2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Is my courseload okay if I have strong EC's?

So my school district doesn't offer honors or IB, only regular classes and AP's and very limited college courses through the local state university (Portland State. I took 3 AP's as a junior but I failed one of the tests (human geography) as a result of my teacher getting sick and a sub shortage in my district which meant I really didn't get a whole lot of instruction time. Obviously, I don't have to send the bad score to the schools I'm applying to (I have 12 on my list and a good mix of safeties, targets, and reaches at that) but my dream school is Stanford and I know I am likely not a competitive applicant there, but I am taking 4 AP's as well as one college course this year (as a senior) and I am hoping that the combination of these with my strong EC's will make me stand out at least somewhat? I am also a legacy at Stanford but I really struggle with ADHD and executive functioning because of my ADHD so my learning and processing abilities are noticeably slower than my family members who have attended undergrad there. I also did really awfully on the SAT the first time I took it and am planning to retake it this coming October. If needed, I will take it a third time in December. Is there anything else I should be doing (other than making sure my essays are strong) to be as desirable an applicant as possible?


Earn karma by helping others:

1 karma for each ⬆️ upvote on your answer, and 20 karma if your answer is marked accepted.

3 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago

Hi @meiraclara,

Thanks for your question.

I don't know if your parents explained the Stanford admissions process but if not I will. Your application will be read by 2 readers who will score you on a scale of 1-5 on the following 6 areas: Academics (grades/GPA), Testing (SAT/ACT/APS), ECs/Co-curricular, Intellectual vitality IV/IC, Recommendations, and lastly Interview/Self-Presentation/Essays.

Key things to note.

Grades/GPA - Stanford re-calculates your transcript into a Stanford GPA. Your 9th grades are not included, only your 10th,11th, and whatever grades you submit during RD. But for SCREA, just your 10th/11th. Also, they use flat grading, so an A+ or an A- becomes an A, 4.0, a B+ or a B- becomes a B, and so forth. Lastly, only your academic core classes count, not PE, orchestra, electives, art, etc.

Testing - Stanford favors applicants who submit high test scores versus those who do not submit test scores. So whatever you need to do get your SAT or ACT score in the target middle 50% range of 1470-1560, 34-35 do it. I don't know if you qualify for the EXTRA TIME testing environment because of ADHD but look into it.

ECs -Stanford loves applicants whose ECs align with their intended major. Also, they love athletes who can participate in their vast and deep athletic program.

IV - One of the most important ratings. Stanford is looking for angular (spikey) compelling students, not a well-rounded most qualified students. Stanford needs to know if you take ownership of education outside of the classroom, if you would enrich the academic learning of your Stanford peers and if you are genuinely passionate about learning. To get a 2 or higher rating, you must show evidence of your love of learning outside of what is given to you at high school. This can be internships, published papers, patents, taking college courses, learning languages on your own, or being able to hold a conversation about an intellectual topic for hours on end. So of the 3 supplemental essays, your answer has to be compelling and believable.

All the sub-ratings become a composite rating on 1 to 5.

If you have an overall rating of 1 you are an auto-admit but less than 1% of admits has an overall rating of 1. Most admits have a rating of 2+, 2, 2- which is about 10% of the applicant pool that meets this cutoff. Then the admission committee shapes this pool down to 4%. Even if you are a legacy, you will have to have better than a 3 overall rating to be considered for Stanford. So the bottom line is if you are well qualified as a legacy, you will have a significant boost in your admissions chance to get in. Perhaps a 5X boost or better, so the 4% becomes 20%. Also, I would recommend that you apply to Stanford SCREA on Nov. 1 if you have all your ducks in a row. Stanford like UPenn and other elite colleges encourages legacies to apply early. It helps protect their high yields as well.

Good luck.

2 years ago

Hi @meiraclara!

Colleges assess your courseload in relation to what's offered by your school. For a college like Stanford, seven APs might be a bit on the low end, but it's by no means unacceptable.

That said, it's better to compare the components of your application on an individual basis. Strong extracurriculars won't make up for weak academics, so you should instead think of it as looking for weak spots and trying to improve them. And assuming your grades are in order, that means the best thing you can do right now is practice for your SAT.

I'd still need a lot more information about your profile to give you a clear answer. That's why I'd recommend our Chancing Engine (link on the sidebar) for a more in-depth look at specific colleges. It'll look at just about everything — grades, background, extracurriculars — and tell you which parts of your application need improvement for each college on your school list.

Good luck! Let me know if you have any more questions.

2 years ago

Colleges such as Stanford tend to look at your application in a holistic lens, meaning that they take into account the number of opportunities offered to you. As a fellow PSU challenge program student, I can confirm that it is indeed a really good program, and for you it would show initiative to take those harder classes. Your senior year is also pretty rigorous.

As for lower SAT scores, if they don't stack up to the middle 50% at whatever school you choose to apply to, you can always apply test optional.

If you are doing good in your regular classes while having ADHD, then schools like Stanford will view that as a strength because you were able to overcome extra challenges to become a good student. Legacy is also a bonus that you will have, helping you stand out in the applicant pool to a certain degree.

Right now, I would say to just keep everything (essays, ec's, grades) strong and keep the good faith going. Best of luck.

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)

Community Guidelines

To keep this community safe and supportive:

  1. Be kind and respectful!
  2. Keep posts relevant to college admissions and high school.
  3. Don’t ask “chance-me” questions. Use CollegeVine’s chancing instead!

How karma works