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Any advice appreciated (Asian female going into CS, looking at top schools)

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Replies to: Any advice appreciated (Asian female going into CS, looking at top schools)

  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35381 replies399 threads Senior Member
    Columbia made it's choice. The others made theirs. What is acceptable for one college says nothing about his indisputable superiority and other schools' "mistakes." In fact each college has its own wants and needs. And none of us know why or how he got into Columbia. I asked if you had read his "full file."

    I am very familiar with what makes a stem app to an Ivy work- or not.
    OP has some challenges, but a chance to do her best and feel that when she submits.
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  • nrtlax33nrtlax33 671 replies15 threads Member
    edited September 2018
    In fact each college has its own wants and needs.
    You got to be kidding. If he is not qualified to be admitted to Cornell, Cornell won't have many students .... empty campus. Don't forget Cornell is famous for its engineering school.
    edited September 2018
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  • Reformed test prep guruReformed test prep guru 40 replies0 threads Junior Member
    @nrtlax33 was your message meant to make sense? Is the example you have earlier your own child? If you would make a less than complementary addition to the incoming cohort you are rejected -- GPA and test scores aside. Plenty of people can get great scores and have great ECs. Not everyone can be someone people want to spend the next four years of their life with.
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  • nrtlax33nrtlax33 671 replies15 threads Member
    edited September 2018
    @Reformed test prep guru FWIW, I have stated several times that we have one PhD, two M.S. in my house, in three different majors from a top 10 school on this list (https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-engineering-schools/eng-rankings). If this kid was not lying in his original post, I do know his course rigor. BTW, if you don't mind me asking, what is your STEM background?
    edited September 2018
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35381 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2018
    Hmm, if he is your child, then you know more about him that a thread conveys. But of course there are myriad factors that play in an adimt or reject. The fact of strong grades and rigor is just one part. And among thousands of kids qualified with that, other factors do subsequently rule.

    But let's not debate. There is no saying, outright, that an Asian young woman won't get in for being Asian. Or asking whether she had a private music teacher or is first gen. Certainly not stating she's not going to be seen as disadvantaged by AOs.

    You may have stem folks with advanced degrees in your family. But are you involved with admissions or education? This is NOT all about rigor or stats...a lesson many kids should be aware of. The full picture matters. And this discussion is about UG admissions, not grad school, which IS different.

    My concern is how OP can work past the late interest in stem. I'd rather we focus on her than some kid from another year.
    edited September 2018
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2990 replies5 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2018
    Don't be scared, you'll get into many if not all your matches, I may put Pomona as a reach however. Don't ED anywhere, you're an excellent applicant and with FA being important, you want to have choices. The one thing you may have to work on is how you would engage, non-academically on campus, since you only have band as a group EC, unless I missed something. You don't want to come off as too individualistic (go to class, code on a computer, play the flute in my room, back to class). If you have service ECs, bring them up, to show how you'd get involved. Good luck!
    edited September 2018
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  • MrSamford2014MrSamford2014 405 replies4 threads Member
    You should consider adding Rice to your application list.

    It's another reach, but I believe that it tends to be a bit more holistic and less stat-centric in its admissions decisions than either Vanderbilt or WashU.

    In addition, Rice just announced the implementation of a very generous financial aid program--one that would serve you well should you gain admittance. The Rice page here at CC has some recent posts (with appropriate links) about this new program.

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  • celestialkairoscelestialkairos 68 replies5 threads Junior Member
    Sorry I haven't been responding to most of the replies on this thread! It got a bit overwhelming and I felt that I needed to give myself a little break from CC. Thank you all so much for your help and advice!

    @lookingforward I had a really close relationship with my chem teacher sophomore year, definitely more so than my physics teacher the year after, and I've gone back to visit several times since. I felt like we get each other as people more than a lot of my other teachers (this applies to my AP Lang teacher as well), which is why I wanted him to write my rec letter.
    About what you said regarding showing another academic interest or two, how do you recommend I go about this? I tutored some of my friends in AP Chemistry on my own terms last year, and I have attended some Math Club meetings (not all because of conflicts with other activities), but neither of these really evolved into much. With Tedx, I always am interested in the STEM-related speakers especially, and it brings me a lot of happiness to see the other people in the audience share that same interest while they're speaking, but I'm not sure how much I can spin this to show academic interest.
    Also, do you believe that it might be beneficial to add something in the additional information section about my late interest in Computer Science, or would it look like I'm making excuses, even if it is genuine?

    @Reformed test prep guru Can you clarify what you mean by personal statements being targeted directly at the schools I'm considering? Perhaps I was mistaken, but I thought that I was only supposed to have one personal statement that goes to all of the schools I'm applying to (except MIT since it is not on the Common App). I do see how I could get around that by just submitting each school's "Common Application" portion at different times, but I didn't realize that this could be a beneficial strategy for applications.

