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Chances for MIT, Brown in Math/Comp Sci

IvysaurmanIvysaurman 9 replies2 threads New Member
Those two are my top picks but I'm looking at a lot of schools so feel free to mention if any ones in particular are better for me than others, etc.

SAT I: 1520 (750/770) , Essay 13 (!) (Bad test day, essay score doesn't reflect my essay writing abilities. Planning to retake, but assume these scores for sake of argument. )
SAT II: Math II, Chem - Receiving scores in 2 weeks or so, will retake anything <800 for math and <700 chem
Weighted GPA: 99.1075/100
APs: BC Calc (5), APUSH, Lang, Chem, CSA - currently taking multivariable calc, but no AP test attached
Senior Year AP Load: Euro, Stat, Lit, Advanced Comp Sci (no AP test, follow up to AP CSA)
Awards: Zero Robotics International Finalist, Youth and Government 1st in State, Debate top 20 in state, some minor MUN things

Extracurriculars: Speech and Debate (President), Youth and Government, Model UN (VP), Marching Band, Piano for 8+ years, Tri-M, Spanish Honors Society, Chess Club (President, formerly)

Summer Activities: Spent a summer at Boston College taking Linear Algebra (ended with a B) and some random math course that probably doesn't count for anything (got an A but does it matter)

Recommendations: I can get really good ones from math, english teachers.

White, Male
1st gen immigrant from Ireland if that counts for anything.
23 replies
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Replies to: Chances for MIT, Brown in Math/Comp Sci

  • IvysaurmanIvysaurman 9 replies2 threads New Member
    this is what I get for not proofreading. Apparently there are automatic emotes on this board, but I ended with a B in linear algebra, not a B)
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  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 236 replies0 threads Junior Member
    @Ivysaurman

    You need something to differentiate yourself extracurricularly. The problem is not that you are uninvolved, but there is nothing that differentiates you from the pack. I have said it here before and I will say it again: if you are just like a whole bunch of other qualified applicants, why should they pick you and not them?

    If I were you, I would find something to do this summer to make your application pop. Do something interesting, something out there, something the college admissions officers won't see on other applications. I would also make sure to write really good essays if I were you--essays that show some personality (without being heavy-handed or coming off poorly).

    Also, there are plenty of good schools that you should look into. Apply early to a place you want to go to and if that doesn't work you should apply to a lot of schools in the regular round. The more schools, the higher your chances.

    If you have any questions, let me know. I hope this helps.
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  • IvysaurmanIvysaurman 9 replies2 threads New Member
    @TheSATTeacher thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it - you say there are plenty of good schools I should look into. I've been looking at schools and whatnot on my own time, but I think something of a reality check is potentially in order before I waste too much time. The way you wrote your post, it seems my current resume is alright, just not especially exciting. With that in mind, am I setting my sights too high? Hypothetically say I'm not able to accomplish anything exceptional over the summer. Should I not bother applying to the t20 type schools at all?
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  • GoBears2023GoBears2023 Forum Champion Summer Programs 766 replies9 threads Forum Champion
    Nothing super special that I can see. Both MIT and Brown want the top of the top. I would say 5% chance for both, just like the rest of the students.
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  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 236 replies0 threads Junior Member
    @Ivysaurman

    First, you don't have to do anything exceptional--just something interesting or different.

    Second, top 20 schools are realistic with your stats. I would also look at LACs. You should also apply to some non top 20 schools. At the very least, your stats will get you looked at everywhere. The more schools you apply to in the top range, the better your chances of getting into one. Top 5 is unlikely, but top 10-20 is doable. School like Brown, or Hopkins, or Rice are probably within striking distance.

    Finally, I disagree with the above commenter. Probably about two thirds of applicants to those schools don't have reasonably good stats. Your chances are higher than any 5%.

    Also, no one on here has seen your application so no one can give the most precise estimates.
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  • CupCakeMuffinsCupCakeMuffins 1152 replies112 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    Instead of gambling for MIT or Ivies, if possible ED at JHU, CalTech, Rice or CMU.
    edited May 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82800 replies738 threads Senior Member
    Caltech does not have ED; it has EA. Note that an applicant can apply to both Caltech and MIT EA, since neither restricts other EA applications.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35364 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    It's not about special, super special, or plain old interesting.

    You want STEM, but list no math-sci ECs, (save for whatever got you to ZR. How much time was that and over what period? With hs peers or ?) That's.an issue, a big one. You'll compete with kids who have it all.

    Not sure you yet know enough about what tippy top colleges look for. Have you read the MIT blogs and do you know what the main point of the Brown curriculum is? You have a lot of pieces to put together.

