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