    @theloniusmonk I didn't realize that my ECs could look individualistic enough to raise concerns. My youth orchestra performs for inner-city elementary schoolers to teach them about different instruments and push them towards the music programs at the local community college, and I was planning to highlight this in a lot of my applications, as it's something that's very important to me given that I am financially disadvantaged and see myself in a lot of these kids. Beyond that, both Future Problem Solving and Mock Trial are team-based activities that I've done for several years, and I've also participated in chamber music programs where learning to work as a group is compulsory. Do you have any recommendations to highlight this in my applications?

    @MrSamford2014 I actually did have Rice on my list of schools to apply to for a long period of time! Unfortunately, the ultimate deal-breaker was that if I were to attend Rice, my opportunities to play music would be limited to only the Campanile Orchestra, which is obviously better than nothing, but I would like to have some of the same opportunities as music majors even if I am not one myself. It was especially a shame because I was very happy with the school otherwise, but I didn't know if I could limit my playing like that.

    Again, thank you all so much for letting me know your thoughts!
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9890 replies381 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2018
    @celestialkairos, You sound like an amazing young person. It's important for women interested in CS to pursue it without apologies. Don't focus on when you developed an interest, just do what you can to show where that interest has led you. Are you trying to learn coding on your own? Have you checked out any open source projects?

    I think you should look into Vassar. My son looked at it when he was researching schools and I really liked it. I think they had one of the 1st CS programs in the country and it was started by a woman. Their need based aid seemed pretty good too.
    edited September 2018
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2990 replies5 threads Senior Member
    I think focusing on the youth orchestra and your connection to the audience will be fine, adcoms know about mock trial so don't need to emphasize the team aspect.
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  • nrtlax33nrtlax33 671 replies15 threads Member
    edited October 2018
    @celestialkairos : I would like to repeat that I believe you are a competitive applicant. For your music supplement, please make sure it is of "conservatory" quality. I know recording studio is expensive. The best one around here costs about $500 per hour. We can only afford one hour so in our case my kid only had one shot. Three pieces were recorded in our case. They work!! Don't underestimate the power of music. You list flute as #1 on the list for your extracurricular so you should pay special attention to your music supplement. In case you are curious what we submitted, one of them is Chopin Scherzo No. 1 in B Minor, Op. 20. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJhacebV24k). The studio engineer stood up shouting bravo and asked what the recording is for? (he has been doing this for decades) He said (exact words) "this is good enough for any conservatory minus Juilliard". If you want your music supplement to work, make sure they are good. Your file will pass the first round of screening. Your music will be reviewed. (I believe those supplements from students who don't pass the first round will not be reviewed.) You want strong feedback from the music department to support you. You don't need to continue your music in college if you have better things to do. My kid only plays music privately in college to relax. BTW, my kid was also co-concertmaster of an orchestra. The other concertmaster is currently studying at Juilliard.
    edited October 2018
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  • celestialkairoscelestialkairos 68 replies5 threads Junior Member
    @austinmshauri Thank you so much! I am currently taking AP Computer Science at my school (after skipping an intro course over the summer). That course is based in Java, but while I was at the AI precollege program at Carnegie Mellon, I also learned basic Python, and am planning to expand my skills a bit more in these languages before I branch off. I've always looked in admiration at open source projects, but I haven't done too much on my own, especially since I'm not so well-versed in coding
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  • aquaptaquapt 2438 replies51 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2018
    Wellesley may be a good place for you to apply, but it's not a safety.
    CMU doesn't have great financial aid, and its music and CS programs are very separate.

    If you're open to women's colleges, Mount Holyoke would be more low-match/safety-ish. And Smith would probably be a match. (Both have CS, plus you'd have access to the very strong CS program at UMass Amherst through the consortium.)

    Also, since you're considering Pomona, look at Scripps too. Pomona is a reach, not a match; but Scripps is a low-match. As a Scripps student, you could major in CS through either Pomona or Harvey Mudd. (Also, if you want a rigorous STEM core as your interest in Caltech and MIT implies, consider Mudd as well. Mudd is probably a high-match, since the admit rate is higher for women than for men. And their CS program has the best gender parity in the nation.)

    Full-need-met schools with strong CS and high-level music programs: URochester, Case Western, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, and USC. (Plus Vanderbilt which is already on your list.)

    Also, St. Olaf meets full need for the vast majority of students, and is strong in both math/CS and music - this could be a good safety for you. Another financial safety with excellent STEM would be UA Huntsville, where your 36 and 4.0+ would qualify you for automatic full-ride merit.

    Also consider Rice, which has great CS and great financial aid, although the music opportunities for non-majors are not as extensive as at the other schools listed above with conservatory-level music. Tufts may also be worth a look. (For your interests, I'd choose Tufts over Harvard, but that's just me.)

