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Engineering Summer Programs For High School Students

Colleen Said:

What are my chances of getting into Columbia University for Engineering?

We Answered:

My guess is you are a shoe-in. The minority status will give you the boost your application needs -- because all of the admissions process is set up for the children of affluent, highly educated white people who have the resources and the streetsmarts to work the ropes.

Your GPA is as you probably are aware terrific. Your choice of classes might be a little weak - I don't see the letters "AP" next to more than one class, perhaps this was an oversight or maybe your school does not give those. You got a 3 on the Spanish AP, correct? So I guess you just knew the material going in but YOU DID NOT STUDY; given this is probably not what we would call a "2nd language" it's not a great thing.

But your English is wonderful. You don't find many Engineering applicants who can say that. So if your essay is superb (and it must be superb), you may have a very good shot.

What you do need is a WOW factor, and I don't see that on your list, either. That "wow" is what the white folks begin to work on when they are still in 3rd grade. By the time they're in high school, they are dripping with wows. But that's because their parents knew to do that.

Here's what you should do.

You need to find an organization that will guide you through this process. I know, I know, you probably are attending an excellent high school with a highly paid and personable guidance counselor who treats you like all his/her white students. I can tell you from trying to help one of my daughter's very affluent minority friends in our school district, I've learned that guidance counselors are not good at everything. In our school, they were great at helping affluent children get into top colleges. But they were TERRIBLE at navigating the choices for a kid whose mother was born in Columbia and whose father was born in Chile. And the kid's parents didn't speak English.

Later, I learned from a colleague whose cousin is a guidance counselor that there are special routes for minorities to navigate to get into schools like Columbia. This is not cheating. It's the rules of the game. Your guidance counselor is at best vaguely familiar with them. You need help.

There's the Coca Cola Scholarship Foundation for starters - I don't remember their official name, but they look for kids like you. And there are others. Inner city school guidance counselors are very familiar with the process. Because their kids use them. So can you. Find an inner city school, and make friends with one of their counselors.

Because you have a good chance at getting into Columbia Engineering. But not a great one. Get help. We need you out there, raising the bar, filling out the color scheme, making a more perfect union. Go for it. Good luck.

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