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Do I even have a chance at competitive schools?

MediocreHSRunnerMediocreHSRunner 1 replies2 threads New Member
edited June 29 in What Are My Chances?
My dream school is Cornell for Electrical and Computer Engineering but I don't have many AP options at my HS and I feel like my ECs are really awful compared to other people I see applying to competitive schools.

11th grade African American Male
34 ACT (retaking in July with goal of low 36 or high math/science 35)
4.08 Cumulative GPA (playing catch up from 3.8 frosh, had a 4.28 last semester and 4.45 this semester)

9th: none
10th: APUSH (5), AP Comp-Sci A (5) [Those were the only ones offered and APCS is usually only for juniors]
11th: AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, AP European History, AP Literature hoping for 5s obviously but realistically I'd bet on a mix of 5s and 4s
Next Year: Multivariable, Linear Algebra, AP Stats, CE Philosophy, CE Spanish, AP Lang

Varsity Track - 2x Individual Conference Champ and Conference record holder, State Qualifier, Captain
Varsity Cross Country - Individual Conference Champ, Captain, was injured this year so no state, looking to lead the team to the first team win in our school's history).
Eagle Scout
National Honor Society
Assistant Programming Teacher at an after school code club for elementary school students and briefly taught a student with autism 1 on 1.

I feel like I won't be competitive at all at Cornell, Duke, Carnegie Mellon, etc. because my GPA is so much lower than other people on here and I don't do robotics or debate club or other things and I don't have any "superstar effect" like starting a business or winning a math competition.

Right now I'm really doubting my current list of colleges for obvious reasons: Madison, UC Berkeley, Duke, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon. What could I do to improve my weak ECs and what other schools should I look at that are actually good targets and won't instantly reject me? How is Notre Dame for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science? I have second gen legacy there plus aunts, uncles, cousins, all that fun stuff.

I think being a captain on my schools new robotics team, becoming president of the Foreign Film club and starting a private coaching business on the side could help but I don't know. Really trying to make up for being a wasteman for two-three years here.

Sorry mini rant over. I've been stressed and freaking out all day because I watched college reaction videos.
edited June 29
15 replies
Post edited by CCAdmin_Vic on
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Replies to: Do I even have a chance at competitive schools?

  • ChangeTheGameChangeTheGame 979 replies16 threads Member
    I never believe in giving Chances on a thread because it is basically an educated guess by strangers. One question that you may want to address is whether your cross country times are fast enough to run at your top choice schools? You are in rarefied air as an African American male with great test scores and very good academics and you will end up having some great options. Good luck to you.
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  • flamingogirlflamingogirl 44 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Perhaps some good target schools would be Texas A and M, Clemson, American, Richmond, Davidson
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6674 replies10 threads Senior Member
    You absolutely should apply - you are a strong applicant and will get consideration.

    Just make sure you have some less reach schools on your list too.
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  • PrdMomto1PrdMomto1 562 replies7 threads Member
    You absolutely should apply - you are a strong applicant and will get consideration.

    Just make sure you have some less reach schools on your list too.

    Agree! It's important to have a balanced list. DO NOT apply to only "top" schools regardless of what your application looks like.

    Don't worry about the number of AP's you've taken. Colleges are looking to see if you've taken a rigorous course load as it relates to what your schools offers. My D goes to a T20 and she only took 5 AP's in high school because her school made if difficult to take more than 2 a year and only offered 1 to sophomores.

    Colleges are also looking at EC's to see what you're passionate about. My D was in robotics and her best friends was President. He did not get into any of the schools where he applied that are on your list. Having a certain activity does not make you a better applicant than others.

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  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer 1259 replies3 threads Senior Member
    edited May 29
    Evidently your GPA is a weighted score as it is above a 4.0. If true, this would mean an unweighted score would be in the high 3.xx. For standardization/comparison reasons most of the reported avg GPA's listed on the Common Data Sets are not the weighted scores.

    Whatever the case, you are a very good student.

    With your interest in robotics, CS and EE you might want to add WPI to your list and find out what "project education" is all about (e.g., robotics team). Check out related majors, graduate school and employment placement. The average matriculating freshman at WPI has a 3.89 GPA on a 4 point (unweighted) scale.

    Project education is what WPI is about!

    For robotics see: https://www.wpi.edu/academics/departments/robotics-engineering

    For Career Outcomes & Salary Data go to https://www.wpi.edu/student-experience/career-development/outcomes and click on First Destination Outcomes of the class of 2019 (PDF). A PDF will be downloaded for the class of 2019. Electrical and Computer Engineering BS graduates employment and graduate schools are listed on page 20. Are graduates went all over the country including CMU for graduate studies. Explore these outcomes.

