4 years ago
Admissions Advice

Are my ECs too weak as an international applicant (Canadian)?

Are my extracurricular activities a bit weak for Ivy League (or similarly ranked) institutions (like JHU or Yale)? I'm a Chinese-Canadian planning to do Neuroscience as a major, and am in my junior year. I have a good-enough GPA (I'm not sure how it converts, but I should have close to a 95% average in relevant courses) and a 1580 on the SAT. I am currently doing the IB Diploma Program (including Pre-IB in G9-G10), but no APs.

If these activities aren't enough (and I figure they aren't, however nice-sounding some of them may be), are there any other activities (preferably in the region of biology) that I could pursue? I'm actually fine pursuing a biology-related EC right now even if it's not that helpful, since I'm really bored right now anyway... :P

My activities are the following:

- Ranked 5th Place Nationally in the Canadian Biology Olympiad (1 place off from participating in IBO; wanted to participate this year but CBO was cancelled due to COVID-19)

- Ranked 3rd Nationally in the University of Toronto National Biology Competition (came with a $3000 scholarship and a $100 cash prize; this was tied to CBO)

Those two are probably the biggest spike; the rest are quite a bit lower in importance (except maybe the eco-club):

- Founded the school debate club, Vice-President of environmentalism club (there are a TON of activities associated with the eco-club, but I won't list them all; basically fundraiser events, volunteer activities, certificates, representing the school, etc.)

- Helped organize school Earth Day event for 2018 and 2019, inviting more than 10 keynote speakers from organizations like GM, Ecospark (altho I feel bad listing this one since my advisor did much of the heavy lifting)

- Was a keynote speaker at multiple environmental events, including the city earth day event

- Placed 1st in Regional DECA competition but didn't win anything at the Provincial level

- Runs YouTube channel tutoring biology and other related subjects

- RCM Level 8 Piano, a few swimming things here and there, cross country, (not significant at all other than maybe National Lifeguard), black belt Taekwondo (this is SUPER old and probably not too important either), etc.

- Probably more than 100 hours (at least) of volunteering, but I honestly lost track of it since my eco-club advisor needed tons of it :P

There are a few more events that I planned on doing this year but that were cancelled due to COVID-19 (such as the brain bee and HOSA). I guess there's nothing I can do right now, but I'd really appreciate your opinion!

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3 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago

You are fabulous! Definitely better than me and I'm going to JHU... Amalia put it right! I think you will be well sought by colleges even during these crazy years...

Just note, by well-scattered, you don't want to seem like you're all over the place (which you aren't), but you can show multiple interests still... Make sure in your essays to not to show different sides of your self in the best way possible. This can mean writing about a lot of different aspects of one thing/EC, or all completely different things... I wrote a lot of essays about various topics: moving, elementary school, and crazy school board meetings in my city...

I think the best essays that are written show indirect and direct things about you at the same time. Great essays are about ideas, not just fancy writing, so I like to think what classifies a good essay is one that if you told a 2-3 sentence summary in laymans terms, it still should mae the reader say wow without dressed u jargon. I/E Moving gave me comfort after so many cross-state relocations, once my parents bought a house I was honestly worried I'd lose my think-on-my-feet identity. I liked to pretend I was an architect in my grandparents house sharing a room with a sibling, or a UPS driver emptying storage units. In my first long-term home, I used my freelancer personality to settle in my room to see things positively by pretending I was a wood carver carving math equations in my bed frame, to give me that familiarity and a sense of comfort.

If you can tell your essays in 3-sentence stories like that, I think that will help put you over the top...

Good luck. You deserve greatness!

4 years ago

You are definitely good! Even as an international student, your ECs are extremely strong and make you stand out. Most domestic students that get accepted will have a spike that's demonstrated by 2-3 activities that correlate with a passion or theme they're trying to get across. Since you have the criteria, make sure to make a theme for your application and/or elaborate on that passion you have for the sciences in your essay or supplemental essays. I have seen so many qualified students not get into certain schools because they presented themselves in a very scattered, unorganized way. So make sure that your passion, your academic interests, and your SPV (strengths, personality, and values) come through in your writing and recommendation letters! (This can be done by writing your essays in an informal tone, "showing not describing", etc). I wish you the best of luck, and stay safe!

4 years ago[edited]


What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
+ add school
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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