a month ago
Admissions Advice

Getting into top schools as a math major, need help finding more extracurriculars and coursework

Female 10th grader here who likes math and wants to apply to top schools like the Ivys and MIT! I’m currently in only one AP, Calc AB, which is an extremely easy class for me by the way, it doesn’t even feel like I’m taking an AP. There isn’t much coursework at my school that appeals to me and I’ve only planned out taking 7-8 APs by the end of my senior year. I also have some plans to maybe take college classes at a local uni or online but nothing in motion. I met with a few math profs last month who were talking about starting a girls in STEM program at the uni nearby but there has been no follow up or anything. I’ve thought about doing a math research project but I don’t know if it’s worth it for my application or even feasible.

I failed at qualifying for AIME 2 years in a row and my math team does MAO but my school doesn’t usually win many awards. I’m in a few other interest clubs and involved in theatre but haven’t been cast in any large roles or anything. I also teach math to elementary schoolers through a volunteer program at my high school and will try to apply for leadership for that this spring.

I need more creative, interesting extracurriculars and I’m looking into summer programs for before my junior year, specifically in number theory (I do have a bit of knowledge in number theory), but I don’t have any impressive accomplishments for applying to the super selective ones like SUMaC or PROMYS so I don’t know where I stand on that. I won’t even be 16 by the end of the summer so that’s preventing me from applying to a bunch of these programs too.

TLDR; my opportunities in math are limited at school and I’m having trouble finding enrichment outside of school or any extracurriculars really, so my college resume is looking pretty barren right now. Any advice?

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3 answers

Accepted Answer
a month ago

As I read your post, it's clear that you're stuck and flailing and asking for way out of your mess. It's clear you are intelligent but you find yourself surrounded by activities and commitments that will not get you where you want to be.

The main exercise I recommend you do is make 2 columns on a piece of paper. In the first column list things you have personal control over and accountability. In the second column, list all the things you are involved in where you don't have control of the outcome because its dependent on other people coming through or a group effort.

You also seem like a busy person, so what you write down will represent all the time commitment you have allocated outside of eating, sleeping, and personal time. If the 2nd column has more things than the 1st column, then that is problematic for you in terms of controlling the narrative that gets you into a top college. Why because all your eggs are in the wrong basket and you will have to rely on sheer luck for all the planets to align in that universe for your goals to be met.

Therefore you want the 1st column to have more activities and intellectual pursuits. Regardless of whether you apply to an Ivy, Stanford or MIT or Caltech, they all want to see some self motivated evidence of intellectual vitality/curiosity. Therefore, you will have figure out what you want to learn that is not offered in HS and find a way to learn those things in your free time.

If higher maths are not taught in your school, then you need to figure out how to acquire that knowledge. There are many ways. You can enroll in online college courses, MOOCs like eDx.org, or dual enrollment at your community college. If you do not have any HS leadership accomplishments, then you should look outside of your HS, and see what you can do to serve your community or city in various capacities. Colleges don't care if your leadership activities are academic or not because they are looking for some evidence of leadership because they want future leaders. I like reading and books so I joined a Board of Directors at my local library. Besides Math, there must be something else you like to do, so I would pursue that.

When you read about who gets into top schools versus who doesn't, you will see that many admits are multi-faceted. Some MIT admits also play the Oboe and Varsity Water Polo and create NFTs for fun. Top schools do not want academicians only, they want academicians who enrich the campus life with interesting experiences and perspectives that are inspiring and purposeful in creating their best vision of a Freshman Class.

Good luck.

a month ago

Hi, thank you for asking your question! @emmyolive has answered your question with a lot of detail that I don't want to overlap. So, I have a few more things to add. If you want to find more ideas for summer extracurriculars, check out this blog post. Additionally, here is a blog post that can help you assess if your extracurricular are in the Tier 1 and 2 range, which selective schools like MIT will pay attention to.

a month ago

I'm probably not the best person for this kind of topic, but anything you do adds to your resume. All of the programs you listed are great, but I have also heard that doing AMC(which leads up to IMO), looks really good on your resume and making the camp summer of junior year makes you close to a lock for an Ivy league.

Keep trying, fighting, whatever. You have potential so go find it.


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