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ECs required for Harvard/Ivies?

abe1234abe1234 35 replies39 threads Junior Member
Hi

I'm currently 16 years old and am from the UK and I've just finished what you guys would call the '11th grade'. I'm really interested in applying to some of these top US unis and have found out that there is a much greater emphasis on ECs here than there is in the UK. Could someone please tell me what sort of ECs would be required for some of these elite schools? Would I have to be playing loads of different competitive sports and winning national science competitions? Or is that all just an exaggeration? Currently I just play the piano and violin, and cycle and rock climb in my spare time, neither of which I do competitively. Obviously I still have about a year ahead of me where I can start doing more ECs so could someone please advise me on what sort of stuff I should be looking at?

Thanks!
25 replies
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Replies to: ECs required for Harvard/Ivies?

  • NewdleNewdle 751 replies81 threads Member
    Prepare yourselves; the lectures are coming.
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  • abe1234abe1234 35 replies39 threads Junior Member
    Aha what? I'm new btw
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40797 replies7569 threads Super Moderator
    It's all about quality, not quantity. Find things that interest you, not to impress some college.

    From The Harvard Crimson:
    The five most commonly reported high school extracurriculars were, in descending order, community service, athletics, music clubs or bands, student government, and math clubs or competitions.
    http://features.thecrimson.com/2013/frosh-survey/academics.html
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  • abe1234abe1234 35 replies39 threads Junior Member
    Thanks. Are all these top Ivies the same in what they look for or do they each look for different things?
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  • IxnayBobIxnayBob 4485 replies42 threads Senior Member
    @abe1234, I have no proof of this, as my son had a variety of ECs, but I definitely got the impression that activities external to school (travel hockey (he was a skilled and committed player, but below the level of a recruited athlete), research opportunity gained without school or parental involvement) mattered more than clubs at school. Other than clubs that he either founded, led, or traveled for (model UN, for example), he didn't bother mentioning them.

    You will become tired of hearing this, but do what matters to you without an eye to building a CV.
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  • abe1234abe1234 35 replies39 threads Junior Member
    @IxnayBob Thanks! If you dont mind asking, what school did your son end up going to? Also, do you think competitive sport is quite a big necessity for a successful application? :)
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40797 replies7569 threads Super Moderator
    edited July 2014
    No, competitive sport is not a necessity. However, if you have one and are passionate about it, it does not hurt.

    Another quote from the Harvard website:
    How important are extracurricular activities in admissions decisions?
    Each case is different. Some students distinguish themselves for admission with their unusual academic promise through experience or achievements in study or research. Other students present compelling cases because they are more “well-rounded,” having contributed in many different ways to their schools or communities. Still other successful applicants are “well-lopsided” with demonstrated excellence in one particular endeavor. Some students bring perspectives formed by unusual personal circumstances or experiences. Like many colleges, we seek to admit dynamic, talented, and diverse students who will contribute significantly to the education of their classmates.
    https://college.harvard.edu/frequently-asked-questions

    That last sentence in particular will describe what most top schools are looking for in applicants.
    edited July 2014
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  • IxnayBobIxnayBob 4485 replies42 threads Senior Member
    @abe1234, he applied SCEA to Yale and University of Michigan, was accepted at both, and will attend Yale.

