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Possible for Strong Essays to Make up for Weak Ec's

mit_acga_2022mit_acga_2022 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
For highly selective colleges such as MIT, Stanford, etc., is it possible for strong essays to make up for weak ec's? Although I believe my ec's show passion, they are not the conventional ones that Ivy League students apply with. I have worked on a lot of programming/software side projects. I had 2 developer summer internships, and did research at my local college (relatively prestigious research university), and I am taking classes at my local university. My biggest concern is that I had no major leadership positions, and I was wondering if I could make up for this with strong essays that show my passion/fit for the college.
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Replies to: Possible for Strong Essays to Make up for Weak Ec's

  • happy1happy1 Registered User Posts: 18,514 Senior Member
    While admissions are holistic, in general the most important part of the application is academics to include GPA, course rigor and standardized tests. It would be highly unlikely that a great essay or strong ECs could make up for subpar academics -- especially for an unhooked applicant. With acceptance rates of well under 10% the top tier schools seek out students who have excelled in every part of their HS career.

    So bottom line is if you want to apply to a couple of reach schools go ahead but be sure to put most of your focus on schools that appear affordable, match your record of academic achievement, and that you would be happy to attend. Be sure to find good safety schools as well.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 27,891 Super Moderator
    edited October 12
    they are not the conventional ones that Ivy League students apply with
    There's no such thing. Students get accepted and rejected with conventional EC's, and some also get accepted/rejected with off-beat EC's. Unless there is a specific need, like a point guard or an oboist, one EC is not more favored than any other.
  • happy1happy1 Registered User Posts: 18,514 Senior Member
    Apologies -- I replied too quickly and thought you wanted to know if strong essay could compensate for subpar academics. Nobody here can presume to guess how your ECs may strike one particular admission officer. So essentially my answer remains the same as my second paragraph in post #1 -- prepare the best application you can and be sure to apply to a mix of reach, match, and safety schools that appear affordable and that you would be happy to attend.
  • mit_acga_2022mit_acga_2022 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    I am on the Canadian school system, so my situation is a bit different than most US students.
    First of all, I am in the IB program, and I have 7's predicted in all my courses except french (which is a 5/6 range). My standardized tests are perfect, with a 36 on the ACT and 800's on both my subject tests (physics and math 2). So, in response to @happy1 , I believe my stats and course rigor are strong enough.

    My biggest fear was that without some major leadership role, admissions officers would see me as just another applicant with good scores but minimal involvement, and dismiss my application (especially as an international applicant to competitive schools, I know that the standard for admission is higher).
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 24,920 Senior Member
    So many top performing kids vying for a slot will have great rounding. "Passion" may drive some of your EC choices, but it's not a tip. Go dig into what MIT says. A great essay may get attention for being a great essay, but can't erase what you seem to say is missing.
  • Sportsman88Sportsman88 Registered User Posts: 1,579 Senior Member
    You'll never know if you don't apply. Just don't lock in to one school as a dream school.
  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 2,827 Senior Member
    edited October 13
    I agree with @Sportsman88, you won't know if you don't apply. I also agree with others that an unconventional EC that you care about might in fact be quite a strong EC if admissions just happens to like it.

    However, if you are coming from Canada you might have a bit of a sticker shock when you find out what US schools cost. Also you should be aware that if you are a Canadian getting a degree from a US university you might discover that Canadian employers prefer to hire from Canadian schools and US employers prefer to hire people who have permission to work in the US (which unlike in Canada does NOT come with a degree from a local university).
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 30,063 Senior Member
    I have a kid who got in everyplace she applied, including some top schools, with no leadership in her app. She had some strong individual accomplishments and I think showed good "fit" with the schools in her supplemental esssys. But she didn't go nuts over "showing passion", either. She showed them who she was, and they decided they wanted her.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 27,891 Super Moderator
    edited October 13
    Possible for Strong Essays to Make up for Weak Ec's
    For the most part, there are no offsets - a strength in one area will not make up for a weakness in another area. That said, I think you are really asking the wrong question.
    My biggest fear was that without some major leadership role, admissions officers would see me as just another applicant with good scores but minimal involvement
    Without knowing the specifics of your EC's, I do think that you are confusing leadership with leadership roles. Yes, many colleges value applicants who have shown leadership, but that can come without a title.

    As an example:

    In the NHL, each team starts the season with a 23 man roster. Generally, each team will also have a captain and 2 alternate captains. Does that mean that the other 20 guys are not leaders on the ice and/or in the locker room? No. Vets mentor rookies, as an example. Additionally, in the NHL, goalies cannot be captains or alternates (well, they can, but it's a longer explanation that I'm not getting into). But nobody should suggest that Sergei Bobrovsky or Braden Holtby or Henrik Lundqvist are not leaders.

    Anyway, the point is that it is incumbent upon you to find ways to show leadership within your EC's. It can be done. Good luck.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 24,920 Senior Member
    edited October 13
    Try to read what MIT says. It's not just leadership qualities. When you do apply, be an informed candidate.
  • renaissancedadrenaissancedad Registered User Posts: 1,411 Senior Member
    edited October 13
    Good advice above. In my experiences, adcoms often react favorably when an applicant goes off the beaten path with ECs, and Don't just do conventional clubs and activities. I'd ask the OP the following questions about his/her ECs:

    - Are these things you are truly passionate about for their own sake? Would you do these things anyway, even if they Didn't help with your college application?

    - Have you taken initiative, sought out opportunities, and put in sustained effort over time with these activities?

    - Have you attained proficiency in these areas, and can you show this?

    - Do your ECs relate to your overall application, and help give an idea of who you are as a person?

    Positive answers to this means that an applicant probably has above average ECs.
  • happy1happy1 Registered User Posts: 18,514 Senior Member
    It is accomplishments that position titles that matter. Shine the best possible light on what you have done and don't focus on what you haven't done.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 24,920 Senior Member
    Balance matters. MIT isn't going for unilateral kids who just do what they like. They want kids who can see more out there, test in new ways, join peers, as well as do for others.

    Lots of kids will have done programming, internships, and research. And then pursued other interests, some breadth. And service. It's not just what passion you claim.

    Imo, a student with a drive for particular colleges should be researching what those colleges say and show. Not falling back on an assumption like leader "titles."
  • happy1happy1 Registered User Posts: 18,514 Senior Member
    re post #12 should read "accomplishments not position titles that matter".
  • mit_acga_2022mit_acga_2022 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    @lookingforward I've held a few other positions that I believe show that I care about community, all centered around programming. For example, I am working as the website developer and online marketing head at a youth-run volunteer organization. Furthermore, I've been involved in tutoring since grade 10. Also, I agree completely that position titles should not matter, its just that the profiles for a lot of accepted students for these schools have a lot of these titles. Your help is reassuring.
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