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What impact does activism have on the admissions process?
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I do a lot of work in (primarily youth) activism. I've asked questions semi-similar to this but finally have enough karma to ensure an expert answer! Essentially, I am going to be a sophomore next year and currently work in the following positions (organizations will not be identified by name for privacy reasons):

1. US Outreach Team Member (Menstrual Equity/Women's Empowerment Organization; will likely move into the Director position in coming years)

2. US Chapter Relations Team Member (Climate Justice Organization)

3. State Events/Outreach Co-Lead (Gun Violence Prevention Organization)

4. City Youth Commissioner (Environment Board)

5. State Core Outreach Team Member, Regional Board Member (region as in 10 or so cities around my state's largest city), School Lead (Climate Justice Organization)

I will likely expand my work in activism throughout my high school career, but this is where I'm at at the current moment. Most of the organizations I work with are youth-run, if that has any impact (however, most positions I hold are still moderately selective). I also have something in the works that I would be founding with a few of my friends, but nothing is definite yet. I'm wondering what kind of effect this will have on the admissions process. Would any of these fit into Tier A activities, and if so, should this be (in addition to strong academics) something that could potentially set me apart at schools with the most selectivity?

Thank you for reading and please be nice but honest with any feedback :)

sophomore
freshman
extracurriculars

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Accepted answer

Hello! First, wow—that's an astounding set of experiences to have as a current freshman, and I want to comment you on that. You've been incredibly involved so far and are clearly headed for great things.

From a general standpoint, activism can definitely be a significant part of a college application. Oftentimes something admissions officers look for is cohesiveness—that is, an application where your goals for college study match the things that you've done as extracurriculars and hobbies in your high school career. So if you intend to go into anything political, whether that's polysci, international relations, government, etc., having these types of activities on your application would be make a great foundation for your case. (Some of them could definitely develop into things that CV might consider "Tier A," though I'd probably refrain from using that as a goal so-to-speak; it's more a necessary simplification of something much more complicated that wouldn't fit into a chancing algorithm.)

I would also say that, when looking at activism like this, accomplishments, responsibilities, and achievements that you can point to and say "this is something I built" is a lot more important than the general selectivity of a leadership position. I've actually worked in the past with students who were similarly involved in activism, and the things that really stood out for them were the things they build, made, or founded that matched with their overall goals. For example, I had a student once who had built a detailed modeling system for election gerrymandering that was used by, among other things, a Democratic congressional campaign. She's now at MIT, to give you an idea of what an accomplishment like that can mean in addition with a strong overall profile. That kind of achievement will really stand out, more so than just being the president of a foundation or club, and with where you are right now it seems to me like that's the kind of achievement (obviously not necessarily technological in nature, but with that kind of magnitude) that you could reach for.

I hope that helps, and gives you an idea of what direction you could take some of your pursuits beyond the impressive achievements you already have. Best of luck!

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Hi! For context on who I am in terms of credibility, I am a senior in high school about to graduate so I have been through the admissions process and heard back from all of my schools at this point. I would say so far your resume is looking pretty impressive, especially if some of the organizations you work with are moderately well known. It is definitely impressive that with your extracurriculars it is clear where your interest lies, and that might potentially point in the direction that you are thinking in majoring in. If for some reason what you hope to major in (not that you necessarily need to know now) is not anywhere near related to what your extracurricular interest is I would suggest getting involved in something related in the next few years.

I would say so far your application in terms of extracurriculars is looking extremally strong so far, paired with good academics, recommendations, essays, etc. Being honest, I don't understand the tiers of extracurriculars in terms of CollegeVine, so I don't know if those would be "Tier A". I don't think that matters quite as much as you expect, having nationwide and statewide leadership is impressive and will be well liked by colleges. It will definitely help you with more competitive schools that look beyond GPA and Standardized Test scores.

Hope this helps, feel free to ask for clarification. You seem to be in a really good spot in terms of college applications so early on so good job!

Thank you so much for the answer! The organizations that are most well known are those I have state-level participation with, and I do (at this point) intend to go into law/polisci/government. My academics are at around the 50th percentile (maybe a bit lower; I have an A- and B+ this year), but I'm hoping to improve over the rest of high school and obviously put lots of effort into my college apps when the time comes. Thanks again for the feedback, and I hope your decisions went well!