3 months ago
Admissions Advice

Is it too cliche to write about orchestra/violin as an extracurricular in a supplemental essay since I'm Asian American?

I know a lot of Asian Americans are musicians (particularly violinists) so will that make it too difficult for me to stand out?

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2 answers

Accepted Answer
3 months ago[edited]

I would not write about it because you are part of the worst demographic that gets scrutinized the most when applying to the best colleges. Therefore, if you apply to the same schools that Asian Americans apply to, you do not want your application file to look like the rest of the huge pile. Let's face it, at a school like UPenn, there are enough qualified Asians to fill the entire Class of 2026 5 times over. And the same is true at Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford.

There are some things you already know as Asian American applicants

1. Your GPA has to be higher than the 50% middle

2. Your test scores have to higher than the 50% middle

3. Your ECs, essays, and recommendations have to better than average

4. And your need to overcome some inherent biases that application readers have toward Asians primarily dealing with personality and character. If you have the time, read through the Harvard Law Case files and you will see that Asians typically get lower marks on Personality and Character because often they come from households where they are not encouraged to be social, popular, extroverted, risk-takers, and self-expressive. Rather admissions officers view the group as a whole as being obedient, compliant, and even-keeled in temperament to the point of boring.

I'll give you something to mull over. Last year there were 1,955,000 high school students that matriculated into a US college and there were only 15,119 available seats at the 8 Ivy League schools. That's 0.7%, which is far less than the avg. 5.26% rate. On average AAs made up 25% of the admit pool with Columbia at 32% and Harvard at 27%. 60% of the global population is Asian at 4.9 billion and even though College Admissions youtube or blogs don't talk about this, that puts an additional huge pressure on American Asians because and an equal amount of qualified Int'l applicants from Asia are competing with you for the same seats available. Last year UPenn received 11,000 Int'l applications which were 50% more than the period prior.

Therefore, I would encourage you to write about something that makes you interesting and unique in a sea of Asian applicants. Something memorable and impactful so that whoever reads your application file says "Oh yes, I should ear-mark this app and advocate for them because they are not like the rest."

Kudos to your parents and the parents of other Asians who did an excellent job preparing their kids for the next step of college! But something has changed which neither they nor the rest of the world anticipated. In one generation, getting into a Top college is 5x harder than their generation. So you have to take charge and explain to them that you are doing some things so that you don't get washed away by the tsunami of applications flooding these colleges. You want your application to still be standing after the wave crashes and breaks.

Good Luck.

3 months ago

This is the advise I got.

1. An essay rarely has the weight to break your app, it can only help you unless it's obvious you didn't try and lack basic grammar skills.

2. It is not so much the topic that is cliche rather what you learned from it.

For example if I wrote that the take away is I learned to be responsible and a team player because I joined a team sport. That would be cliche because that is the main take away anyone who takes part in that would learn because others rely on you to show up and be on time in most sports, clubs, or jobs. Instead, if you write about how taking part in that EC made you realize or learn something unique to you even if is about a common topic for your demographic or in general it wouldn't be considered cliche because it is unique to you.


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