Rising senior, Male, AZ, Indian
Aspirations: physicist. I've wanted to become a physicist since I was 3. I haven't decided on any specifics yet, but my mind has always been set on this general area of study.
If it means anything, the high school I attend rarely sends people to out-of-state schools, and actually has a low percentage of students pursuing higher education. However, some get accepted to Berkeley occasionally.
GPA: 3.867 unweighted, ~4.7 weighted
Class rank: does not report, but in 97th or 98th percentile. I estimate 10-15 out of 561.
My school offers IB, but I'm not in it. It was slowing me down; instead, I loaded up on the APs junior year and with no regrets. Getting out of IB also allowed me to skip 'honors' science classes and take the more stimulating AP ones.
AP scores (chem taken soph year, the rest junior year):
2 Biology (considering deleting this one)
5 Calc BC
5 Physics C: Mech
5 English Lang
5 US History
SAT scores (taken once so far, considering a retake): 680CR, 740M, 770W, 2190 composite. (does Stanford weigh the writing section as heavily as the traditional two sections?)
PSAT: 223. I think the NM cutoff is 211 or 214 for Arizona.
Senior year schedule:
AP English lit
AP Gov/Econ (each one semester)
Calc III and IV at community college
Also plan on participating in YMCA Youth in Government
Going into junior year I never would have imagined taking 6 APs, and esp. not english or US history, but I decided to do exactly that and the journey was unforgettable. English became my second-favorite subject outside of math and I left junior year with a renewed interest in literature.
I don't have many 'formal' extracurricular activities; I did ~100 hours of volunteer work from 8th to 10th grade, some of it related to the FIRST Robotics competition. But my main outside-of-school activities are informal; I spend hours solving math problems from my calc book; my teacher and I collaborated frequently throughout junior year. I recall spending an entire day going through the set of problems about how rainbows form. I see a potential essay topic here...but anyway, I also taught myself to play the piano. I'm not exactly a virtuoso, but it is an incredibly satisfying activity.
Recommendations: in math class, I was frequently the only person 'brave' enough to give an answer. I'm sure more people knew the answers to questions our teacher asked but were intimidated by him or feared being wrong. I also had the nerve to point out a mistake on his final that had been there for years. Also, my psychology teacher got to see me as a laid-back guy with a sense of humor whose lowest grade on a test was a 90% (uncurved!). My teacher competely reversed my initially critical attitude toward psychology, which was another journey I had in my junior year. So I anticipate excellent recommendations from these two teachers, though of course nothing is a guarantee.
I was in physics club, but I really made the most of my time spent in chess club. I went from an average chess player to winning 8 games in a row second semester junior year. It didn't hurt that my mentor, the chess club president, was ranked 7th in AZ.
I also spend a large amount of my free time reading science magazines, journals, insider information that I am fortunate to have access to, and science-related books, which have inspired me for years.
I apologize for the lack of restraint in describing my life story, but I need to know if applying to Stanford is realistic considering my lack of formal ECs. Stanford is really the only extremely-selective school I want to attend; I'm hardly even considering any other school of this caliber.
I'm not gonna chance you because I think it's a ridicilous thing to do for me. But having read quite an amount of books (and websites) about college admission and Stanford in particular, I can give you some basic advice.
The first impression I get from reading your entry is that you're a great student, but your grades and teacher recs will tell that story. So in order to convince the adcoms you're not just another robot, utilize your essays to write about completely other things.
I've read several places that colleges look for leadership when they turn to your EC's. Now, volunteer work is great, but I think they also want to see how you balance your life. Being interested in physics is great, doing well in it is even better, but what do you do purely for fun? (not related to academics)
I would retake the SAT and get that CR up (although you're probably just fine now). You've got great AP grades so the subject tests shouldn't be neccessary to show your abilities in each subject. But chem and bio should be deleted if possible - from what I know, they can only hurt you.
Thank you for the feedback. Well, my 3 main non-academically related interests are photography, web design, and auto racing. I have my own website, which is down right now due to renewal issues but will be back up in a few weeks. All the code on the site was done by me, and I am nearly finished with a PHP gallery. Its main purpose is hosting my photos. But if there is anything that could be considered my passion, it has to be racing. Becoming an aerodynamicist for a Formula 1 team would be a great career idea that bridges my two main interests.
Wow, your SAT scores look like my first SAT score of 2190: same Verbal, 750 math, and 760 writing.. weird
out of curiosity, what was your second score? mine was 2260, kind of disappointed it wasnt any higher :/
and if you don't mind me asking, how did a person like you end up with a 2 in AP Bio? cuz i got a 4 in APUSH that totally depressed me for like a week.
I haven't retaken the SAT yet, I'm planning on doing so in October. And I honestly don't know how that 2 snuck in there with those 5 5's. I thought I did worse on the AP Chem test sophomore year than on Bio. I think the main problem was that AP Bio is not offered at my school, so I had to take IB Bio 5-6. It covers about 25% of the material for the AP test; the rest is specific to the IB test. I had to skip IB Bio 3-4 in order to take this class also, which meant I lost out on a whole year of information. I guess bio is one class that I can't learn from an AP review book. Conversely, I self-studied AP Physics C straight from the review book and nailed it, so I guess biology is a weak point for me...
Not to offend you or anything, because i have the same problem myself, but maybe biology is easier for those with stronger CR skills? That's what i've heard, and it seems pertinent here because you apparently are good at math, which would explain your success with self-studying Physics C.
Is self-studying Physics C worth it - do most colleges offer credit? I MIGHT do this next year, if i feel like it
You've got a lot of words there, but a lot of it seems like fluff. Taking AP classes - whatever the reason - is almost a prerequisite for a place like Stanford. You've done fine academically, but even if you had excelled it wouldn't really set you apart.
Your big problem is extracurriculars. Are you really going to say, on your application mind you, that you would spend hours upon hours solving problems out of your calculus textbook? Are you going to write about how great some other kid you played chess with was? Do you really think they're going to take your reading of books/magazines, "insider information" or not seriously?
People who do things that admissions officers know about - sports, science comps, whatever - have an automatic leg up not because what they did is necessarily better, but because the officer's familiarity with it and the time/commitment it takes gives that activity, and thus that applicant, some legitimacy. Right now, you, and your activities, have no legitimacy.
From what you've written there I don't think you're going to be able to get that legitimacy across anywhere else than in some form of essay. Could you really write out as an extracurricular activity that you solved extra math problems on your own time? Clearly not. You're going to have to write about it, give it some context, and make them see why it and more importantly YOU are such a big deal.
That's gonna be your big challenge. A final piece of advice to go with it. I don't know whether it was because this was a chance thread and you just wanted to list every possible activity you could or not, but you're going to need to be very careful not only how you list your EC's, but how many of them you list as well.
If you list everything you did above, you're going to sound like you're grasping at straws to try and cover a problem area. Pick one, maybe two things your proud of and have some passion for and go with them, don't try and hit everything.