    No, I don't think competitive sport is necessary at all, but I think that an activity that is run by officials other than school officials is useful. Sometimes schools hand out EC treats like snacks for a well-behaved dog. School officials have a responsibility to achieve the most good for the most students -- an external hockey coach, by contrast, doesn't care at all about the school, he's just interested in winning :-)
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  • abe1234abe1234 35 replies39 threads Junior Member
    edited July 2014
    @skieurope Thanks! I get what you're saying about being a well-rounded candidate but I'm at the same time hearing that you be special in order to stand out from the crowd. My current dilemma is whether or not I should carry on doing what I enjoy and currently do, piano/violin, cycling, rock climbing, school societies, etc, which I think is quite well-rounded, or whether I should try and do something like join a sports team and enter myself for competitions, etc to stand out.
    edited July 2014
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40797 replies7569 threads Super Moderator
    No, the quote said that some successful applicants are well-rounded, while others are lopsided in one area. There is no magic formula. Starting something from scratch at this point will not get you to a point where you will win national competitions. Continue what you are doing. Add something if you will enjoy it.
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  • abe1234abe1234 35 replies39 threads Junior Member
    edited July 2014
    @skieurope Aha sorry - I appear to have misread the quote. Thanks for the all the advice! Just one more thing; do all the Ivies look for the same general things or do different ones look for different things in prospective students? :)
    edited July 2014
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  • VSGPeanut101VSGPeanut101 865 replies21 threads Member
    Cycling and rock climbing are great ECs. Don't worry about the "competitive team" thing. Can you describe your commitment to these activities in a way that you can stand out in your application? For example, rock climbing in 5 countries. Climbed a very high obstacle. Worked so many hours a week at a climbing gym teaching or coaching. You should do what you love, but it should be apparent in how you describe it your application that you do love it - not that you claimed once, or cycled around the block.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40797 replies7569 threads Super Moderator
    do all the Ivies look for the same general things or do different ones look for different things in prospective students?

    As I quoted above:
    Like many colleges, we seek to admit dynamic, talented, and diverse students who will contribute significantly to the education of their classmates.
    This applies to the Ivy League schools and others in that niche. Each college may internally define its wants and needs slightly differently. Brown seems to attract a slightly more free-thinking applicant; Dartmouth, a more conservative, outdoorsy type. They all want intellectual leaders who will inspire their peers.

    On a side note, the Ivy League is an athletic conference; that is the tie that binds. They are all great schools, but not necessarily the top 8 schools in the nation. There are many fine institutions of higher learning here outside of the Ivy League that you may want to explore. It should also go without saying that there are many fine universities in the UK as well, all of which will be considerably cheaper.
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  • abe1234abe1234 35 replies39 threads Junior Member
    @skieurope Thanks. Do you think getting into Harvard/Yale is harder than getting into Oxford/Cambridge?
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40797 replies7569 threads Super Moderator
    Do you think getting into Harvard/Yale is harder than getting into Oxford/Cambridge?
    For a UK applicant? Yes.

    Oxbridge has an acceptance rate in the low 20's, but for UK students it's closer to mid-20's.

    The acceptance rates for Harvard and Yale this year were 5.9% and 6.7% respectively. The acceptance rate for international applicants is roughly half that.
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  • SuperScientist01SuperScientist01 60 replies13 threads Junior Member
    edited July 2014
    @skieurope‌ my all 10 EC's are related to my research work, competitions won in it, community service, volunteer work and publications that too in green tech.
    Am I in trouble? should i try to do other things?
    edited July 2014
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40797 replies7569 threads Super Moderator
    @SuperScientist01 No, it's fine if all your EC's are related. You would just appear as the lop-sided applicant that I mentioned earlier.

    In the future, it is not in good form to hijack another poster's thread. :)
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  • abe1234abe1234 35 replies39 threads Junior Member
    edited August 2014
    @skieurope Thanks. Do you think it's not worthwhile applying to the US if I have Oxbridge open to me anyway? Uni in the US is my dream but when I think about it, there's very few rational reasons why this is the case. If you don't mind me asking, whats your story? Are you a student in a US school? If so, what school, and what were your experiences applying? And were you an international student? Do you have any advice for prospective students? Thanks! :)
    edited August 2014
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  • abe1234abe1234 35 replies39 threads Junior Member
    @VSGPeanut101‌ Hi, I totally get what your saying! I might do the London to Paris cycle ride next Summer - is this the kind of thing you're talking about? Thanks! :)
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  • lkgrg17lkgrg17 161 replies14 threads Junior Member
    As long as you are passionate about the things that you do, and are able to convey that passion on paper.
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