Private colleges/universities I should consider. . . .

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Discus: What Are My Chances?: August 2004 Archive: Private colleges/universities I should consider. . . .
By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:05 pm: Edit

I have been scouring the internet lately but unfortunately the information I have encountered as of thus far has been ambiguous at best. I would appreciate it if you could look over my stats and give me some idea as to what schools I should consider applying to. Thanks a lot.

I attend a public high school in San Jose, California and will be a senior in the fall. My school is rated as a California Distinguished School and is considered the best public high school in the district, but is otherwise very average (my English teacher told me so). Graduates generally attend local community colleges or CSUs/UCs, although last year one was accepted to Stanford (through ED or EA, I'm not sure) and another to Princeton (on some theater scolarship or other).

Unweighted cumulative GPA
(academic, grades 9-11): 3.90

Class size: approximately 460

I am unsure of my class rank, since my school does not weigh GPAs and some people have 4.0s as a result of taking easy, or easier, classes, but it is within the top 10%. The classes I have taken thus far are the most challenging classes offered at my school (which only offers 8 AP classes, the ones I have taken or will be taking plus three in Spanish, French, and Statistics). Junior year I was only one of three students to take 3 AP classes. In fact, the three of us had identical schedules. Among those three students I received the best grades (sadly, one student received all Bs despite coming into his junior year having received all As and only 1 B).
The grades I received in Spanish and English junior year are somewhat misleading, since the teachers for those respective classes were real •••••••• (I scored the highest on the final both semesters in Spanish but was still unable to pull an A), but somehow I get the feeling neither you nor college admissions officers will give a flying :O about that.

SAT scores (taken 01/04): Verbal 760
Math 770

SAT II scores (taken 06/04): Writing 770
U.S. History 730
Math IIC 790

I am scheduled to retake SAT II Writing and U.S. History in October, and am pretty sure I can improve both scores.

Academic classes taken and grades received:

Freshman Year
English 1A (A A+)
Math Integrated III (A+ A)
Biology (A- A)
Spanish 1 (A A)
Computer Aided Drafting (A A)

Sophomore Year
English 2A (A A-)
Math Analysis (A A)
Chemistry Honors (A A-)
World History (A A+)
Spanish 2 (A A)

Junior Year
English 3 Honors (A- B)
AP Calculus AB (A- A)
AP Physics B (A A-)
AP Physics B (lab) (A A-)
Spanish 3 (B+ B+)
AP U.S. History (A A-)

Senior Year
AP English lit/comp
AP Calculus BC
International Relations/Law and Society
Piano 1

Summer classes:
As of today finished summer class (Introduction to Philosophy: Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics) at local community college with a nice grade. :)

founder and president of school film club
Red Cross Club
Spent 2 summers volunteering at the local public library and 1 summer volunteering at the Lupus Foundation of N. California.

Not much else I can think of in the area of ECs, sad to say. No sports, no instrument....

Nor can I think of any individual academic awards or achievements....Well, I will most likely reach the status of National Merit Semifinalist, since my score was comfortably higher than the usual cutoff for my state. I think I might be the only one at my school this coming year to attain that status, since the next closest guy had a score of 214 or 215, or something in that area, which will be cutting it close. As for reaching finalist status, I am not sure.

Scores on AP tests taken:
U.S. History 5
Calculus AB 5
Physics B 5

I am not sure what I will major in, probably English or something like that.

Well, that is about all I can think of concerning my high school life as it is relevant to college admissions. I will be applying to the usual assortment of UCs (which explains Piano 1 senior year....stupid visual/performing art requirement) but would like to attend college out of state. If you have any comments or suggestions, they would be most appreciated.
Thank you.

By Chrisy (Chrisy) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:20 pm: Edit

you want lacs too?

By Chrisy (Chrisy) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 03:35 am: Edit

dartmouth* (great chance)


u of nd
u of michigan-aa

all of those schools are outside of ca and have english as one of the most popular majors.

By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 05:56 am: Edit

thanks chrisy for the info. could darthmouth via ED be worth a look? also, what can you tell me about univ. of chicago? i hear it's strong academically but not exactly a hotbed of social activity. LACs are good, although at a certain point i think a mediocre UC would be preferable to a mediocre LAC just in terms of cost-benefit.
if you know of any LACs that match the bill by all means tell me (i get the feeling all liberal arts colleges have english as one of the most popular majors).

