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Do you have to have a long list of achievements with activities to get into good schools?


Hello, I'm a freshman and have been in school for 8 weeks now. So far my grades have stayed in the A-A+ range and I've been working on a web application that aims to help student with Distance Learning. I'm working to get it promoted by my school district. I'm also entering a national app competition. So right now I was looking at Irus Fu's video on how to find your application spike. It made me feel so much more calm, but then I was working through the worksheet she linked in her video and I realized that I only have 2 activities. And I just started out with them, I'm scared because I don't see myself getting a national recognition with web development because I started out to late and I also don't see a soft spike I might have (that's kind of given, I think because It's too early to really tell). Then I looked at her achievements and it she has a very, very long list of achievements. It made me feel anxious, I'm a very slow worker and with time I can get things done. I've been working every day since summer on my web application, It takes me so long to fix bugs in it and figure out how to make things function in it I literally spend the entire day on it, that i don't have time for other things, I'm getting better at finding shortcuts and bug fixing routines. But I've spent all this time on it I don't/didn't look into other activities, I know it's not a race to build the longest and most impressive resume, but I've been looking at some students resumes and they have 9-10 activities they've participated in from 10-12th grade and they have really impressive accomplishments in almost all of those activities.

Do you have to have a long list of achievements with activities to get into good schools? And how do I pick EC's that I'm passionate about (not because they look good on college application), how can I recognize this?

Additionally if you have any advice on how I can prevent myself from comparing yourself to others and or dealing with self doubt, I'd appreciate it.

here's the video I watched:

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Accepted answer

So Iris is such a great YouTuber. Someone else asked for essentially a freshman prep list so this is a one size fits all type of list so if something doesn’t fit exactly it’s becuase it’s a copy and pasted list

So great job on getting started early a very catch all list for new high schoolers is

A: Have good grades a bad one can axe your chances. For ivies out of 6-8 classes a semster get at maximum one “B” a semster and that’s being kinda generous. Should in a 4.0 scale be 3.85+

B: Have as much rigor as is practical/feasible. Try taking AP classes that are major related. Personally I’ll take an engineering class that isn’t AP but it is major related make sure to do it if available as you can see if you’d like that major. Rigor includes IB AP Honors. If you have no advanced classes you can only be judged on what your opportunities are. 2/2 APs are better than 3/20 (3 being APs taken 30 being # of APs your school offers). 0/0 is perfectly fine.

C: Have meaningful ECs. My general rule of thumb is to Join apprx 5 ECs freshman year and if you don’t like one you can drop it. A lot of the most impactful ECs are at the age of 16/junior year. You’ll likely not be prez of a cloud until Junior/senior year also most jobs require you to be 16 though it varies by state and employer. Some ECs will be school sponsored some will be community based like youth group and some will be personal projects like entering a contest unrelated to school.

1 point of clarification is that Covid messes everything up so if you have no ECs this year while not great is understandable.

An additional point of clarification is all holistic schools meaning they just don’t look at test scores and GPA prefer quality not quantity. If you are a member of 20 different clubs that is easily overshadowed by competing at a National tournement.

Typically to find if an EC is good for you and your resume is to determine if it meets

A: you like the activity

B: it has responsibilities/achievements it can be winning National tournament or as simple as holding a successful fundraiser. Also you actually do something joining a club where you just sit around and talk about a topic isn’t impressive if you organize an event then that’s good.

Always self advocate to the club sponsor/student president and just help out. If a leadership opportunity arises go for it such as student board or becoming a club officer.

C: Some should be some mix major related/community based/family based. Whether it’s having to babysit sibling due to parents working til 6 volunteering in a nursing home or you join robotics to study mechanical engineering.

D. Awards are overestimated unless it’s very competitive. ECs are king.

E: Have a plan to balance coursework and personal activities. Mental health is important.

F: Do not neglect SAT/ACT prep start doing free review sophomore year and if at all possible take the PSAT. SupertutorTV on YouTube has some great videos.

G: Make sure to meet graduation requirements and not just take interesting classes and if different than high school requirements make sure to meet college enrollment requirements. In my state 3 years of math is required for graduation but my dream school requires 4 years. Also a select school have abnormal requirements. For example Harvey Mudd requires Calculus which is not normal. Also take a full course load that will help you latter down the line. If you want to go into economics take AP microeconomics over a music class as an example.

So that’s the list finished but to answer about long lists is that you simply need to have accolades personally at Harvard MIT while at UCLA I have excellent according to Collegevine I have strong ECs despite only having on average F tier ECs with my highest being a D tier. While that’s me personally you may have a B rated EC and then a few Gs just make sure to in general follow the “requirements” as they are incredibly basic and aren’t concrete. Having a national championship in solo tennis example and only having 3 other basic ECs is perfectly fine

TLDR it’s the achievements that matter not the quantity.

As for your last question just whenever you start to compare yourself to others say to yourself I’m not them and they aren’t me. I will worry about myself not. We are different. Or depending on mentality just think to yourself I can do it and challenge yourself and set “milestones” and break the 5 mile run into quarter mile runs. Do it piecemeal it’s easier to do small tasks than larger tasks after all.

I’m not a life coach so take this as suggestions not as an answer

Hope this helps and please comment if you need clarification as I’d be happy to help clarify!

Best of luck!

so are the things i'm doing now not count as ECs? And next year/this year how can I be on the look out for EC's and opportunities, right now it seems like robotics is the only other option I have... I joined coding club (just a member)at my school and I'm the treasure of my skillsUSA club but they meet on same days at the same time, should i just go to the skillsUSA club then? A CS teacher and I were planning on making a coding workshop later in the year, i initiated the idea,
Also that helped a lot! thanks!
the workshop i think could be done in the club but i think the teacher might be open to doing it outside of the club Which club should i attend, because I can learn things from coding club but i'm the treasure in the Skills USA club
do have any advice on how i could explore some more EC's?
So the things you listed live the software dev definitely are ECs. How impressive it is depends on its use/spread. It definitely seems like you want to study CS so I’d say coding is slightly more important than SkillsUSA but may just be me. A CS workshop definitely would be a great idea. For the CS club you are a member but you are also a freshman and you seem to have a great relationship with the CS teacher. I’ll be willing to bet you’ll easily be able to get a leadership position in CS by
Junior year. As for exploring ECs simply just go to the introductory meeting and attend other meeting if you like it. You can also branch out into some personal ECs but that is kinda up to you to determine what to do. Personally (and I’m 100% biased) I’d look into debate/forsienics/speech as IMO it’s a great club and community and it teaches vital skills. Also post-Covid consider reaching out to a local university most major cities have a university in the metro areas. Researching/helping
Professors is such a great resume thing and it would likely be major related. A former Stanford admissions officer said don’t do too much of 1 thing so make sure not everything is CS relate so have CS be your spike but not the ONLY thing. Hope this helps.
That did help! Thank you! But it won’t look bad/negatively effect me if I spend a lot of time on my web application freshman year? Should I continue working on it or will this effect me because I might miss out on time I could use to explore other EC’s.
I was also thinking about starting a nonprofit with web development I’m pretty good with the design aspect of websites but my web application has eaten a lot of my time, do you think I should hold off on that until I have more experience?
It will not look bad. Though do leave sometime to explore other ECs. As for non-profit you do you do what you think is best but also besides existing what will the np do teach computer skills so while it’s a great idea the idea needs to be fleshed out. But as of now I’m not you so I can’t really say if you need more experience. Also if you found my answer helpful would you mind accepting it otherwise no problem!