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The best college admissions advice-from colleges themselves!

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Replies to: The best college admissions advice-from colleges themselves!

  • anon145anon145 Registered User Posts: 571 Member
    edited May 15
    @Happytimes2001 some of the ECs to do really well leave not much other time than just being a top student too. Although I have no idea why schools have sports teams in the US, being an athlete "recruitable" to strong academic D1s or top D3 academics (NESCAC, CMU, Chicago) leaves only "token" time left to do another EC. (which is basically what my kid did). So at least for that category of kid (recruited athlete) there's isn't real time to actually do an amazing EC activity (outside of the sport). I would say there are too many non-athlete recruitable kids doing too many marginal/"formulaic" ECs and not really doing any one in an impactful way. The "sideways MIT" admissions post is kind of suggesting finding one EC to excel at and not try several mini ECs.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 4,486 Senior Member
    @Knowsstuff I agree. I've actually steered our D away from Habitat and told her that, if she wants to volunteer, there are many people locally who could use her help. It's important to not look like all of the other candidates when these AOs are seeing so many apps. Our kids don't bother with NHS either. It's the top 25% of kids at our school so it's not that hard to make the cut and it's a TON of time and a bunch of hoops to jump through. I'd rather they pursue something they are interested in with that time.
  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 Registered User Posts: 1,219 Senior Member
    @Knowsstuff A parent I know was telling me about his daughter and how interested she was in helping other people. So she went on a trip to Fiji. AHH, ok. I didn't say much. Then he went on to describe what they did to help ( essentially nothing). What AO is going to read that application from a kid who is also in a fancy private school and leap up and yell, "This is the girl we want? Yup, no one. Real caring and helping is often done close at hand ( and often weekly or frequently).

    @homerdog I have kids like that. We always try to get them to balance. It's very hard. This is especially hard when you have a kid (s) who are achieving in multiple fields. This year we had three national championships, two state championships and a world championship ( and none were for the same thing). This is just two kids. We told our kids we have to prioritize.
    School always comes first, then chose thing #1, thing #2 etc. Sometimes it's tough to juggle. ( We attended all events except the 3 national championships held during our Summer vacation).

    One of my kids earned a national level in something and wanted to try for the world championship next year in Europe. I told them to think long and hard about what that will mean. Life is about balance.

    My kids do what they like but we have a ten hour rule. No one thing can take more than 10 hours per week. It has kept them focused. Yes, sometimes during a season they go over but they know I am watching. (Also, my personal belief is that more than 10 hours a week of a single sport or activity isn't healthy to the mind/body). I tell the coaches this up front ( they think I'm nuts) but my kid #1 is incredibly focused and delivers individually and as part of the team. ( Sports coaches seem to be the hardest as they want to work the kids everyday and that doesn't work for me as a parent).
    My older kid has seen there is no additional value derived from throwing time at a specific activity. Often, kid #1 can't be the lead/Captain due to various obligations but that doesn't stop them from being one of the team members. They would both like to have 40 hours in a day. But I wouldn't be able to manage the schedule.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 4,486 Senior Member
    @Happytimes2001 your kids are doing things at a national level that only take ten hours per week? Good for them. I can't imagine. Even one sport around here is probably a minimum of 15 hours per week.
  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 Registered User Posts: 1,219 Senior Member
    @homerdog Yep, worked it out up front with the coach. My kid does this and isn't going to give it up so they can practice every day. Honestly in season I think the sport works out to 10-12 hours with travel ( kid is still young). They also use Summers wisely for development. Sometimes they miss one thing because there is a big event. Sometimes my kid does extra workouts alone.

    The non-sports teams are more flexible and kids often do homework on the bus or while waiting for various things.
    We have found the team sports to be less flexible than individual sports. I think we have been able to do this since my kids came to sports later and we're already doing two other things at a high level. Communication is also key. We share dates with coaches and share wins across multiple events. We are also lucky as there are several kids on one academic team who do various sports at a national level. So the coach is used to kids not being there 100%. We had kids coming and going from a world championship recently due to various obligations. They know, not all the pieces can fit squarely. But all these kids also know balance really well.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 4,486 Senior Member
    @Happytimes2001 wow. Still wow. That would not fly here. S19 wanted to miss Friday runs to get to his art class and his XC/track coach said he would have to quit the team..even though they run every day but Sunday and S19 would run on his own on Fridays. There is zero flexibility for sports. Even when S played tennis before high school, those kids hit for maybe 20 hours per week and traveled to USTA tournaments on the weekends. One had to do this in order to make our high school team that almost always wins state. Any sport here requires year round commitment. Even the football and baseball and soccer players play or train year round for a min of 20 hours per week.

    Many kids had to quit band even though they love music and sports because the coaches would not let them leave practice for marching band practice (which is required for all band members). So, starting back in freshman year, kids had to choose between sports and music!