By Chrisy (Chrisy) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 02:06 pm: Edit

dartmouth ed will definitely be worthwhile. but you might consider princeton or yale since you're applying ed any way.

school- early ar, rd ar, difference in ar
columbia-31, 9, 22, ed
dartmouth- 34, 19, 16, ed
yale- 26, 11, 15, ed
don't know about princeton.

i agree, mediocre doctoral is preferable to a mediocre lac, so i'll go look and limit it to top 25.

i applied to uchicago, and if i can go to two schools i would. i really believe that it's one of the best schools out there. it's definitely better than many of the ivys. did you know that they refused to give the queen of england a diploma in political science because they don't think she earned it?
it's founded in 1892 and the setting is urban only a little more that half of the students live on campus. the only problem might be the location, it could be dangerous. but it's the place for serious intellecuals. and they don't really care for ec's :)

By Chrisy (Chrisy) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 05:09 pm: Edit




you're right, most of them had english as a most popular major, so i narrowed it down to 10%+.

By Ohio_Mom (Ohio_Mom) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 06:31 pm: Edit

After you have virtually visited Chrisy's lists, try to physically visit as many as possible - both uni's and LAC's.

The part about UChicago being for serious intellectuals is spot on. You will either love it or hate it.

By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 06:08 am: Edit

thanks a lot chrisy and ohio mom for the info. i will definitely give univ. of chicago a closer look. as you can probably tell i am not much of an EC guy, so chicago could turn out to be a great fit.

By 007 (007) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 07:54 am: Edit

i dont think you should retake Writing you already got a 770! instead maybe take Physics or world History since you have already registered!


By Chrisy (Chrisy) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 01:39 pm: Edit

i know 007, i was unsure but decided to be optimistic :(

By Dave72 (Dave72) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 02:12 pm: Edit

Neither are Davidson, Colby, Colgate, or Oberlin safeties!

By Mudbutt (Mudbutt) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 04:32 pm: Edit

Actually, all the shools Christy listed are either reaches or reach-matches. Based on how she labeled LACs in another post, it seems to me Christy has no idea what she is talking about.

By Chrisy (Chrisy) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 11:30 pm: Edit


By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:20 am: Edit

to those of you who disagree with chrisy, what would u consider to be realistic reaches, matches, and safeties? also, should i take more than 3 sat iis? i have heard of some students taking an exorbitant number of sat iis and scoring 800 on all of them, but i was always under the impression that 3 sat iis were all you needed.

By Arcadia (Arcadia) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:35 am: Edit

Middlebury has an excellent English program.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:09 pm: Edit

You are an excellent candidate for many schools, but I do hesitate to Chrisy's categorizations. Those top schools cannot really ever be considered match or safeties on test score ranges, as many of them reject too many kids with such test scores each year. However, because you do have excellent stats, you certainly are more in a position to considering a truly top heavy list in order to get the numbers on your side in getting into some of them.

Your problem is going to be your transcript which is the biggest item considered by colleges. Many of those top schools only consider the top numbers 1-5 in the class, not % but actual number. If you look at the USNWR statistics, you'll see what I mean. It is not unusual for these selective schools to have 90% of their freshmen in the top 10% of their highschool class. The exceptions are kids from the known prep schools and top public schools where most of the student body is top rate. You do not fall into that exception with your school.

My son's college counselor at his prep school is a strong proponent of 4 years of language--which you will not have, dropping it after getting Bs last year. They do look at foreign language more carefully in English type majors--it would not have been as big of a deal for an engineering major. Your ECs are average to below average for top colleges.

You should take a peek at Charles Hughes' book "What it Really Takes to Get into the Ivy League". You will see why I am bringing up these points.

I am not discouraging you from applying to the "big boys" as you do have some things going for you, namely the test scores,and a pretty tough curriculum within your school. I would pick the schools that attract you the most as your reaches, you have the UCs as safeties and matches, and then look for some out of state schools that would love your stats and make you a likely candidate--suggestions, Tulane, Vanderbilt, Emory, Wash U(better make sure they know you love them though, as they are really into demonstrated interest these days). Perhaps, Johns Hopkins for English or Philosophy. If you are not the U of Chicago type, look at Northwestern. A few top state universities outside of CA might join your list too as safeties/matches--UMich, Penn State, U MD. You are in the running for merit aid in some of these schools because of your high stats.