    Page down FACULTY by departments:

    CS @ https://www.wpi.edu/academics/departments/computer-science/faculty-staff

    Electrical & Computer Engineering @ https://www.wpi.edu/academics/departments/electrical-computer-engineering/faculty-staff

    Robotics @ https://www.wpi.edu/academics/departments/robotics-engineering/faculty-staff

    You have a wide range of possibilities. Do the work and see what fits you. (notice, I did not use an exclamation point.. this is a voluntary effort and not a command.)

    edited May 29
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 5376 replies91 threads Senior Member
    What is your unweighted GPA? Core courses only, on a 4 pt scale?
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6674 replies10 threads Senior Member
    RPI, Virginia Tech, Tufts, Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell, Union, Purdue, Case Western -- all worth a look. Very different schools too, but since you are in exploration mode, just considering these may clarify your priorities. These are a few that some of the really smart kids I know have gone for engineering in the last few years. This is often a really competitive major to apply to.
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  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer 1259 replies3 threads Senior Member
    edited May 29
    Do not underestimate the quality of the programs listed above by "gardenstategal." They have the data to back them up whether or not they are being discussed in your current circle of advisors. Look them up. (still no command... this is part of interdisciplinary studies - does psychology sound interesting?).
    edited May 29
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83477 replies741 threads Senior Member
    1. Have you talked to your parents about college budget? Have you run the net price calculators on the web sites of your colleges of interest? Your state of residency matters for cost and financial aid at state universities.

    2. Your unweighted HS GPA would be more useful for others to help you determine realistic reach/match/likely/safety colleges to apply to, since weighted GPA generally cannot be compared across different high schools.

    3. A strong performance at the state level in sports would be a noteworthy EC achievement.
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  • sgopal2sgopal2 3874 replies52 threads Senior Member
    What is your unweighted GPA?
    Estimated class rank?
    Will you need financial aid?

    I wouldn't bother retaking ACT.
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  • MediocreHSRunnerMediocreHSRunner 1 replies2 threads New Member
    @Mwfan1921 My high school does not show unweighted GPAs but I used the rogerhub calculator and got 3.83. It's not exact because no +/- but it was quick and is a close enough estimate considering a lot of the +s and -s cancel out. 29 As and 6 Bs.

    1. Yes. My parents have enough money saved so I can go just about anywhere for 4 years. I live in Wisconsin so in state tuition for UW. Cost shouldn't affect where I apply but might impact the final decision if that makes any sense.
    2. ~3.83
    3. Good to hear. Looking to podium next year at least, eyes really set on top 3.

    @sgopal2 About 3.83.
    We don't rank but I go to a small school (<100) and I believe was 1 or 2 as of last semester.
    I will not need financial aid.

    I did see that 34-36 is kind of lumped together in the admissions process but I just feel like studying for something so I've sort of made it my goal this summer to study for 36 ACT, 800 Math II, and 800 Chem in addition to getting a head start on Calc III and learning Microeconomics on my own. I get that it's unnecessary but besides training and studying I don't do much so it's really more of a hobby.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83477 replies741 threads Senior Member
    Some of your lower cost options would be Wisconsin and Minnesota public universities.

    Other than that, be aware that engineering majors can be more competitive for admission than the college generally, so take that into account when assessing reach/match/likely/safety.

    Some colleges admit to a first year engineering program, but have a secondary admission process to get into specific majors: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/engineering-majors/2174743-first-year-engineering-programs-secondary-admission-to-major-criteria.html
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  • sgopal2sgopal2 3874 replies52 threads Senior Member
    Top 2 rank, 34 ACT, full pay and URM. This is a good combination.

    Cornell ED for engineering is a good bet. I would even shoot higher. Have you considered MIT, Princeton, Columbia? All have great engineering programs. You will get a serious look because of your scores and grades. There are very few AA males with scores/grades in your range, so you will definitely stand out.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6548 replies1 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2
    "You absolutely should apply"

    I agree with this. I think that your chances at your reach schools are good enough that it is definitely worth an application to each.

    I also agree that it is important that you select at least two solid safeties. I have worked with some people from the University of Wisconsin, including visiting several times, and I have been very impressed. It think that it is a very good university. Your guidance counselor should know whether it can be counted on as a safety or not, but I think that it also is definitely worth an application for you.
    edited June 2
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  • chmcnmchmcnm 692 replies6 threads Member
    edited June 3
    First, relax. You're GPA is fine. As long as you take the most rigorous classes your school offers you'll be OK. In sports terms you can only play the team in-front of you.

    I would take the ACT again IF you're going to study. A 34 is great but a 35 or 36 puts you in a better spot for scholarships or Honors programs which offer nice perks. That said, I wouldn't stress about it. Spend time on the essay's. They're important.

    I'm assuming UW and Minn would be safeties. Apply to both but only if you would attend if you had too. Great options to have. After that you need to look for schools that fit. What size school do you want? Location? Urban or rural? Do you want to co-op? Also dig into the curriculum. Some schools are very different in what they require for core courses and methodologies. URM status will help but I'm convinced that geographic considerations come into play. Schools are always looking to say they have students from all 50 states.

    My friend's son will be a sophomore at ND. He's in the engineering school and loves it. I think he said that ND has invested heavily in STEM the past few years. Some good suggestions above. Maybe Rice? Georgia Tech, Northeastern and NC State came to mind

    The T20 schools on your list are great but are they great for you? Good luck.
    edited June 3
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