    And it's not about weighted gpa.
    edited May 2019
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  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 236 replies0 threads Junior Member
    ^ I disagree. You do not need STEM ECs to get in for stem (you do need good ECs, though). I went to a US News top 5 (recently enough for this info to be considered relevant). Applied as a math major. Had absolutely zero STEM ECs. Still got in. Many math and science majors I knew did not participate in any STEM ECs in HS either.

    Think about it like this. Do prospective English majors need English ECs? Do prospective Econ majors need Econ ECs? Do prospective anthro majors need anthro ECs? Are there even such things? College is not grad school. When you apply, you have to demonstrate that you are smart, but you don't have to demonstrate any particular skill/knowledge of the field to which you are applying. College is there to teach you that stuff. Additionally, many colleges expect that you will change majors, so evaluating a student on the basis of a major they likely won't major in is foolish.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35364 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    Of course you need STEM ECs for STEM wannabe applicants to MIT or Brown!

    The only exception is when the hs or area offer nothing, not even remotely close. And still, those applicants compete against kids who can show these experiences.

    Anecdotes only prove for the individual. I would far prefer kids cover their bases than hope magic lightning strikes.

    Yes, college is there to teach you. And many kids' first exposure to *some* subects comes in college. But first you need to be admitted and STEM competition is fierce. MIT/Brown will have expectations. Activities reflect true interests, drives, ability to act on those, plus commitent. Not just on the side, either. They want to see the ongoing collaborative. SHow, not just tell.

    The better advice IS to cover bases, not assume.

    OP has a good start on the non-STEM activities. But he's saying a math or CS major. He's got two summer courses and a robotics competition (which is outside school.) This alone won't present as showing interest in CS or the follow through or the particular thinking skills.

    Yes, kids may change majors. But your application stands as you present it, what you do submit.
    edited May 2019
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  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 236 replies0 threads Junior Member
    ^I know I cited anecdotal evidence. That's because there are not good statistics on these things (at least not that we have access to). FWIW, I am a white male who lived in an area with plenty of opportunities for STEM. I had zero hooks. I had accomplished nothing impressive with regards to STEM aside from doing well in classes and standardized tests.

    My general experience was that many STEM kids where I went and at other US News top 10 schools did not have STEM ECs in high school. I think one could conduct a survey and find this out. Of course, STEM majors are more likely than others to have participated in STEM ECs in high school, but I think you would find that there are very many STEM majors who did not participate in STEM ECs who could have. I was hardly an outlier.

    In my experience, most STEM majors were academically well-rounded students and people who happened to be majoring in STEM.

    As to your claim, that students should have STEM ECs if they are applying as a STEM major, I ask this: what basis do you have for this claim? I am genuinely curious.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35364 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    Experience reading stem apps (and others) for a highly competitive college. My own observations.

    When did you graduate? Roughly what college tier? In even 5 years, things can shift radically. It's an uncanny thing. Easy example is while gender is an important consideration, , it's no longer as unbalanced. More women into the non-bio stem apply with better experiences, deeper commitment, stronger stats.

    If a kid has no math-sci ECs, what shows this is a well considered goal? What shows the collaborative experiences and that thinking? What makes him a clear choice over other kids who do?

    Look at how he wants to retake based on the SAT essay. Not necessary. He's got BC and MV, linear. But no mention of physics or bio. The CS courses don't replace those.

    Many colleges may be fine with all that. MIT and Brown are longer odds. MIT is open about what it likes. But he needs more understanding of what MIT and Brown want...that plenty of other applicants will show.
    edited May 2019
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  • IvysaurmanIvysaurman 9 replies2 threads New Member
    I appreciate all the discourse at my expense, haha. I'd like to clarify/ask some more questions, though. The essay retake, though not necessarily important for these specific schools, could surely be eyebrow raising some of the schools that still require it, like the UCs. I don't have bio or physics, yes, but surely I don't need a passion for everything relating to stem? If I care about math and cs mainly, what difference does bio make? More than anything, this post was asking if I, as I stand, had a shot. I didn't spend the last 4 years of my life doing what I thought colleges wanted. I did what I enjoyed, and was seeing/hoping that those things aligned with the college's interests. What I'm getting from this thread is it's hard to tell.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35364 replies399 threads Senior Member
    But you did ask about MIT and Brown. This isn't just about "passion." It's about what's considered preparation. For the most competitive colleges, that's not just, 'what I enjoy." The solid competition will have 3 years of lab sci and the rest.

