3 years ago
Admissions Advice

Freaking out About Extra Curriculars

Hi all. I am a junior attending a competitive high school on Long Island. I have a 3.975 UW GPA and a 1510 SAT. Currently, my extracurricular include Jazz Band, National Honor Society, a position as part of the peer tutoring committee in Spanish Honor Society, and a part-time job as a Biology Tutor for 8th and 9th graders. Additionally, I plan on taking courses over the summer in Neurobiology and Anatomy at Johns Hopkins. My question is, "Am I too bland?" I get that I have a good deal of extracurriculars, but I feel like I'm your average Joe and regular. This site keeps telling me that I have to improve on my extracurriculars when applying to schools. What can I do? It's worth mentioning that I want to pursue neuropathology. Should I shadow a doctor? Should I join researchers in their research in the summer? Please help me out!

Note: I want to ED to either JHU or UPenn

🎉 First post
Let’s welcome @Ahmetalfoe to the community! Remember to be kind, helpful, and supportive in your responses.
@Bear_cey3 years ago

Hey! I don't have an answer for your question. But I'm wondering how you got such a high score on the SAT. I am currently a sophomore and I'm thinking about taking practice SAT and ACT tests. The only thing is, I am terrified of math! Do you have any tips or suggestions on how I can improve to get at least a 1300 on my SAT?

[🎤 AUTHOR]@Ahmetalfoe3 years ago [edited]

Hey! So, I'm not saying this is the best method, but it took me two weeks to study! All the help I could get came from one guy: Sal Khan of Khan Academy. Here's what you can do. ENGLISH: This is very hard to improve on and I barely did. What you can do is practice practice practice. Go to Khan Academy and, after taking the first full practice exam, do a reading passage. Don't do them all in one go but just keep on doing them until you start to get around a question wrong per passage. (1/?)

[🎤 AUTHOR]@Ahmetalfoe3 years ago

You will notice patterns and that's when it becomes easy. Enjoy what you read and write quick summaries of each paragraph on the side. GRAMMAR: For this one, pick up a book and follow it through to learn the grammar rules. I recommend College Panda's Grammar Guide. MATH: This is the one I can give the most help on as I scored an 800. Here's what you do... First, take a practice test. Next, see what you got wrong and print out the questions to put into a physical notebook or copy and paste (2/?)

[🎤 AUTHOR]@Ahmetalfoe3 years ago

them into a digital notebook. For each question, make sure you can't see the correct answer. Then under each question write why you got it wrong and how you can change your thinking. I swear to god this works. If the reason you got it wrong was cuz you didn't know the topic, check Khan Academy for the topic and learn about it. After you've done this for all questions, redo the questions. Repeat this for each test, I guarantee improvement. (3/3)

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2 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago

Hey there! The ECs you mentioned (shadowing a doctor/getting involved in research) are great ideas! If you want to pursue them, go for it. They sound like really cool opportunities! However, don't put all your eggs in that basket. Extracurriculars are important, but most people don't stand out by their extracurriculars alone. I had the exact same worry applying to colleges this year (3-season athlete with leadership roles, plus 2 years of NHS, 1 year of another club and 1 year of language self-study--CollegeVine told me my ECs needed work as well). My stats are also very similar to yours (1510 SAT, 4.0 UW GPA, 4.78 WGPA), and I was accepted into Princeton and Carnegie Mellon. I think there are two major factors you'll want to focus on to be competitive:

(1) Extracurricular depth! As mentioned before, you can definitely try shadowing or research. However, you can also develop leadership roles within the clubs you're already involved in. You could run for an official leadership position, but you can also demonstrate leadership AND initiative by proposing and running volunteer events for NHS, organizing an event for Jazz Band, coming up with a new initiative for improving tutoring outcomes, or anything else you can think of!

(2) Essays. I cannot stress this enough. Spend a lot of time on coming up with ideas, and be sure to avoid the things that everybody writes about. Look up videos about what essays are overused; some of them are obvious, but others may not have been on your radar of things to avoid. Here's one great resource to get you started ( https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLroQ81Y_vKe5Yml8k6IbM7kDgiHTM3R7D ), but do your own research and find a variety of websites/videos of people who have experience in college admissions and can speak to what makes an essay good or average. As a general rule, the more specific the better! Write about some very specific moment that has ONLY happened to you, like a certain conversation you had or a specific inside joke, etc. The ultimate goal of your application is to be something the admissions officers can call to mind after reading hundreds of essays. This is extremely difficult to do with ECs alone (unless you do one of the insane things like start a successful business as a high schooler), but having an essay that gives them strong imagery and solid introspection is an easy way to get your application stuck in their head.