By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:25 pm: Edit

thanks jamimom for the info. learning that top schools only consider top numbers (1-5) was disappointing, but certainly understandable. unfortunately my school does not weigh gpas when calculating class rank. otherwise i would probably be within the top 5. i am also now regretting not having signed up for spanish 4 ap in light of its importance for english major types. prior to my junior year i had always planned on taking spanish 4, but my experiences with the faculty this past year compelled me to think otherwise, especially after the spanish 4 teacher made clear that one could not be shy in her class and expect to receive a passing grade (i am a pretty quiet guy). i was rather annoyed by the idea that i would be forced to alter my personality just for a grade, but that topic is for some other discussion.

on a lighter note i will definitely check out the book and look into the schools u mentioned.

i do have another question though, one that pertains more to my state of mind than to college admissions, in a sense. how do some students compile these ridiculous lists of ECs?
i know my ECs could be better, for sure, but still, even if i had gone all out i would never have been able to do some of the things listed on this site by other would be applicants.

btw, thanks to all those who have responded to my query. Please continue to post.

By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:28 pm: Edit

also, arcadia, can u tell me more about middlebury's english program?

By Philliesphan54 (Philliesphan54) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:19 pm: Edit

yes, don't retake writing with a 770 that $16 or spend it on a different test

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:19 pm: Edit

Most of the kids with top ECs developed a great talent and interest for an activity fairly earl. Success in the activity led to more extensive involvement. And nearly always, the parents are right there with lots of extra lessons workshops and coaching. It is truly difficult for a child to run the show in these things; there is usually a parent figuring heavily in the background. I see this in music, sports, the arts, scouts, nearly everything. That is in part the reason why the very top schools have small numbers of students who are eligible for Pell grants which signifies a truly low family income as these ECs are usually heavily funded with family money. Now, I am not talking about everyone but that is usually the case. That middle schooler playing the Mendelsohn violin concerto usually has a parent who has stood over him during the many hours of practice and many hours of lessons. Many times the parent himself is a musician. That is too often the story behind top ECs.

When you look up colleges in the UNWR, you will find that there is a very narrow range for gpas and classranks. I tried to chart the 25/75% range for this as I did for SAT1 scores and found it difficult to do as some ridiculous percentage of kids are in the top 10 percent. It seems like everyone has high grades and ranks these days, which I really find hard to believe as I think about my boys' transcripts. But still, that is how the numbers go. Your school does not rank which makes it a bit easier for you.

You need to meet with your counselors and pick the teachers to write your refs. I suggest that you put together a resume of sorts for everyone giving you a ref, and write a personal note to each person, going over stuff that you would like them to put in the cover letter. Let them know you are going to do this. They will appreciate it. Nothing like having 10 refs to write and getting writers block. You invariably forget something that would bolster the rec. Also talk to your counselor about making sure that you are taking the toughest slate of classes in the school--that is an important statement.

By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 03:15 am: Edit

hmmn...ic. well, my parents have not been particularly active in my academic life( at least not to the extent described above), nor are they particularly active in my academic life at the moment. however, i think this has more to do with lack of confidence in their own knowledge and abilities concerning such things as college admissions. i don't blame them, though, for their lack of involvement, as it has afforded me a certain level of freedom. so far my college search has been an independent venture.

anyways, i am fairly certain i can obtain one good recommendation from my 11th grade english teacher and future journalism teacher. i am rather uncertain, however, if i will be able to obtain a second good rec, since i have not forged a good relationship with any of my other teachers. same goes for my guidance counselor, who i am absolutely certain does not know who i am (she is overworked and underpaid). so yes, i will follow your advice and put together a resume of sorts so those individuals who will be giving me recs will not go completely blank during the actual writing process and end up producing something generic and vapid (as my essays likely will be).

By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 03:20 am: Edit

also, aside from maintaining good grades and retaking sat i and sat iis, is there anything else i can do to improve my chances of admission? i realize additional ecs are probably not a good idea, as depth is more important than breadth.

By Arcadia (Arcadia) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 09:10 am: Edit

Middlebury's English Department offers a program of intensive study in literature by major writers from the medieval period to the present. It also provides experience in a variety of interpretive methods and cultural contexts and fosters the knowledge and appreciation of literature. The English major is intended to cultivate students' powers of rigorous analysis, whatever their eventual career goals. The major also provides a rich variety of opportunities for critical and creative writing. Course work begins with a sequence designed to introduce students to close reading, literary criticism and the foundations of literature in English; this core sequence is followed by courses that expose students to the major genres and periods of literature.

