Small Town Student's Chance at the Elites

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Discus: What Are My Chances?: September 2003 Archive: Small Town Student's Chance at the Elites
By Holdenesquealex (Holdenesquealex) on Sunday, September 07, 2003 - 12:43 am: Edit

I'm coming from a small high school in a small town in Ohio, and I'd like to get some insight here on what my chance would be at some of the "elite" schools. I don't think anyone from my high school has even thought about going to Ivy League or the like, so my information is kind of limited. I've always thought I would go to a state school until recently, but my stats are pretty good, so I'm curious.

I have a 1560 SAT (800M, 760V), which I'm pretty sure is the highest my school has ever had. (Though, to be fair, hardly anyone takes the SATs) I'm a National Merit Semi-Finalist, the first in at least 5 years from my school. I'm ranked 4/170, with a 3.8 GPA, taking the hardest courseload my high school offers. Only taken 2 AP tests so far (3 This year) and I got 5s on those tests (U.S. History and Government).

Extracuricular-wise I think I'm pretty average. I played tennis and golf the first two years of high school. I've been in orchestra all 4 years, principal cellist all 4. I'm also in a youth orchestra about an hour drive away, and I take lessons an hour the other direction. My other big activity is the academic challenge team, which I'm pretty serious about. I've been on for 4 years, the first freshman to be on the team. We've also placed in our conference for the first time ever the last two years (I'm hopeful for this year.)

My essays are pretty good, I think. They're funny though, not serious at all. I'm not really sure if that is a good thing or not. My recommendations should be good, I think I'll get my academic challenge coach/government teacher, my orchestra director, or my math teacher from the last three years.

Wow, that was kind of fun to write :) Anyway, I was thinking of applying to Harvard, Yale, Duke, U Chicago, and Ohio State. OSU is my parent's alma mater, and the college of virtually all of my relatives. I won't be too heartbroken if I don't get in at the "elite" schools.

By Bigman82085 (Bigman82085) on Sunday, September 07, 2003 - 01:20 am: Edit

You have a shot at all of the schools you mentioned. You have the scores and stats; from there, the process, in my opinion, is random. From what you have said, you seem to know yourself very well and have an overall good attitude about the process, unlike some people who are so nervous about applying and getting accepted that they can't sleep at night. Good luck on applying to these schools!!

BTW, in which town do you live in Ohio?

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Sunday, September 07, 2003 - 11:34 am: Edit

Being from a town in which people don't usually go to Ivies is a plus in that it means that you'd add regional diversity to the university.And if your town is very small, that's another plus -- particularly for applying to Ivies in big cities.

Your scores, grades, class rank, ECs also give you a shot.I suggest that you diversify your applications by adding a couple of more less selective elites into the mix such as schools that are ranked in the top 25, but not the top 10. Keep the other schools in, too, though.

You have a better shot than do many students with equivalent grades, scores, and with better ECs who come from areas that send lots of students to Ivies.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Sunday, September 07, 2003 - 11:39 am: Edit

One important piece of advice: make sure your GC and the others who'll do your recommendations realize that the elite colleges take recommendations very seriously.

The folks writing your reccs probably are used to doing them for colleges that don't pay that much attention to them. The reccs are big deals for the elites. What the elites look for is information that goes beyond what the colleges can tell by looking at your grades and app.

Thus, it would not be helpful if your GC recc said only, "Sam is ranked 4 in his class, has SATs of xxxx and a gpa of xx. I recommend him highly for your college."

What's needed are information about specifics about what makes you special such as things that you've done that are unusual for your h.s. It would be very helpful, for instance, if your GC let the elites know how unusual it is for students from your h.s. to be applying to them.

I assume, too, that your driving so far to do the various activities shows an unusual amount of interest in doing things like that. If so, it would be good if this were highlighted by your references.

And do help them by giving them a resume, and by giving them a note reminding them of things that you've done that they've seen in the organizations that you're in that they advise. Doing this isn't being pushy. It really is a big help. Writing recommendations are lots of work, and getting such info makes doing them much easier.

By Haon (Haon) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 03:15 pm: Edit

You need more ECs...being from a small town helps but not THAT much.

Look at most LACs such as Middlebury, Bowdoin, Wesleyan, Oberlin, and Williams.

By Momof2 (Momof2) on Monday, September 08, 2003 - 03:38 pm: Edit

I would say the strength of your EC's depends a lot on the amount of hours dedicated to each one. I would much rather see a large amount of time invested in 1 or 2 challenging activites for four years than a couple of hours a week in many diverse EC's. I do think it will be important to bring out the time involved. Remember, music study is usually much more practice time than formal rehearsals, competitions and lessons, although not everyone recognizes this. I imagine the same may be true of your academic challenge team. Go with your strengths and make the most of them.

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