2 months ago
Admissions Advice

Advice for freshman struggling to find extracurriculars in high school?

I'm a highschool freshman aspiring to study Neuroscience and Machine Learning. But as of late the dream seems less likely than ever. I am more than halfway through the school year and I still have yet to do anything of note. I tried talking to my student counselor and career guidance officer, but they have so far responded with shrugs and empty consolation. I have repeatedly asked my parents to get me a professional counselor that could offer me some more personalized guidance (I am not allowed financial independence), but they have mostly been placid as well. Meanwhile the videos and forums I consume during my research always seem to talk about freshmen going on exclusive science fairs and winning national competitions. I, on the other hand, have no activities and still only possess rudimentary knowledge of the admissions process. I feel hopeless. It feels like my school and my parents aren't interested in helping me at all. The only accomplishment I have to my name are good grades (4.5 weighted GPA). What should I do?

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3 answers

Accepted Answer
2 months ago

My advice is to simply pursue your passion. Get involved in ECs that display your field of interest. This not only shows demonstrated interest on the application, but it provides you with clarity on your future. Eg, I love gardening. I started taking it more seriously each year. Eventually, I realized I wanted to work with plants for life. So I kept pursuing it. I began taking floral design classes. Now, I know I want a degree in ornamental horticulture, perhaps with a business minor, so I can begin a business after college. See what I mean? As I explored it more and more, my career choices got narrower and narrower until I absolutely knew the path. This will also look amazing on my college application. I have already dived into my field and started my career. This kind of passion is super appealing to admission officers because they get a lot of "I want to come here because it's my dream school" and all that.

As for gaining some understanding for the admissions process, I am sorry your high school counselors are not helping. If you have any questions, this is a great place to ask! Ask anything. I try to answer as many questions as I can :) Also, Ivy assistant can provide information on the admissions process but I personally am not a fan of AI so I use it sparingly. One of the most helpful websites I know of is Collegeboard BigFuture. They have a college search engine, admissions tips, and more. I recommend creating an account with them (unless you already have one for PSATs or APs).

Another helpful resource has been NSHSS. Your GPA likely qualifies you for membership. Since becoming a National Society of High School Scholars member, I have attended a lot of insider admissions webinars with real admissions officers and Ivy students.

However, Ido want to give you a word of advice on choosing colleges. First, you need to know that you are amazing and unique. You will have an amazing and unique journey. It will not be like anyone else's, so don't restrict yourself to do what is popular or ranked highest. I see a lot of freshmen aspire to Ivies, which is fine, but when they don't make it, they sink into discouragement. My encouragement for you is to find the school that will be best for YOU all around. It will take time and effort (research, etc.) but it will be worth it. When considering where to go, think about 1) where you will be happy and 2) where will you be best trained. I could attend Ivies for my field of interest but I will get more specific training in my field at a less known university. (Side note: I will also have the benefit of merit scholarships because my stats are higher than most students coming in there. I am not quite Ivy level :) but my grades, etc are high enough that it is to my great advantage.) So choose colleges you will thrive at.

Hope this helps a little and please lmk if you need any more advice or answers to questions. You can do this and enjoy high school! It is a time like no other.

2 months ago

As a freshman in Quarantine, I totally understand the feeling of being paralyzed, not having any sort of opportunity to grow into your desired field or interest. But, I researched and was given some fantastic free programs that also might interest you. These programs aren't directly correlated to neuroscience/machine learning, but I think that they will give you a good idea of what to look for.

SPINWIP (The Stanford Program for Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in Physics) is a free virtual 3 week program that teaches on quantum computing and how that relates to physics. Stanford would be a worthwhile school to look into for programs more aligned to your interest.

The Girls Who Code Club would be a fantastic way to work directly in different coding software as a student. This is great due to you being a freshman! You have the opportunity to start up clubs and eventually lead the club (if desired), which looks great on applications. It doesn't even have to be GWCC, but a coding club, AI club, a neuroscience club etc.

CMB-S4 is purely a free virtual space program that barely touches on coding, but the university in collab with the program, U Chicago, might have similar opportunities available. Juliet Crowell was the leader of CMB-S4 for U Chicago, but look for her associates as they may be hosting their own programs or even have the same interests as you!

If all else fails, look to your local community college / colleges / universities for free immersive programs dedicated to high school students that are interested in neuroscience/machine learning. I attended an Introduce a Girl to Engineering event at my local community college and I got connected to lot of the staff/professors there and it is now helping me in transitioning from high school to college.

I really hope this helps! You aren't alone in this struggle :)

P.S. I don't know of ANY freshman going on "exclusive science fairs and winning national competitions." You are doing awesome and a lot more than me as a freshman 😅

2 months ago[edited]

For Machine Learning: Start from the beginning. I am planning on doing CS and in the summer going into 9th grade I began making many coding projects, like a Discord AI chatbot. Begin by learning to code, then make some projects, etc. Maybe then try integrating AI tools like GPT4 in your projects.

Another thing you should look into is coding competitions like the Congressional App Challenge. basically you make apps. But the people who judge your projects will probably favor projects utilizing AI. I competed this year but lost.

I hope this helps

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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