The Creative Writing Program at Middlebury functions within the English major. They teach over twenty different courses a year on various aspects of creative writing: fiction, poetry, playwrighting, screenwriting, and nonfiction. Their instructors are all published authors, prominent in their fields. They include Julia Alvarez (poet, novelist, writer of short stories), Jay Parini (poet, novelist, biographer, critic), Robert Cohen (novelist), Kathryn Kramer (novelist), David Bain (writer of nonfiction), Don Mitchell (novelist, writer of nonfiction, screenwriter) and Daphne Kalotay (writer of fiction and poetry).

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 09:48 am: Edit

Namron, you write quite well just from what I can see on this thread. I would not literally "write off" the essay. You might want to start with the common and get that base essay going. I have seen very, very few excellent essays. Most are contrived and one of millions as far as subject choice and tack. I have had stacks of essays and I know they are too generic when I cannot match up the kids with the essays, and neither can the parents and kids themselves (other than their own essay). I have done that exercise several times and the results are sobering. And yet this pool of kids gets into a good spread of school including the HPY crowd, so I truly do not believe a mediocre essay hurts anyone--they are almost all within that category. I just look at them to make sure they do not hurt the kid because of the subject, truly poorly written, totally off the subject, or very commonly the kid forgets to bring himself in the essay. All essays are supposed to convey a picture of yourself, and kids tend to forget that. The colleges are not really looking for an exposition on some research, political, literary topic. Nor do they really want to know about your charactor aunt. It is YOU that has to come through all of these vehicles. It is rarely done well.

By Slipper2002 (Slipper2002) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 10:36 am: Edit

UChicago is a great education, but it is not the typical college experience and the social life/ quality of life is decidedly lacking. I think some of those other schools are much better in the quality of life area, while still offering a very prestigious education. Chrisy's list is good, I would apply ED to one of the reaches she designated (probably Dartmouth, Yale or Princeton). I'd make sure to visit these and see...

By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 10:45 pm: Edit

jamimom: hah, your personal account coincides with what i have read on this site: that the overwhelming majority of college admissions essays range from mediocre to , well, mediocre. hopefully a well planned, well written, and most importantly revealing essay will help me in my bid for acceptance. i think after i put together a complete essay i will give it to my english teacher to proofread (i am assuming this is a good idea...) p.s. thank u for the multiple responses u have given me.

slipper: do u think dartmouth, yale, and princeton are within reach, even through ED? from all the rejection horror stories i have heard i get the feeling my app would not be particularly impressive, if not downright out of place, in such an applicant pool. however, i have no qualms using my ED on a crap shoot, so if u think so, y not, assuming i want to go to any of these schools, of course.

arcadia: i will check out that link. thanks.

By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 01:20 pm: Edit

due to an administrative blunder, i may have only 6 classes next year instead of 7 (psychology has been omitted. apparently my counselor was mistaken when she told me journalism allowed for 7 periods). in the event i am unable to get a 7 period day, would it be best to replace int'l relations (the only class i can replace, really) with, say, ap stats or physiology? this scenario is of course contingent upon my being unable to reinstate the 7 period day and the administration giving me some compensatory leeway. argh...the visual/performing art requirement is bad enough but an administrative debacle is, well, frustrating.

By Namronthedon71 (Namronthedon71) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 01:35 pm: Edit

i suppose you may be thinking that i should make the decision and not rely upon you guys to make it for me. it's just, everyone else on this site appears to be taking on increasingly difficult courseloads, whereas my senior year courses as they currently stand indicate otherwise. i am afraid this may be misinterpreted as me taking a year off, which certainly is not my intention. are my concerns valid, or am i being an idiot?

By Cooldude (Cooldude) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 02:42 pm: Edit

Look at Northwestern University:
IMO TOP CLASS Institution esp for English/Journalism,

By Slipper2002 (Slipper2002) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 02:59 pm: Edit

I think ED Dartmouth is worth looking into, especially if you don't mind taking a chance with the ED. I would make sure to visit these three schools

By Par72 (Par72) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 10:09 pm: Edit

Might look at Duke,UChicago, Colgate,Holy Cross,and Davidson.

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