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• 05/14/2020 at 07:49PM[edited]

Is it bad that my ECs are kind of all over the place?
Answered

I hear a lot about needing a "spike" and not just being a "jack of all trades" for college apps. Despite this, I love being a "jack of all trades" because it gives me new experiences and my interests aren't necessarily confined to one area. I'm a sophomore and I want to major in computer science or a field of engineering (likely aerospace or EE). I have a 4.0/4.6 GPA with lots of AP/AICE/Honors classes. I also have almost 300 service hours already and I plan on earning more, not because I have to, but because I LOVE volunteering. I want to apply to some Ivies and some selective schools like NYU. My school is kind of small, low income, and in the middle of nowhere so we don't offer a lot of things the other schools in my county do. Can you just tell me if I should cut down my ECs or if these are fine for college? I don't want to seem like I'm stretching myself thin and I don't have a "spike" but these are just the activities I like. If I did have a spike, I suppose it would be TSA.

These are my ECs so far:

-TSA: TSA stands for Technology Student Association and it's a bunch of STEM based competitions. I am a chapter officer for TSA and next year I'm running for district VP. I am a 4-time state finalist in Tech Bowl, Biotechnology, and Chapter Team. I was a national qualifier for Biotechnology but COVID cancelled it. Next year I'm adding coding, software development, and fashion design to the events I'm competing in.

-Envirothon: This is an ecology based competition. My team and I won districts and went to states. At states we won the Soil and Land use award. Next year I am applying for team captain.

-NASA WEAR: I co-founded this program at my school. Basically you design a suit to protect astronauts against solar radiation during a mission to mars and submit the design to NASA and they select 5 finalists to go on a trip to NASA and present their suit.

- National Art Honor Society: It's like NHS but for art and I was accepted for my digital art.

- Student Ambassadors: I am a student ambassador for my school and in the past year I have traveled with a small group of other students to local middle schools to tell them a little bit about what my school has to offer. Next year I am applying for chairwoman of the Outreach committee.

-Math Tutor: I tutor middle school math and Algebra at the local charter school.

-Concession Stand: I volunteer at the little league concession stand where I have been given the leadership position of Director on Duty, I arrive early to open and I stay late to close. I count the money, pay the umpires, and oversee the volunteers.

- Food Pantry: I volunteer at my church's food pantry. Last week we fed over 900 families during the COVID crisis and we're continuing to do it every two weeks.

- Varsity Cross country: I am on the varsity cross country team.

-SGA: I am a member of Student Government.

-Coursera: I have taken coursera courses in chemistry and CS

Things I plan on doing:

-Women in STEM initiative: Next year I am starting a program where I take some volunteers with me to do STEM camps at local middle and elementary schools to encourage women in STEM. If I win district VP for TSA, I plan to associate the program with the district TSA chapters to get other high schools involved so they can do it at their local middle schools.

-Youth band: I play 3 instruments and my church has a youth band that I plan on joining next year.

-Varsity Captain: My cross country coach offers the upperclassmen captain positions (usually 3-4 for the girls team) and I want to earn one of those positions by senior year.

-NHS: I hope to be inducted junior year and I plan on running for office.

-A-Team: I plan on joining my school's academic team.

-Small Business: I have a small business idea and I plan on starting it this summer.

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@julylilys05/15/2020 at 12:36AM

By any chance do you live around nyc?? Or around the east coast?

[🎤 AUTHOR]@Mysterysquash05/15/2020 at 11:18AM [edited]

I'm from NYC, originally from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I moved to Florida when I was 8 to a small town south of Tampa. My dream is a school like Columbia or NYU because I really want to go back to New York. I miss NYC soooooo bad.

@julylilys05/15/2020 at 08:04PM

That's awesome!!! I'm from NYC too!! You currently live in Florida?? I was just asking because I was interested in similar programs and I have the same goals as you! I would love to attend Princeton or NYU!!

[🎤 AUTHOR]@Mysterysquash05/15/2020 at 09:48PM

That's so cool! Princeton is definitely high on my list. Yes, I currently live in Florida but most of my competitions/ECs are offered all over the country so if it's something you might want to start at your school I would suggest Googling them and figure out how to set one up. For example, if you Google NY TSA I'm sure there's a website and it should give directions on how to affiliate a chapter. Or you can look at the national TSA website (tsaweb.org) for info. U can do this with my other ECs.