    But we are definitely off topic now...
  • anon145anon145 Registered User Posts: 571 Member
    ^not really off topic. there really just isn't enough time to do multiple things that well. It does seem having one EC where a kid is the best, stands out more than 2 strong ECs, since human psychology says an AO is going to see tons of near best accomplishments but not many of the best at something. (so I'd argue pointy more than well rounded)
  • OrangeFishOrangeFish Registered User Posts: 782 Member
    For those pursuing the arts, the artistic statement -- and one's true voice in that statement -- is critical for admissions consideration. I like UNCSA's description of the artistic statement.

    https://www.uncsa.edu/admissions/how-to-write-an-artistic-statement/index.aspx
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 4,486 Senior Member
    @anon145 maybe. But being the best at one EC cannot possibly tell the whole story of a student. All people are more than just one of their past times. It can be a little one dimensional to be pointy. Even schools that want strong math or science kids will choose the ones who are also strong writers if they get to choose.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,926 Senior Member
    edited May 15
    My not-mathy kid took AP Calc BC and AP Physics. He had low B in Physics. He got into some very selective colleges anyway. (U of Chicago, Vassar, Tufts)

    Interestingly he actually did slightly better in the calculus course than in his favorite course which was AP Euro. His pre-calc teacher was fantastic and had taken them through the Calc AB curriculum by the end of the year.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 31,967 Senior Member
    Let's clarify. The don't simply look for "different." Your record and self presentation still needs to be relevant to the college. If you're different because you collect Hummels, that's no tip. Same for your own voice. Yes, the essay writing should flow naturally (it's not a position paper.) But what you need to convey is what's relevant to the college and the four years there. Among those things are that Grinnell list.

    Adventurous doesn't mean you go on adventures. It reflects a sort of spirit. Great recommendations doesn't mean your personal finance teacher who "loves" you.

    And, if the college expects, say, that engineering wannabes come in with the right math-sci courses, results, and ECs, no, you don't get to present just a bunch of unrelated things, simply because "it's you." Just as you need the academic preparation, you need the math-sci ECs (and others.) You don't get to say you preferred to volunteer an extra 400 hours at the animal shelter, because "it's you."

    There is no review category for "come as you are." Yes, the expectations need to be met, as best you can. Not curing cancer or placing at Intel, but among the wide swath of opportunities kids do have.

    And "standing out" is not about being unusual. It's really about standing out for the quality and impact of your choices and your fine match for that college, what it wants.

    Not, "She stands out for collecting Hummel." Or taking 15+ AP or founding a club or raising more money at a fundraiser, etc. There's no Wow! for writing an essay about your dog, no matter how much you love it. More like, "She stands out for her self awareness" and various other qualities they actively seek.

    Standing out can also be bad, when it reveals megative traits. "Spike" can backfire when it makes you unilateral or hints you don't engage beyond pre-formed interests. And so on.

    If you think this is freaking rocket science, you have plenty of other college options where they just look at stats.


  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 31,967 Senior Member
    Same issue with "pointy." Or thinking this is about taking one activity to national level. That's fine, great, but not going to get you a nod and a smile when they want to see depth AND breadth.

    I loved the comment that knowstuff's kid "bet on himself." That one phrase says much (in the context he/she described.) That's not betting you might place at Intel. It's a different spirit.


    Nothing wrong with Habitat, in your own area. In fact, nothing wrong with a mission trip, if it's balanced with other roll-up-your-sleeves local efforts. Lots of kids claim they want to help others, but never lift a hand locally, for people. Or they confuse hours with impact.
  • anon145anon145 Registered User Posts: 571 Member
    @homerdog I'm not saying kids can't or shouldn't excel at both english and calc BS and be academically well rounded, I'm just saying from my own experience w my DD being a recruited athlete, straight As, 99%tile tests was plenty of her time; there was some "formulaic" ECs but she really didn't have consistent time for them. I do think when one is talking about T20 schools there are probably 10 really smart well rounded kids per slot so just the numbers for getting accepted with that approach won't work. I think schools T20-T50 can fill entire classes with A student 99%tile tests do a bunch of well meaning ECs kids. The home schooled olympian who won gold and is going to princeton is pointy; she also has a massive twitter following. What people don't understand is the definition of pointy; pointy means 0.01% of the best. Not better than average or even top 1%.

    https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2019/02/01/more-sports/winter-sports-more-sports/snowboarding-queen-chloe-kim-aims-soar-princeton/#.XNxGj9NKi3c

    In the sports world, the old timers say how sad it is that kids specialize too early compared to old days; however, now virtually every club sport is year round, or only breaks for the school session (e.g. AAU basketball) - so there just isn't the time there used to be before club became the "standard".(The US has added 100 million people in the last 40 years, so the pool for everything is much larger.) And for high schools that are statewide competitive if you are not a high level club player you get near zero playing time even on high school teams.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 31,967 Senior Member
    "I would say that the number of kids doing certain ECs and volunteering simply for the sake of college apps is astoundingly high."

    I say, a solid experience is a solid experience. I don't care if they vol because they learn colleges want to see this compassionate energy and comitment. I do care if they think it's just hours or whatever easy in-and-out activity that racks up hours. And I care when they focus on a collection of titles and miss what leadership thnking really is.

    This is similar to the academic resume. Colleges don't need you to LOVE lab sciences or foreign lang, but they do need to see you took them. If you don't "want" to fulfill this for your college apps, then find colleges that don't look for that.

    Do they need to spell this out? For us parents, it parallels the job hunt. You may not love some component it takes to land that job, but you do it. Rarely do you get to your goals just by being you.
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