3 years ago
Admissions Advice

What are the best things to put on a college application (for students in junior high through high school)

What type of opportunities can students in junior high and high school take advantage of? Do you have any ideas for students who want a headstart?

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Accepted Answer
3 years ago[edited]

Hi there! I’m no admissons officer, but I am a graduating high school senior who got accepted into some very competitive schools and combined BS/MD programs, so I’m hoping that there’s at least some credibility to my answer. XD

In terms of extracurriculars, the biggest thing—you’ve definitely heard this before, but to reiterate—is to not attempt to involve yourself in everything. Show what you are passionate about—be it sports, science, math, poetry, debate, etc. It doesn’t have to all be related to your future career goals, if you have any at this current moment, nor do you have to paint yourself as just a science and math person or a debate and current events person. Remember that college admissions officers are trying to form a whole picture of you and your character and personality just from what activities you join, so paint as complete of a picture for them as possible!

To draw from my experiences, I am aiming to one day go to medical school, so science is a big part of my life. I actually, however, never joined the science nor math leagues at my school because I 1. knew I’d have opportunities outside of school to participate in research in actual laboratories and 2. wanted to use my time at school to showcase other parts of my character. I’ve always had horrible social phobia that really crippled me not just socially, but emotionally and mentally. I joined debate and Model United Nations freshman year of high school to force myself to overcome that weakness, and I briefly mentioned this in my CommonApp essay as well as all of the college interviews I did. I thus had a perfect example of how I am a person who understands my own weaknesses and actively takes steps to rectify them, and how I am tenacious and gritty enough to force myself into uncomfortable and stressful situations just to improve myself.

I did, however, do volunteer (unpaid intern) work at Monell Chemical Senses Center the summer of my sophomore-junior year. If you are interested in the sciences, it is extremely important to gain research and possibly shadowing experiences, as it will provide both a great learning opportunity (and rec letters if you impress the professor!) but also an impressive point to put on your resume. Take the time to just send out dozens, if not hundreds of cold emails to various professors (their emails are always on the university websites), literally any professors, and ask if they are willing to take on a high school student as a volunteer or intern after expressing interest in their work (you may have to skim through a few of their published papers for this). Jump at any chance, even if it’s just washing petri dishes for them.

You can also try taking college courses at your local community college (or any college that will offer courses to you) over the summer, or even during the school year. It will look extremely impressive to colleges that you are able to balance not only some college coursework, but college coursework on top of high school coursework.

Volunteerism is also extremely important no matter where you want to go or what you want to do. Once you start high school, see if your school has an Interact or Key Club chapter and strive to climb up the leadership ranks for that, as Interact has an absurd amount of scholarships for their seniors (especially their student leaders), and Key Club has state-level and even international level leadership positions that are bound to impress. If your school has neither of those, join 4-H if you can. Definitely do volunteerism outside of school as well, such as at a local library or animal shelter, or at a clinic or as a tutor for younger students (usually as a high school junior or senior) if you are able to find chances to do so. Try to accumulate at least 100 hours before college apps.

Paid work is also extremely impressive to colleges, as it demonstrates commitment and an ability to uphold responsibility. There may not always be opportunities for paid work though, but if you get some training and a CPR certification, you almost always will have opportunities to work at a pool or swim club as a lifeguard over the summer.

And to wrap this all up, try to become a student leader in as many of these activities as possible without sacrificing your grades. By the end of junior year, I had served as a state level leader in Key Club and Secretary General and Captain of my school’s MUN team. It isn’t a lot of leadership, but it’s impressive and responsibility-heavy leadership. This reflected on my CommonApp; I’m in the few that gets to say that I helped raise over 64,000lb of food for food banks all around New Jersey, and I’m in the few that can claim I hosted a MUN conference for more than 250 students as a high school junior. I only heavily participated in Key Club, MUN, debate, and outside volunteering, but I held important leadership in all of them, which emphasizes to colleges my dedication and work ethic.

But to answer what seems to be your specific question, I’m assuming that you are just entering high school? If that is the case, this summer, I would focus mainly on finding somewhere you’d like to volunteer for the next four years of high school and get a headstart on that, if you aren’t already volunteering. If you’re really ambitious, try to see if you can band a few friends together and start a volunteer organization on your own! Things like research are usually made available only to high schoolers who’ve taken those higher level classes and generally already know what they are getting themselves into.

I know I’m super long-winded, but I hope this helped somewhat! Good luck in everything!

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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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