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2 answers

5
• 05/14/2020 at 08:08PM

Believe me when I say that you're setting yourself up incredibly well to apply to whatever colleges you want to go to. The idea of a "spike" is not "you must have a clear and delineated area of interest"—and people who look at it like that are misinterpreting the general idea. (I've mentioned in previous posts that I really dislike that term; this is why).

In reality, it's more that you, ideally, would have demonstrated your passion or passions for something over your time in high school to show that you bring a particular skillset to the colleges you're applying to. And being a jack of all trades is itself a skillset—being adaptable and flexible, able to learn new things on the fly, and carrying with yourself an interdisciplinary mindset are all things top colleges will value. So the key for you is going to be tying together all the different things you do in a way that in effect makes the image you give them of you—through your application, essays, and other materials—make sense. This is, in the end, about selling yourself as unique, and for someone with your kind of interests and skillset, that's not as much about demonstrating one particularly unique passion as it is showing that your passion *is* learning a lot of different things.

For instance, I graduated a few years ago (and have been a counselor since), but when I was in college I double majored in English (creative writing specifically) and physics. Those were two interests I had in high school, and my ECs were similarly scattered (maybe even a bit more than yours). I was the Editor-in-Chief of our school newspaper, made it into our most competitive vocal music group, was captain of a quiz bowl-like team, was on our FIRST Robotics team a season, did projects for a local science symposium... etc. etc. etc. You get the idea. My applications were largely about the similarities I saw between science, art, and literature, and how that inspired me to pursue a lot of different subjects—and, also coming into a relatively low income, working class neighborhood, I got into multiple Ivies. For you, maybe your "spike" is something that combines STEM and service and art, and that could end up creating what's actually a really unique application.

So, to answer your title question—no, it's not bad at all. You're in a really good place right now, and it sounds like you're really exploring your interests fully, which colleges will always love to see.

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Accepted Answer
[🎤 AUTHOR]@Mysterysquash05/14/2020 at 09:39PM

Thank you so much! I was scared my application would look too scattered but I like the idea of connecting all of my interests to be my "spike".

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• 05/15/2020 at 01:14AM

Well... you are definitely well rounded. And that is a little harmful if you are applying to the most selective colleges under 10-15%, like Stanford or Harvard or MIT. But if it is over 20%, like NYU, then academics and test scores are mostly what gets you in, unless you did something really bad. This doesn't mean you can't have multiple interests, but it does mean you need to show mentality and perseverance throughout these multiple interests (show that you have what it takes for you to be a top swimmer or soloist) and show leadership. However, if you're well rounded, keep in mind you might have a disadvantage because you're very similar to the other applicants. I recommend acing the personal essay and interview to show them that you're distinguished and have an authentic personality.

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[🎤 AUTHOR]@Mysterysquash05/15/2020 at 11:57AM

So based on my current ECs what do you suggest I do to strengthen them? I already mentioned that I have/am aiming for leadership positions in almost all of them and I have state-level awards in some of them. How can I make myself stand out? The first comment said being well-rounded could be my "spike", do you agree with that or do you have another suggestion?

@Terrence05/15/2020 at 06:44PM

Just do what you love. Focus on what you love the most and strengthen it, and weed out all activities you can't do any better at. If something is a waste of time (e.g it doesn't take any effort to apply) then stop it. Make your EC's as strong as possible, and aim for some really prestigious ones to really stand out. Oh, and one last thing- don't ever feel too satisfied about your achievements. Try to go for some national or international awards to stand out.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@Mysterysquash05/15/2020 at 07:19PM

Ok thank you! My biotechnology project was going to nationals until it got cancelled but I am aiming for national awards.

@Terrence05/15/2020 at 07:52PM

Looks like you have a biotechnology spike. Try to participate in the national biology Olympiad, and other medicine/technology awards/extracurriculars. I recommend the Intel ISEF to make an huge impact on your application.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@Mysterysquash05/15/2020 at 08:37PM

Could you link the Intel ISEF? Is it like the Regeneron STS?

@Terrence05/16/2020 at 12:24AM

Sort of, except the ISEF is more competitive. You first have to win a regional science fair to make it. If you are ranked the ISEF, then your chances of getting in will skyrocket.