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What can I do to strengthen my College Applications?

, [edited]

Lately I've begun to realize that a lot of people are doing so much more in their extracurriculars/free time. Maybe it's just Quarantine getting to me, but I've started to worry that I will never get into any schools because I don't have any strong specific qualifications. My academic career thus far can only be considered average. I am planning on applying to fairly competitive schools like University of Michigan and Notre Dame, but there's nothing that I do that makes me exceptionally special. Oh, also I must mention that I have siblings my age who do the EXACT same activities I do, besides the fact that I play a sport. How am I ever going to self-individuate and strengthen my applications?

I'm interested in going into pre-med, currently I am involved in:

- On varsity quizbowl

- Debate

- MiRcore/GIDAS

- Hopefully next year I'll be in HOSA

- JV Soccer

- ACT: 27

- GPA: 4.0 *I only did one honors class this year

Another note, my family has a family friend who owns a lab that I could possibly work in. When should I reach out to this individual? Also, what other extracurriculars should I do? Thank you.


5 answers

answered on
Accepted answer

Sophomore here :) firstly don't worry about your ACT for now since you are only a freshman. As long as you know that you need to raise it given two years’ time you will be fine. You should aim for a 32-33 to have the most competitive score. AP chem is really difficult but if you work hard you will be able to do well on it.

Since you are a STEM major and that is a very popular concentration currently, it will admittedly be a little bit harder to stand out. You NEED to show commitment, dedication, and leadership in your ECS- meaning go for officer positions, stay in them for at least 2-3 years, and work your way up to the top level of recognition/awards that you can. Take all of the honors or AP science classes that you can. Since you are looking at UMich and ND which are fairly competitive you should have mostly honors and AP classes with a handful of regular level. It will be better for your admissions chances to have a lower GPA with harder course load, since the difficulty of the classes you take (context) matters more. Not saying you have to be top of your class in every course but if you’re presented w the opportunity to advance you should do it. Also you should take at least 1 Science subject test (chem, bio, or physics). If you are going into nursing or pre-med I think Chem is required by some colleges (idk about UMich or ND so you should check w them first).

TBH I’ll look at this the same way that a college admissions officer would. You have a good profile considering that you’re a freshman, but you don’t have many science-oriented activities. Two big ones to join are Science Research or Science fair team and Science olympiad. Most high schools have them and you should definitely join them next year as a sophomore. Quizbowl and Debate are good activities to win awards in but they don’t really connect to Pre-Med so they don’t really make sense for your major. Don’t drop them, but pick up some more activities that are related to your field and will give you science experience!! Also- take some science electives if your school offers them (atanomy/physiology, pharm, etc).

PLEASE look at getting a summer/fall lab internship at a college or other reputable institution for pre-med or anything STEM related. This is super helpful and will definitely give you a better perspective on what pre-med in college is like. Most summer programs extended their deadline to next week so if you’re lucky you can get one. An internship might be out of your reach seeing you’re only 14/15 and usually these places have an age requirement, but do take up that family friend on the offer to work at a lab. It is a golden opportunity and you’re lucky to have gotten that so early!

Consider filling out a “profile for review” (there’s a link on the internet somewhere, sorry I can’t find it right now…) on Collegevine’s website where Vinnay could review your profile live during a webinar and give you his advice on how to strengthen it. All you have to do is give a couple of referral email addresses of your friends, family, etc.

As for standardized testing you probably should take the Pre-ACT as a sophomore (administered in Dec); it will give you an indicator of what your ACT strengths and weaknesses is. It’s administered through your high school so ask your counselor if you will be taking it next year.

hope this helps!!

Thanks so much!
answered on

Hi! I want to be pre-med as well, and am in a very similar situation where I feel as if my EC’s aren’t strong enough. I have a lot of volunteer hours, but don’t have much else. I have started to change that though. I am going to be president of a club I’m in next year, and might start HOSA at my school. (My school is tiny and has less than a dozen clubs). My best advice is to volunteer a lot in the same discipline (all of my 200+ volunteer hours are from the same place) and show commitment. Also, summer programs are a great opportunity for pre-meds. Mine got canceled this year, but whether it be a hospital internship, a volunteer program, or a stem program, summer programs are a great way to show what you love without having to have done them for several years. Another piece of advice is that you should take challenging stem classes, like AP or honors bio, physics, chem, etc. My school doesn’t offer any AP science classes so I’m doing dual enrollment at a local community college this summer. I will be taking environmental science. This is a great thing to do because it counts towards an academic and a summer activity. I hope this helps!

Wow, it sounds like you've done a lot! That's definitely admirable. I am planning to take AP Chem next year (sophomore year), and AP Bio in Junior Year. I am definitely not opposed to volunteering/internships at hospitals/medical facilities, but unfortunately my parents are opposed to me volunteering at hospitals, as they say "it won't help you get into college." But I don't think either of them understand how competitive schools are now. 🤷‍♀️
answered on

I’d reach out to them the summer in between junior and senior year or sophomore and junior though it seems that has already passed for you. The siblings part of they are younger it is irrelevant and if older kinda only applies if they apply to same schools but they look at you in relation to you not sibling A is better than sibling B they do look at high school but if if 100 students from Highschool X including you they look at all of them and if you and your sibling are top 10% then they don’t compare you to each other but to the highschool.

For ECs try look for leadership and be committed to the ECs it can help you to find a common link like

Quiz bowl helps me to reconfigure obscure facts and I can better diagnose obscure diseases or something like that and if you link all of the ECs to your love of medicine that is really good.

I do not know what GIRAS is so I can’t say anything about that but for UMich the only obstacle I see for you is more rigor as in AP classes (if not available they understand) and raise ACT to above a 30 as middle 50 ACT is 30-33 and I can’t speak for ND as I don’t know enough to speak for it

Hope this helps!

Thank you so much for your advice!
answered on

You could apply for virtual summer programs or internships. Take some to study for the ACT or SAT. Apply for lots of scholarships during this time, and try to get into some virtual volunteering. Many colleges are offering virtual tours of their campus. Or many places like Coursera are offering online courses you can do. It is even possible to take an online class at your local community college. You could also use this time to relax and focus on yourself. I personally have began to virtually volunteer at the American Red Cross. These are just some general ideas.

Good luck

Thank you for your advice!!
answered on

Improve your ACT to up to at least 32

My ACT is currently a 27, hopefully by the time I'm a Junior I'll have a 32 Idk tho!! Thank you for your help.