9 months ago
Admissions Advice

College admissions

I feel like college admissions have become even more competitive during pandemic. Some of the people I know with good stats and EC have not gotten into the college of their choice. Now with SAT/ACT being optional more importance is being given to EC’s but last one year it has been hard to keep up with EC when things are virtual.

How do you make yourself stand out with limited EC or internship to show last one year.


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3 answers

9 months ago

Yes, since the SAT/ACT are optional, it places more value on your rest of the application. If you have the chance to do well and score high on the SAT/ACT, that could help give you an advantage if your stats/EC is lacking. If you take it and do not as well as you would want, then you could always omit it off your application. You can take the ACT/SAT up until December of this year (if you are a junior), so I would look into putting time into that if you are able to.

Good ECs and Stats do not guarantee admissions, this is why essays are critical and account for a significant part of your application. If you are a junior and feel that your stats and ECs are not good enough and cannot change them in time, then focusing on your essays is my best advice. Start months before applications are due and really do research on what makes a good college essay. There are plenty of articles and videos you can watch on that topic. On the application, there is sometimes a space where you can write about any inconsistences in your application ("Due to COVID I was unable to participate in sports" etc etc)

Since so many people are struggling to find ECs, having good ECs can really make you stand out (but not too much, you do not want to burn yourself out). Since everything is virtual, look at this as a positive that you can make an impact for people around the world.

Some ECs you can get involved in:

-teensvolunteer.org has hundreds of virtual, volunteering organizations you can get involved in. Try and pick something that you can commit to and aligns with your passions.

-Look into cold emailing researchers, professors, companies for internship or research opportunists over the summer. There are so many opportunities out there that is not posted online.

-Teachers often get emails for opportunities, ask your teachers if they have any connections/know of anything you can get involved in. They could also refer you to people.

-If you can, look into creating your own passion project. (i.e. write a book, make a video game, curate an art gallery, etc. etc.) that aligns with what you are interested in.

-You have plenty of time over the summer before apps are due, look into summer programs (local/virtual university or other organization) or look into taking summer classes (at local community colleges or online courseware)

TLDR: All in all, Unis know ECs are difficult to find during virtual. To summarize, try to keep your grades up and take the SAT/ACT (as well as AP exams) if you are able to (they won't hurt you if you don't submit, but they can help you if the rest of your application is lacking). Look into virtual volunteering/programs/opportunities. And if those don't work, write really really powerful essays, which can really help you.

Hope this helps :)

9 months ago

This is definitely a tricky situation. At my school clubs are still being continued, only online, so things are basically the same for us. Getting involved in a sport if you can would be a great way to get more ECs. Personally I do tennis at my neighborhood which is very easy and will show that at least you stayed active. Also if you can find it doing a lot of service hours online could help.

I hope this was helpful... I know it’s not the best answer but I wanted to at least give you something.

9 months ago

For purposes of this post, I will break colleges up into two categories (extremely competitive and less competitive). The lack of SAT/ACT scores is treated much differently at an extremely competitive school than it is at at less competitive one.

At extremely competitive colleges, SAT/ACT scores are a relatively small component of the application review process. The scores are used primarily to determine if you are capable of being successful in that university's coursework. The answer to this question is usually binary (yes/no). If the answer is no, meaning your test scores are on the lower end, the college may deny you. If the answer is yes, then you "pass" the test score threshold and the AO will move on to other portions of your application (transcript, ECs, etc.). High (even perfect) SAT/ACT scores are not enough to be guaranteed admission at these competitive students because of one reason: the number of qualified applications received vs the amount of space available at the institution. Extremely competitive colleges (those with sub 10% acceptance rates) receive applications from thousands of qualified applicants, who are each capable of completing the work and still get denied. As such, test scores are almost never a deciding factor in the admissions process, and their absence this year should change the review process very little. Instead of focusing on grades and test scores, AOs will focus only on grades. They will be looking more heavily at coursework/rigor and GPA. If they are available, AOs will also look at your AP test scores and/or SAT IIs (though these are no longer offered). If you were commended or are a semi-finalist/finalist of the NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, or PSAT), you can indicate this in the awards section of either the Common App or Coalition App. This can show admissions officers that you scored very well (top 3% for commended or top 1% for semi-finalist/finalist) on standardized testing in the past. That said, as long as your grades and course rigor are strong, college AOs will still consider the other portions of your application, despite a lack of standardized test scores.

At less competitive colleges, grades/course rigor and test scores carry more weight. These colleges are looking to admit the most academically impressive students that they can, and tend to focus less on ECs, essays, letters of recommendation, etc. Again, in the absence of test scores, they will be focusing more on grades and test scores. Some will be using more qualitative portions of the application (namely letters of recommendation and guidance counselor report/school profile) to determine how academically qualified you are. School rank can be especially helpful for this, as it compares you to other students (as standardized tests do).

In your original post, you mentioned people you know who had good stats/ECs and were denied admission. I want to outline a couple of the reasons why this may be the case:

- At extremely selective universities, most students applying have proven themselves to be academically qualified and have impressive ECs. As such, admissions offers focus more on essays, letters of recommendation, guidance counselor recommendation, interview (if available), and school profile. These portions of the application are difficult to compare to other students.

- AOs are looking to see how well you would fit in at a particular university. Institutional fit is difficult to measure, but AOs are specifically looking to see what you would contribute to the community. Their goal is to build a diverse community of people who not only complete their coursework, but join clubs/activities and contribute to the college (specifically in leadership positions).

- Choice of major can impact admission decisions at some colleges. For example, at Georgia Tech, choice of major impacts admission decisions. As such, applying to competitive majors (computer science and engineering specifically) requires stronger admission profiles.

- Especially at extremely selective universities, there is an element of luck in college admissions (usually around 10% of the application).

To stand out in college admissions this year, focus on taking rigorous courses and earning good grades. This will allow you to pass the academic thresholds at colleges. In addition, choose teachers who can speak to both your academic abilities and personality for your letters of recommendation. Finally, focus on writing strong and compelling essays. In the 'Additional Information' section of the application, you can speak to your lack of standardized test scores and ECs. Because of covid, this is common and AOs will not penalize you for it given the extenuating circumstances.


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