With my low GPA and high SAT pretty much set, how can I improve my application as a Junior (Class of 2021) in HS?Answered
I'm a Junior in the Class of 2021, attending a public HS (it's a extremely competitive magnet school in the top 100 public schools in America). Here's some background information preceding my questions:
GPA: 3.63UW, 3.88 UC GPA weighted (These are my grades just for sophomore + junior year. My school only allows weighted/AP classes in junior and senior year, so only junior year counted for a weighted GPA. I struggled a lot in junior year first semester. My GPA would be a lot higher, but this 2nd semester of junior year became pass/fail.)
SAT: 1520 (I was also signed up for the June SAT and that got cancelled. I will be taking SAT Bio and Math II in August and am aiming for full scores.)
I will have taken a total of 7 APs (8 weighted classes total) by the end of my senior year.
My goal is to get into schools like a mid-tier UC (Davis, Irvine, SB) and UIUC. Regarding majors, I haven't completely decided, but I will probably major in Economics, Marketing, Accounting (one of those fields). I will definitely NOT be doing engineering or computer science.
My Two Questions:
1. Is it worth explaining on my college application that my mental/physical health wasn't great last year, and led to poor grades? I was anemic, would fall asleep randomly and unintentionally, and was not as motivated. It's a poor excuse, but I hadn't realized how much it affected me until I improved a lot this year! Weight loss really helped me and played a big role in feeling great again. I lost more than 20 pounds, which changed my mental and physical health SO much. It's why I'm joining the Mental Health Committee. But writing about this is questionable, and I'm not sure if I should. Advice?
2. How can I improve the rest of my resume now that my grades are unfortunately mostly set? I wanted to excel in my grades 2nd semester junior year and show colleges that I've improved, but that option is gone now. I really want to get a summer job, but with the current pandemic situation I'm not sure if I can. What other activities might be worth giving a try over summer?
The good news for you is that a 3.63 UW GPA isn't bad at all (and colleges will typically look at UW GPA over weighted GPA, because different schools will have different weighting systems and they want to look at something they can evenly compare). It probably feels that way because of the high school that you go to, and colleges may have somewhat increased expectations for students from your high school, but your GPA is absolutely above the threshold for the schools that you mentioned. Coupled with any improvements you make in the next few months and a very strong SAT score, you shouldn't have a problem passing that threshold. And your ECs are very strong—definitely enough to give you a good shot at the mid-tier UCs (even UCSB, though it might seem otherwise).
In response to your questions, yes, it's definitely worth spending some time in your applications talking about your health struggles and how they may have affected you. Most applications will have some kind of prompt that relates to that, and I know the UC application has multiple prompts (of the 8 they give, you have to choose and respond to 4) that could work for writing an essay about your experiences. The important thing here is the framing; talk about what you learned from the experience, how you've grown and changed, and how you've gone about improving yourself after you realized what you needed to do. It's a perfectly valid essay subject, and I've had multiple students write about similar things in the past.
As for how to improve your resume, right now, I would focus on deepening your involvement where you can in the things you're already doing. You have enough breadth at this point, so considering how limited your options will be this summer, depth will likely end up being more valuable. Or, if you're interested in writing, advertising, and web design—which it seems like you are from your current activities—maybe start a blog or a website? That's a relatively simple, low-risk (COVID and otherwise) option that you could turn into something worthwhile.