6 months ago
Admissions Advice

I'm an 8th grader looking for advice in high school!

First, a bit of info about me:

I am an 8th grader about to enter high school. I am currently in GT (Gifted and Talented) and while that means nothing in high school, it opens up opportunities for me to take AP classes. I am two years ahead in math (I my district, the math courses go Algebra 1 - Geometry - Algebra 2 - Pre Calc - Calc [other math courses are given but on require you to finish algebra 2, like Statistics]). This means that this year I will finish Honors geometry and in my first year of high school I will complete Honors Algebra 2. My dream job is to be a surgical oncologist. Essentially, I got into running in the fifth grade due to an unhealthy lifestyle caused by Covid. I followed this one really good fitness trainer, and he is my role model. He got cancer, and though he is fine now, there is a high chance it will come back. This inspired me because there are many people suffering from cancer, and it seems to happen to those who have the best attitude. Anyways, sorry for rambling, onto my question(s)!

1. I have played the violin for three years, starting in sixth grade. I am an average player and definitely do not rank amongst my peers. I am thinking of dropping it in high school to make way for a bunch of AP courses that I find interesting, like Dual Credit Medical Terminology and AP Psychology. My main thought process behind this is that I wont be able to gain any awards from it due to the intense competition surrounding the instrument. I do take classes outside of school, but I still don't feel that I will be at the place I need to in the next seven years. If you guys have any thoughts and opinions about this, I would be very grateful to hear it!

2. I do not have any ECs YET, but I do have a list ready. I am thinking of volunteering for the Red Cross, starting a Red Cross Club at my high school, volunteering at the SCPA, starting a non-profit with my bud, playing in a band at various events for different audiences, Mock Trial, Mock UN, bake sales (maybe), and running races for organizations donating to cancer research. I do not feel like it would make me stand out, so do you guys have any suggestions? I would prefer ideas that it is medically related, but anything will do!

3. What ivy leagues and hidden ivies are good for surgical oncology?

4. How many APs would you guys suggest for that college? I am currently planning out my four-year plan, and I have 12 APs lined up!

5. Are you supposed to take the SAT, ACT, or both? IS it more beneficial to take both?

Thank you for your time (It means a lot),


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4 answers

Accepted Answer
5 months ago

Hi! Don’t be too anxious. It’s great that you’re already thinking ahead and you know what you’re interested in, but stay open-minded during freshmen year and just focus on doing what you’re truly passionate about. It’s easy to procrastinate if you’re trying to do everything for your college application, but if you find your niche and do activities that you love and would do even if you weren’t going to add them to your college application, then you’ll end up with a lot of great extracurriculars.

1. I played the cello during middle school, and I was also debating between dropping it or continuing it when I was going to start high school. I ended up dropping it because I wasn’t really that interested in playing the cello anymore, and participating in orchestra was going to get more demanding and time-consuming. While I was worried about missing it, I’m glad I dropped it because I had more time to focus on activities that mattered more to me. However, I continued playing the piano even though I don’t play competitively and don’t plan on including it in my college applications, just because I enjoy playing it, and it also doesn’t take up too much of my time since I only play recreationally. Think about how often you pick up your violin to play out of enjoyment; if you’re only playing it because it’s something you started, then it would be better to use that class time towards something you’d rather be doing. If it’s something that you truly enjoy though, then it would be worth it.

2. Like @AdaH said, it’s pretty important to have a spike for Ivy Leagues. Pick one area that really interests you and do your best. Focus more on what really impassions and less on creating the perfect college application. If you do this, you’ll likely naturally have a more unique resume. Some activities for pre-med include doing research in a field in medicine that you’re interested in (like surgical oncology) and possibly entering science fairs. You could also find internships at hospitals/clinics or labs (this might be a bit easier later in high school though, like during your sophomore year). Don’t be too anxious about creating the perfect college application, just get started on doing what you’re passionate about every day.

3. Collegevine has a list of the top pre-med schools, number 1 being Harvard. All of the Ivy League schools are good for pre-med, as well as some other top schools like Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Rice, MIT, and Duke; hidden ivies include Amherst and Swarthmore.

4. Don’t worry too much about APs. 12 APs is good. As long as you take a pretty rigorous workload and include classes that relate to you want to study, then you’ll be fine. Just do your best (without stressing too much) and you’ll be fine.

5. You only need one (either SAT or ACT). It’s only a matter of personal preference. You could take practice tests for both to see if you do better in one or the other, but you would only need to send in test scores for one.

Good luck!

6 months ago

Hello! Wow, you are thinking ahead! It is great that you are already thinking about all these things but one word of advice is to slow down. I can see you already have a whole plan for how your 4 years of high school are supposed to go, however, I would suggest taking a step back. High school is a completely different experience from middle school; it's a different environment and you're going to experience many new things. OK now on to your questions! But before that a bit about me to show I'm not just making things up :P I'm a current Junior who's taken 9 APs so far (10 technically since at my school AP Econ covers Macro and Micro). I have an unweighted GPA of 4.0, my PSAT score is 1500 and my first SAT score is 1540 (haven't taken it again yet). I'm not going to get into my extracurriculars but that's a bit about me. Now really onto your questions!