The moral of this story is: don't freak out about extracurriculars! They're important to show leadership and involvement, but I don't think "average Joe" ECs alone will be a deal-breaker for a college if you have strong essays. You have a competitive base to build off of, and plenty of opportunities to strengthen it in the 2 areas mentioned above. I hope this helped, best of luck with applications and beyond!

3 years ago[edited]

I was in the same boat as you this year! JHU was one of my top choices and I had solid academic rapport (35-ACT, GPA 4.0UW), but felt ECs were my Achilles heel. I come from the Midwest, so I do get a little bit of a pass for not having the same opportunities found in more urban areas...

My list of activities were the following: Editor-In-Chief of school paper, Officer at small/med student nonprofit org, Co-founder of honors society, math team, NHS, volunteer & tutoring, 2 non-varsity sports b4 pandemic, etc.

The first three are the only ones I had leadership in, and the rest honestly the rest were not either impressive or didn't take up much time... I did do some mini-projects and commitments which I talk about later... Looking at what you have right now, you definitely should shoot for more (remember Common App has 10 spots for activities), and know that adding impressive stuff is doable if you commit RIGHT NOW... The nonprofit and honors society I co-lead, I joined over my junior->senior summer, so it's not too late... Don't go overboard but try to join 2-3 things that will make you seem better...

As for what to do:

-Don't quit what you're doing!!! I used my math team from previous years to start my math honors society for example... Lots of ECs, especially music and tutoring can lead you to start your own stuff (put on your own concerts, or official stem tutoring service/club)


-Research and stuff is something I wanted to do, but its a nightmare to try and do in the pandemic setting ... A lot of the kids you hear doing research probably have connections to do so-I think its a challenge Shadowing at hospital probably is a lot easier if that's what you want... HOWEVER, note, while I think interest in stuff you want to do as a major isn't bad, BY NO MEANS DO ECS SOLELY IN YOUR INTERESTED MAJOR AREA... JHU is open-cirriculum and super flexible in their major-picking, so unless you apply BE, they don't take it with a grain of salt if you're focused on your music and still want to be a doctor. That being said, the major you put down on your app shouldn't come out of nowhere.... My stuff was all math, journalism, and educational advocacy for the most part (my Common App Essay about education advocacy/journalism), and I applied with intentions of being a molecular biologist 😭 - I think my math stuff overlapped with STEM, which helped

-JHU emphasizes creativity and really personable people, so that makes your essays-EC planning very important in creating an ambiance to your app. One thing I did over the summer, which is the only thing I can think of that relates to my current molcell/public health major direction, is participate on my school district's COVID-19 policy review team for a few days in the summer. Also, I started (still pending) working overseas with a foreign country's student newspaper on an article. Crazy stuff you take to your advantage like that, I think fits JHU. If you are an outside-the-box person, which I consider myself, I think JHU is a better place for you and they want you more... Good EC's shouldn't just so commitment, but personality... Are you a leader, a creator, or a community connector? EMPHASIZE IT

Honestly, I'm blessed probably to have gotten in! Personally, I do know people with perfect test scores & did JHU's summer programs but with average ECs who got flat-out rejected. That being said, from rumors I heard, I think GPA and stuff matters a lot especially during COVID-19... Bottom line at JHU, you still have a shot even without stellar ECs as long as everything else is good for them. I'd like to see a boost from where you're at for sure, but its somewhat doable and worth it if you really want to go here. NOTE, IF YOU DID NOT TAKE LOTS OF RIGOROUS COURSES AT YOUR SCHOOL, THAT'S A DETRACTOR. People better than you and me will 100% get rejected, like most any school, so you have to sell yourself. Can't say much about UPenn, but as an Ivy, its another story and probably slightly more competitive. They probably care more about ECs. Really good school too, just didn't apply for some reason... Wish you lots of luck, and here's some bonus advice:

Other JHU tips:

-spell it JHU in your essays to save words and error potential

-apply ED if you really love it (its a commitment tho)!!! Maybe do UPenn EA or ED early in October, and take advantage of ED2 in December at JHU if you dont get into UPenn. I did RD this year, and admissions to both UPenn and JHU were <5%, though I'm not someone who got into Ivys or great schools all across the board though

-find insider details from somebody at the school to help with your Why JHU Essay (maybe ask me if I and am in a charitable mood and I end up there, lol)

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
+ add school
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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