I'm a junior, I'm homeschooled, and I'm late to the college admissions game - what do I do?
I started struggling with anxiety and depression starting in middle school, and I've only recently started to recover (albeit slower than I'd like). I know better than to blame myself for situations beyond my control, but now I can't help feeling like I have a lot of catching up to do if I want to be a competitive college applicant!
I have a 4.06 cumulative GPA, I take classes at a local community college, and my baseline test scores are decent for not having studied (29 ACT / 1350 SAT), but I have almost no extracurriculars, honors, or awards, and no AP classes, either. I'm planning on taking 4 APs in my senior year related to my intended major (political science), but since I'm homeschooled, I don't know if that will work out. I'm generally good at testing and I plan on only studying subjects I'm interested in, so I just have to hope that self-study will work for me.
I'm mainly worried about extracurriculars. Because I'm homeschooled, I don't have many easily-accessible opportunities for extracurriculars the way that students at public or private schools do, and for most of my high school career I was too anxious and depressed to try to find opportunities for myself. I've done a little bit of theater, but none of it was very prestigious. I've taken music lessons for years, and that's what I'm really passionate about, but my instrument is far from desirable for college orchestras or bands. I currently have an internship and I plan to start volunteering as an ESL tutor sometime soon, but I don't know if that much is enough, especially since I've really only gotten ambitious in the second half of my junior year.
I realize this question is pretty vague, and for that I apologize, but if anyone has any advice for what I can do this late in my high school career to turn things around as best as I can, I'd love to hear it.
Hey there, glad to hear that you're starting to recover and approaching this with a healthy perspective! It's great that you already have an internship and are planning to volunteer as a tutor. Don't worry about being late to the game, and instead focus on maximizing the time you have left.
It is a little trickier to find organized extracurriculars as a homeschooler, but that doesn't mean there aren't any options for you. A few things you might consider:
1. Some local public schools might allow homeschoolers to join their clubs and sports, and some state laws might actually mandate that they allow homeschoolers to join. This is worth looking into if you're interested in any organized groups that your local high school has.
2. Consider community groups - see if there are any groups in your area that offer activities you're interested in. You could get involved in a local theater production, for instance.
3. Look into competitions - there are many academic and extracurricular competitions that you can enter as an individual, such as the Academic Decathlon (they have a team and individual category). There might also be some music competitions for your instrument!
4. Pursue self-directed projects - this is probably the most overlooked and underrated way to improve your ECs. You could do a fundraiser, run a marathon, build a computer, start a blog - basically anything goes, as long as it's something you love doing and care about. Just try to accomplish something quantifiable so colleges can understand the impact. In your case, maybe you could write and put on your own play.
I hope this helps! Here are a couple CollegeVine articles that might be useful to you (where a lot of this info comes from, and is further developed):
@maplecreamcookies gave a lot of solid advice but I also wanted to chime in with some more thoughts for you. First, it really is great to hear that you are starting to get better! Depression and anxiety are serious so make sure to take your time while you are managing them. College applications are stressful enough as is so please don't try and rush yourself. Your mental health is more important than applying to college right away. Plenty of people take gap years or apply after high school and there is no shame in that.
I know you mentioned that you have "almost no extracurriculars" but you went on to list multiple ones you'll be able to put on your application! Like @maplecreamcookies mentioned, it's great that you have an internship currently and you're planning on being an ESL tutor. I'd try to get started on the tutoring as soon as possible so you can demonstrate you've committed to it for a decent amount of time. You should also consider leaning into your music more, especially if that is what you are passionate about. The "desirability" of your instrument for a college orchestra or band isn't really what matters but rather it's the time and commitment you have shown towards the thing you're passionate about that’s going to matter to an admissions officer.
I think your profile as it stands right now is already competitive and you're not giving yourself enough credit. If you continue to focus on the ECs you have right now and advance in those you'll be alright. While it might be fine to find some other ECs to add I wouldn't scramble or worry if you can't find anything. Just focus on staying committed to what you have and doing the best you can.
Good luck with everything!