    You should have lots of great opportunities! Within the category of schools with full-need-met financial aid (or guaranteed full-ride merit), think about what kind of environment you want - how important are the music programs, and what kind of environment and balance between your STEM and non-STEM interests do you want?
    edited October 2018
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  • CorinthianCorinthian 1808 replies63 threads Senior Member
    OP has a good profile but the list is very reach heavy. In what world is Wellesley a safety? Pomona, Vanderbilt, WashU, Wellesley are all reaches. I don't know much about Michigan. But Pomona has a 7% acceptance rate. Scripps is a good recommendation as a low match.
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  • hebegebehebegebe 2939 replies41 threads Senior Member
    Vanderbilt is the most stats-focused top-20 school. At least a couple of years ago, there was a pretty clear demarcation in terms of GPA/SAT acceptance on scattergrams. For people in the green zone, it was almost a safety.
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1599 replies3 threads Senior Member
    @celestialkairos You should be competitive at many on your list. Make sure you have some good safeties. CMU (last I check) considers demonstrated interest, so participating in the summer program is a plus. Perhaps you could take a tour as well. As I look at your list you will have quite a bit of essay writing in your future as many have supplemental essay requirements.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40847 replies7593 threads Super Moderator
    MODERATOR'S NOTE:
    The focus of the posts should be on answering the original poster, not bickering amongst yourselves. I have deleted several posts that added nothing to the conversation.
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  • celestialkairoscelestialkairos 68 replies5 threads Junior Member
    I know I keep saying this, but thank you to everyone for your input!
    @aquapt I was not looking at Mount Holyoke or Smith due to the more rural environment (I prefer either suburban or urban). My reason for not considering Scripps was that its financial aid is not quite as generous as Pomona's, and I felt that the school not having its own CS major could later put me at a disadvantage since I would have to cross-register for a lot of the courses I would want to take for my major (and I feel like they would prioritize their own students first). I also felt that Harvey Mudd was a bit too much of a competitive, intense environment for me, and their aid was also not so generous (their estimated cost of attendance was significantly higher than CMU's). A lot of the schools you mentioned that have "100% need met" actually ended up being somewhere between 15k-20k a year (some even confirmed with the financial aid office) which made them not affordable for me despite their claims of meeting all need, which is why I've had to be very careful in my selection of schools. Is there a reason you recommend UA Huntsville over UA's main campus, which gives more merit aid?
    @Corinthian I was basing my reach/match/safety evaluation on the 25-75 percentiles of GPAs and scores, and their acceptance rates. I did have Pomona under the wrong category because I accidentally found an untrue acceptance rate, but Vanderbilt, WashU, and Wellesley had acceptance rates above 10% and I was above their 75th percentile in GPA and ACT scores, which led me (and other adults helping me out with the college searching process) to call them matches (I called Wellesley a safety because of their 22% acceptance but that has been debunked since). Is there something I'm missing regardless?
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  • aquaptaquapt 2438 replies51 threads Senior Member
    It's true that the way "full need met" plays out will vary - you definitely need to run the NPC's for your specific situation and veer toward the schools with better aid. And you're right that the aid will generally be more generous at Pomona than at Scripps. If you were to get into both, Pomona would almost certainly be the better financial choice. But if the aid at Scripps appeared to be within range, then it could be worth considering. The option to do the extremely-well-regarded CS major at Harvey Mudd without having to do the full, intense HMC core curriculum can be an appealing one. (You can also declare CS at Pomona as a Scripps student, but obviously you can't declare the HMC CS major as a Pomona student.) Mudd's policies are very clear that off-campus students who declare the major get equal priority for course registration - no disadvantage vs. HMC students. (That said, there's a bit of a crunch in terms of demand for CS classes throughout the consortium - but this manifests more on the "far end" in that CS majors do not get priority for electives *beyond* their major requirements, so it can be difficult to register for *extra* classes that one might want after finishing the major requirements... and also tough for CS minors, who don't get the priority that majors do, to get their classes.) Harvey Mudd definitely isn't for everyone, but if you're not looking for that level of intensity then I would question having Caltech on the list. I see Caltech as being at least as intense as Mudd, *without* the moderating influence of the other consortium schools. (But if your EFC looks better at Caltech than at Mudd than that could certainly account for including one and not the other.)

    I suggested Huntsville because you didn't seem to be looking for the big-school, big-sports, big-Greek atmosphere, and Huntsville is smaller and somewhat "nerdier" as a STEM-tilted school. Huntsville itself, as a tech hub near the TN border, is diverse and quite different culturally and climate-wise from other parts of Alabama. But the Honors College at Tuscaloosa is excellent also and would also be a great financial safety with a great cohort of high-stats peers.

    All suggestions were definitely made in the spirit of "YMMV" subject to what the NPC shows based on your particular parameters. I'd be curious how Rice would compare to Vanderbilt as far as projected aid. I would think/hope that Hopkins, Northwestern, and Tufts would have pretty generous formulas too? I can see why your parents would lean toward wanting you to play the ED card, but I can also see why you'd want to keep your options open. Tough call. Good luck with getting Questbridge and with figuring out your strategy!
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  • allyphoeallyphoe 2547 replies61 threads Senior Member
    FWIW (about a much as the pixels it's displayed with), I used an acceptance rate of 20% or lower as the cutoff for high reach, 35% for low reach, 45% or lower for match, >45% for safety. The higher up you go, the less predictive test scores alone are, IMHO. That said, my own kid is pretty risk-averse and doesn't like to hope without getting. If you have a guaranteed admission / guaranteed affordable school you'll be happy with, and the possibility, however remote, of a big stack of rejections doesn't faze you, categories don't really matter that much.
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