1. I am a musician myself; I've been playing piano for 10 years now and I play in the selective conservatory at my music school. First advice: don't think about it in terms of "Can I get an award out of this?" Playing an instrument is an extremely rewarding experience and skill. If you like playing violin, keep doing it. You don't have to sink a ton of time into it (1 hour per day should be fine). However, if you don't enjoy playing then there isn't a point to push yourself in doing it.

2. You already have some great ideas but don't go into high school trying to do them all immediately. First, do you know which high school you're going to? Many high schools have great clubs that are already solidified which are great to join; for example Science Olympiad teams or Math Teams. There's already a community there and you can meet new people and start to network. I cannot stress how important it is that you know people outside of your grade; they will serve as great mentors and can give you a lot more advice. I'd wait a year until starting a club just so you can settle down a bit into high school first. Other than that you have some good ideas already; volunteering is definitely good.

3. No idea, not into medicine personally.

4. The number of APs doesn't really matter. They also look at how many your school offers compared to how many you take. The main thing is that they want to see that you're challenging yourself. If your school offers a ton of APs then I think around 10 is fine. You've said that you have 12 APs lined up; once again do you know what school you're going to? There are a lot of circumstantial things you need to take into account. Mainly are the teachers for so and so class good? This is why networking is important; upperclassmen can help guide you on which classes are good to take and which teachers are good at their jobs. You don't want to end up self-studying for like 3 APs or something.

5. Colleges don't really care if you take SAT or ACT. There isn't any benefit to taking both other than seeing which one you like better. They are very different tests so taking both to see which you're better at isn't a terrible idea.

I hope that answers most things! Also, remember to enjoy high school! It is not just a pathway to college.

5 months ago

I have to admit you have one heck of a resume! It's great that you are so focus on your academics, but I would just like to say enjoy your time in High school. I have spent a two years of my time as a High School student in IB, and I have become glued to school-work. Meet new people, spend time with your friends, and enjoy high school! Times may get tough, but as long as you believe yourself and put in the work you should have no problem. It can be scary to adjust to any new environment, but I believe in you!

5 months ago

Hey there @Anxious4Highschool!

It's great that you're already planning for high school and college, but please remember to enjoy middle school while it lasts! I was so excited to begin my freshman year that I ended up being a little disappointed by how normal and boring it was. It's great to be prepared, but also appreciate your life for what's happening in it right now. However, I do have some advice for you:

1. I also play the violin; I've been playing since second grade (so about eight years now) and I have never competed or joined an out-of-school orchestra group, and I've only played in a school ensemble once. All things considered, it's not going to help set me apart from other college applicants, but it brings me so much joy. There are other things you can excel at; there is no reason for you to quit something you enjoy just because you don't foresee yourself winning any awards for it. Taking time for your genuine hobbies (not just extracurriculars) is really important for your overall happiness and mental health. You will still have time for a rigorous course load if you keep up the violin, and playing an instrument is great for your brain! Even playing for a few hours a week is great!

2. I planned to go into high school joining my school's environmental action league, service club, and cross country team. I ended up doing LitMag, Mock Trial, and Student Council instead. It's great to have an idea of what you're going to do, but don't solidify it too much yet; you might find some really cool clubs/offerings that pique your interest. And who knows? Maybe one of those clubs could turn into a lifelong hobby or possible career path. Planning on getting some volunteer hours is great though, and it may be possible for you to get a head start over the summer. I volunteered a little in the summer between eighth and ninth grade and started high school with thirty volunteer hours. One of the most important things to keep in mind extracurricular-wise is to focus more on one area than the others. Try to have a 'spike' in a certain area you're passionate about-- this basically means that you'll work extra hard on doing more for one activity. Here's a helpful post about spikes from a few years back: collegevine.com/questions/18613/spikes

3. A quick search told me that Allegheny College, University of Texas Medical Branch, and University of Washington were good schools for surgical oncology. Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, UC San Francisco, University of Toronto, and Yale are good prestigious medical schools. However, if you're interested in a very specific subject (such as surgical oncology) it's more useful for you to attend a school with a great program in that subject than a big name school or Ivy League.

4. 12 APs is great! I was initially planning on taking AP Physics next year, but decided to take honors physics instead. Don't be afraid to take classes that are down a level if you think something might be too hard, and honors classes are great as well!

5. My school offers the pSAT 8/9 to ninth graders and Pre-ACT to tenth graders so they can see which test works better for them. Having taken and done similarly on both, I think I will take both the ACT and the SAT in the coming years and just pick my higher score of the two. If you can, take these tests to see which format works better for you. If they aren't available to you, you can find free practice tests on College Board and ACT's websites. Keep in mind that College Board is making the shift to online tests, so the SAT (and AP tests) will be online in coming years. If this doesn't work for you, consider taking the ACT instead. It doesn't really matter which test you take, and there's no need to take both, so just experiment a little to see which one you like more.

I'm so happy you're excited for high school, but don't forget to take middle school slowly and enjoy every minute! I wish you the very best of luck in your high school journey!

Happy New Year!

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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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