College Suggestions for High-Achieving Hispanic Student

Question: I am an Hispanic (Dominican) male attending high school in New Jersey. I will be finishing junior year with approximately a 4.25 GPA and will continue taking 5 AP course senior year. My ACT scores are between 27-31. I am in the National Honor Society, will be a 4 year member of Future Business Leaders of America, and have performed professionally in prestigious New York City venues. I want to know what my "target" schools should be. What kind of schools should I have a good chance of getting into on the East Coast? Also, what is my likelihood (your expert opinion) of being admitted into an Ivy-League University, such as Brown or Yale? (I have no legacy). Thank you so much, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Ordinarily, "The Dean" does not provide "Chances" assessments or college recommendations . For starters, it's irresponsible to do so without a lot more information and, above all, I would be swamped with queries if I did.

But, with that disclaimer in place, I will point out that --as you probably already know--"Hispanic" can be a magic word in admission offices, especially for applicants like you who have top grades in the most demanding classes as well as something special going on in the extracurriculars department.

Your current ACT (27-31) is a bit on the low side for the most selective schools. However, you're just a junior now, so it may go up if you re-test in the fall. Moreover, your background will come into play, too. Even though admission officials tend to go ga-ga over any Hispanic applicant, you'll get extra consideration (as well as wiggle room for your test results) if you are from a blue-collar or disadvantaged household or if you've overcome significant obstacles on your road to success.

You don't mention SAT scores. At the Ivies and their ilk, many of your "competitor" applicants will be submitting multiple Subject Test results that range from the upper 700's to 800. So, if you come from a privileged background, you can expect to be held to a high standard in that department, despite your Hispanic "hook."

Depending on data that I don't have access to here and on how your test scores shape up, you may be in the running at all colleges that interest you. In addition to the most celebrated universities, I suggest that you look into liberal arts schools as well. You don't mention what you think your primary academic focus in college will be nor what your career goals are (leading a business?). It's also important to know your preferences for campus size and climate. All of this would, of course, affect the colleges that should be on your list.

I suggest that you try a SuperMatch search. (See ). Once you enter your GPA, test scores, and assorted college preferences, SuperMatch will provide you with a list of colleges to consider as well as links to Web tours, information-request pages, online applications, etc.

What separates SuperMatch from other search engines is that SM offers “fuzzy matching." You can state a preference (e.g., size, location) and also select how important this preference is to you. SuperMatch doesn't automatically eliminate every college that doesn't meet your preferences head on, but SM will let you know when a school isn't a perfect fit. (After all, at age 17, are you really so sure of your needs that you want to ignore every college that meets most of them but not all?) Moreover, SuperMatch also allows you to select “soft criteria" (e.g. liberal campuses, great college towns, etc.) which other search tools overlook.

Once you've honed in on some potential target colleges via SuperMatch, if you want a personalized prediction of your admission odds, consider a Stats Evaluation from College Karma. SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: College Karma is a business I co-founded in 2008 with my College Confidential colleague Dave Berry. The Stats Eval–-along with other College Karma counseling services–-used to be provided by College Confidential. But when CC was acquired by Hobsons, we split into two separate enterprises.

You can read about the Stats Eval near the top of the page here: It's $150, and I assure you that you will get your money's worth. After you complete and submit the Stats Evaluation form, you will receive an assessment of your admission chances at all the colleges you listed on the form along with suggestions of ways to improve those chances. The Eval report also provides the names of other colleges to consider that should meet your profile and preferences.

Good luck as you navigate the maze ahead!

(posted 3/1/2011)