I hold two leadership positions currently and have many 1st place state awards in data science and am competing at nationals this year. I have a 4.56 GPA and take a rigorous course load which includes testing out of math courses in order to take math next year on a college campus. I'm also the principal bassist for my school's wind ensemble. I am an AP Ambassador which means I tutor students and I am the head of AP recruitment which means I organize my school's AP events and help students find the right AP classes for them. I had so many plans for my sophomore and junior year including starting an initiative at my school that partnered with witness to innocence that exposed students to the faults of the justice system and allowed them to become involved in change through community service related events. However this was cut short because my sophomore and junior year my mom was diagnosed with cancer and I had to use the majority of my extra time to take care of her. I've missed a lot of the end of my junior year because she went into hospice and recently passed this last week. I am worried that my extracurriculars seem pale in comparison at my top college which is University of Chicago. How do I explain my shy extracurricular section?
First, I'm sorry for your loss. My grandfather passed recently with bone cancer in hospice as well. That is not the same thing as your parent that you had a strong connection with, someone who you thought would always be there to share the highlights of your life. But hang in there because that is what your mom would want you to do.
All of the best colleges in America are run by people who have families and felt the loss and pain caused by the pandemic and life in general. All admissions officers are sons and daughters, some are moms and dads and some are grandparents and aunts and uncles.
Let's face it, we are humans living on the same planet and we have one thing in common. We will all eventually die on this planet. Therefore, what you do with your time is very important. Some of us care more about ourselves, and others care more about the survival of our earth and helping as many people as possible who deserve a better existence. I can tell from your short paragraph that you are passionate about helping people and using your voice to make impactful change. And that's a good thing.
When you start your college application remember to express your true self and be genuine about yourself, your life, and how you spent it up to now. Reflect on the great things and the darkest things and how you want to spend your life in the future. Express how going to a top-tier university will help you figure out the best way to use your voice and your talents to help others. Use your essays to share your journey up to now and where you want to go. You have a unique story because life's challenges almost knocked you out of the ring. But here you are. And still standing.
Therefore, make it work for you and make your momma proud. She is still in your heart and still telling you to try your best and be your best person. She wants you to get into the best possible college so that you can continue to grow and be around peers and teachers that can appreciate and help you. Therefore, you have to find your voice and use it okay.
College admissions are not about checking off all the boxes on a list. While it's true the best colleges want the smartest and most talented cohorts in their future classes, that's not all they want. If that were true, every top 20 colleges in America would just have the same people in every freshman class, only applicants with 4.0 UWGPAs and 1600 SAT scores. Lord everyone knows that the entire roster of admits at the top 20 schools can be filled by people with perfect stats. But that's not only what they want.
They are all looking for some kind and compassionate with a unique set of attributes that sets them apart from other people. They are not building an ARMY of Soldiers, they are creating Cirque du Soleil, something magical. That is why all of them use a holistic approach toward finding their class of admits.
I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing and keep chugging along like that 'train that could" and don't let your sadness stop what you are supposed to be doing.
Since your Top school is UChicago, I hope you know that their whole admissions objective to curate the most interesting people so be one of those people and explain to them why you belong there.
Where you get into UChicago or an Ivy or Stanford will not depend on more stats or more ECs at this point. It will be more dependent on how you use your voice over the next year and what you write in your essays. (If I'm still on here a year from now, I hope you can follow up with me and tell me that I was right).
Be well, and keep your gratitude up for the short wonderful time you did get to spend with your mom.
First of all, I wouldn't be so hard on yourself, you sound like an exceptional and genuine person.
I think for college essays there is a real ability for you to shine by highlighting your unqiue experiences and crafting a story of your own. Colleges don't just look for crazy EC robots but people who hold an interesting story. I think if you are able to highlight a passion in academic rigour/mathematics etc. You will be able to do well. Equally, bringing up the hard work you did caring for your Mother shows a high level of commitment and empathy which is hard to rebutt.
Best of luck and deeply sorry for your loss.
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