MIT or CMU SCS (especially if you apply ED and ED2).

    I would have him ask the prof he works with to give a list of what he considers the top computational bio groups in the world. He would certainly be much more of an expert in his field than anyone here on CC (most likely). I (and others on CC) can then give you a decent sense as to how difficult it would be for him to enter the various schools.

    For a PhD, recommendations from profs who's name carries a lot of weight in a field is golden. For other goals (like entering quantitative finance), different schools would offer differing levels of opportunity.

    Costs are not a concern?
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  • sr55662sr55662 15 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Thanks, money is not our primary concern. My son had a casual conversation with the professor about colleges once. Professor is a post doc from Harvard and his instant reaction was that my son should be able to get into Harvard and MIT. Clearly he does not understand the holistic admissions process that well.
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1158 replies26 threads Senior Member
    It's not a field I'm familiar with, so take what I say with a pinch of salt, but my concern would be that a CS undergraduate degree in the UK would not be adequate preparation for a PhD in computational biology because of the lack of biology. As a random example I see that Brown's PhD in the subject requisites undergrad coursework in biology and chemistry, and that may be typical: https://www.brown.edu/academics/gradschool/programs/computational-biology. It may be doing a bit of research now as to future paths.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12673 replies29 threads Senior Member
    Yep, profs in the US may be very ignorant of undergrad admissions to elites as they don't have to serve on ad coms and the reality on the ground changes so fast. Experiences from a decade ago are already out of date.

    That said, your son does have a chance at Harvard and MIT. A place like Harvard admits at least 10% of it's class based purely on academic brilliance (leaving plenty of spots to fill institutional wants). At MIT, it's probably a bigger percentage but it's a smaller school.
    Your son probably would be in the running for those prestigious full-ride scholarships at Duke as well.

    I would have him ask the prof for a list of other good schools in computational biology (say the top 10-15). Tell him undergraduate admission to American elites is very unpredictable these days.

    As @Conformist1688 pointed out, even a school like USC or UW-Seattle (both quite good in CS still) may provide better preparation for a PhD in computational biology than Oxbridge because of the restrictions of undergraduate study in England. Obviously neither are as prestigious as Oxbridge in the eyes of the lay public but the profs who admit to PhD programs don't care about that.
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1802 replies18 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    And I think it depends exactly how "computational" your son's interests are. My best man did his PhD in mathematical biology and is now a professor. But his focus is epidemic modeling (e.g. Foot and mouth disease) and that's just dynamical systems, so his undergrad math degree was fine. Whereas I assume a lot of biological modeling (say molecular structure) would require a more detailed understanding of the processes involved.

    (And it was early days back then, Mandelbrot was new, no one really had the combination of biology and math, so it fell to the mathematicians).
    edited March 2019
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  • sr55662sr55662 15 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Thanks for all your questions. You made me have a more in depth discussion with him on his interests. He say's he is very motivated by problems in molecular biology. But he equally enjoys mathematical and computational methods and techniques. He doesn't want to be generalist in CS for sure. BTW I saw that imperial offers MEng in comp bio in computer science school and Oxford CS has a paper on computational methods in biology.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12673 replies29 threads Senior Member
    ^ After undergrad in the US, it's a much more level playing field in the US. In other words, STEM research PhD admissions is conducted by profs in a department and they don't care about institutional goals like legacy, athletes, trying to match what the US population looks like by race, etc. In other words, it's much more like admissions in the UK.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12673 replies29 threads Senior Member
    BTW, while I'm not one to point to Cambridge for STEM and Oxford for humanities, Natural Sciences seems to be the course that would best fit your son's interests (no CS but plenty of bio and math):
    https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/natural-sciences
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12673 replies29 threads Senior Member
    CS or CS and Math at Edinburgh (strong in CS, known for AI) may make sense as a safety for your son. He'd be able to take a few bio classes there as well.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7072 replies66 threads Senior Member
    That's a useful suggestion, @PurpleTitan. Edi is also better than many UK universities for getting (interested) students into meaningful research at an early stage.

    Upthread people were mentioning that other, less famous US universities could be as good- or better- options for CB. Indeed, many of the best programs *won't* be the most famous names. UCSD, for example, has a superb program, but is not necessarily on the radar of the typical student who aspires to Harvard. The advice to ask the professor that your son is working with whose work / which programs are the best fit is worthwhile. That will matter more to grad schools than a generally famous name.
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  • sr55662sr55662 15 replies2 threads Junior Member
    edited March 2019
    @PurpleTitan @Twoin18 @collegemom3717 Thanks a lot. U have given me lots of food for thought. I am so glad that I asked for advice.
    Rutgers itself is an option then. His research mentor works @ Rutgers. He will probably get a full ride as well being instate.
    edited March 2019
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