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  • IvysaurmanIvysaurman 9 replies2 threads New Member
    I'm aware. I'm not trying to argue that the fact that this is what I enjoyed somehow betters my application versus the others. I'm just providing context to my question since the general tone of your posts is I don't know what they're looking for in students - I wasn't trying to guide my application towards some misguided vision of what they did want or anything. On a different note, your advice seems to be at odds with SATTeacher's. You both have anecdotal evidence, but you seem to be extrapolating that to the entire applicant pool. Do you have more evidence that makes you confident in that assertion?
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35364 replies399 threads Senior Member
    I may say a kid doesn't (seem to) know. But my wish is that kids would recognize the need to know more, from the source, not forums or pro sites.

    Have you read the MIT blogs and do you understand what distinguishes the Brown curriculum? Have you looked for their values. the level of engagement, and recommended hs courses?

    As I said, good non-stem activities. But you want to apply for stem. That piece isn't just ZR. Adcoms like to see physics for engineering or CS for the content as well as the problem solving skills. Etc.

    The hs CS courses are still relatively new. At many hs, they aren't rigorous.

    I do believe leaning back is riskier than leaning in.
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  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 236 replies0 threads Junior Member
    @lookingforward

    1) In what capacity did you read applications? Were (are) you an admissions officer? An alumni interviewer? Someone who worked in admissions in some other capacity? If you have recent experience in an admissions office and have seen decisions being made and have seen students turned down do to a lack of STEM ECs I will happily modify my views.

    2) As I said, I graduated from a US News top 5 university with a math program of similar caliber to MIT's. Stronger program than Brown's.

    3) I recognize these things change. As I said, I graduated recently enough to consider my experiences relevant. I also knew people across all four years, so my experience extends beyond the year I graduated by a few extra years.

    4) Just an extra interesting tidbit. There was a math placement exam that freshman took. IIRC, based on the results of the placement exam it seemed as if about 1/3 of prospective math majors had had meaningful interactions with math outside the classroom in HS. By meaningful, I mean that they were comfortable with and adept at proof-based math.

    5) I don't think colleges need to see that it is a well-considered goal. As I mentioned earlier, what would show that pursuing Anthropology is a well considered goal seeing as I am not familiar with any anthro ECs? Colleges know that many or most students will change majors. I don't think top colleges take applicants' intended majors too seriously qua indication of what the student will major in. I think colleges are interested in students who will take advantages of the resources the college provides.

    6) As to why should a college take that student over another who has the ECs I will say the following. Most of these ECs are not real accomplishments (this is not to say that they are not worthwhile or that they don't provide meaningful experiences). They are more a matter of participation and fostering intellectual interests. Very few students have impressive STEM EC accomplishments. In most cases its more a matter of participation. Most participation in STEM ECs is not revelatory of STEM ability (at least not more so than academic measures). I think doing well in school and on APs is generally a better indicator of STEM ability (CS might be an exception) than ECs (some ECs or EC accomplishments are exceptions to this of course).

    Of course, this isn't to say STEM ECs can't help and aren't worthwhile. They will often show that a student has intellectual interests. They can also show that a student is engaged outside the classroom. I just think that in most cases it doesn't matter whether the ECs are STEM ECs. Perhaps a school that has a narrow focus like MIT is an exception in this regard. That being said, I think what I said holds true for other elite schools--like the Ivies, Stanford, Chicago, etc.--which are more well-rounded.

    7) I think an argument can be made that it is good for STEM applicants to have at least one non-STEM EC. Many STEM applications look very similar on paper. As I have said elsewhere, if an application is the same as 20 others, why should it be accepted and not one of the other 19? If you apply as a STEM major, it is good to differentiate your application from those of other prospective STEM majors.
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  • parent34parent34 19 replies2 threads Junior Member
    I see many strengths in your application, maybe more for Brown than MIT, but not clear to me (maybe I missed it in the discussion) a few things: what is your unweighted GPA and have you taken bio and physics (non-AP) and are you taking a science besides computer science senior year? Highly selective colleges like to see 4 years of science. I wouldn't bother taking the essay again for Brown at least - Brown no longer requires it and you can send a graded paper instead. You need to focus on why you are a good match for Brown when writing your essays. Highlight a few activities of importance in your application and emphasize them.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35364 replies399 threads Senior Member
    @TheSATTeacher if you want to know more about my role, pm me. In a pool where there are far more stem wannabes than slots, of course they need to see it's a well considered goal and the right preparation. And it's not about some notion of "real" or "impressive" or "exceptional" accomplishments. You don't need to win national awards or cure cancer.
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