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What Activities Would Really Help Me In My Pursuit of Top Schools?

FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 threads Junior Member
edited May 2019 in College Admissions
Hi all,

Here's my brief summary. If there is anything you think I can do to improve my application, please let me know. I want to make it clear that I am not looking to create a 'perfect' applicant of myself by doing stuff I don't like; I am simply trying to find some new activities, and activities that help my application are even better! I don't really know what colleges like and what they don't, so I'm here to see if there's something that I could really enjoy doing that would still help my application.


Stats: 4.0 UW, Near 5.0W, 34 ACT with Writing, no SAT Subject tests or AP tests.

ECs: Minimal. Have pursued some interests by taking a few CS courses and trying to license two products, but I haven't gotten too far!

Major: Industrial Design / Industrial Engineering / Business / Entrepreneurship / Design / Technology.

Notes: Fall 2020 Applicant. I've taken as many APs as possible this year (junior), and plan to take the same amount in my senior year. I'm a fully-online student.

Interests: Same as my potential majors, honestly: creating products, entrepreneurship, technology, some coding, investing, betting, etc.


My dream school right now is Princeton and their Operations Research and Financial Engineering major; it would be ideal if you guys could give some insight on what they would like to see.

I just don't want to say "well, I could have done x to improve my chances at a top school"
Thank you, so much, guys!!
edited May 2019
83 replies
Post edited by vonlost on
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Replies to: What Activities Would Really Help Me In My Pursuit of Top Schools?

  • chb088chb088 1090 replies32 threads Senior Member
    Start a club at your school that reflects your passions.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13431 replies31 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    Indeed. You should try to figure out your goals and motivations. How did Princeton become your dream school? What goals do you have and why? What do you want out of life? Why are you so interested in what a particular girl/boy, er, school is interested in rather than improving yourself for your own sake?
    edited May 2019
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35356 replies399 threads Senior Member
    Don't start a club. You're a hs kid. Find opps to work/vol in an established environment. It means more to adcoms to see you have this vision and pursue it- and meet those adults' expectations. Not another club that meets when the bell rings.

    No, P and "minimal" are not going to fly. Yes, YOU need to be researcing what the colleges say and show, not on a forum or some other blogs.

    "not looking to create a 'perfect' applicant of myself by doing stuff I don't like." Oops. The tippy tops look for a more expansive attitude.

    PTis right that you need to self examine. But never forget, the colleges get to choose whom to admit.
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  • mikemacmikemac 10534 replies154 threads Senior Member
    What you're asking is what you can do over the next five or six months to improve your application. At this point, probably not much. Colleges want to see sustained activity, not something completely out of the blue you did this summer before you applied
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  • happy1happy1 23821 replies2384 threads Super Moderator
    I'd recommend that you give up the idea of a dream school and work to create a solid college list that includes reach, match, and safety schools that appear affordable (find out your parents' budget and run the net price calculator for each school) and that you would be excited to attend. The people I see who get hurt by the college admission process are the ones who focus on one or two hyper-competitive schools and then don't get in. Cast a wide net and recognize that (assuming no major hook) Princeton is a reach for pretty much everyone. You need to expand your horizons and recognize that there are many wonderful schools out there where you can have a great 4 year experience and get where you want to go in life.


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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35356 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    "Fall 2020 applicant." Lots this OP can do, starting now. Including learning what top colleges do look for. It's not about licensing anything, founding whatever, or outside courses. Could use some comm svc, too, to show concern beyond what he/she likes or has for career interests.
    edited May 2019
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 4920 replies86 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    OP is a rising senior, so not much time. Do not start a club, just do community service.

    Regarding SAT subject tests, look at each school's site....many (including Princeton) recommend at least 2 subject tests for homeschooled students. Recommended=required. June may be too late to prepare and take tests, so look into the late August administration.

    Echoing advice for a balanced list - a couple of reaches, 4-6 matches, a couple of highly likelies that are also affordable. When categorizing schools, use the business school direct admit acceptance rate (where applicable), not the school's overall.
    edited May 2019
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  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 threads Junior Member
    Oh wow this blew up. I'll try to walk through this.

    Everyone
    Do people often say their dream school is one that they think they have a good shot to get into? My college list is really safe, but Princeton is a dream that I want to apply to because I have the time and money for. I'm not sure why every single person assumed that my list would be otherwise unbalanced, but I'm probably in the wrong here because you guys know more than me. Here is my college list. I didn't want to include it because my other thread (chance me) included it.

    Wait I actually got in?
    Dartmouth
    Princeton
    Northwestern (Manufacturing and Design Engineering) (need three subject tests: Math 2, Lit, Language?)
    MIT (Management with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation)
    **elim one

    Hopefully, get in:
    Babson
    Northeastern x3
    Waterloo (Global Business and Digital Arts)
    U Washington (Industrial Design)


    Should get in:
    Colorado University: Colorado Springs
    Simon Fraser
    The University of San Francisco
    Columbia College Chicago
    Western Washington University
    **elim one or two


    @yucca10 I understand that. This is only my 'dream' school and I have little expectations. My list is actually really 'safe,' mostly including schools with acceptance rates above 50%.

    In hindsight, it wasn't the best idea to say "how can I get into Princeton." I just want to know techniques that people use to improve their application to get into schools like Princeton. I know I haven't done much, so I want to do more here. Figured it'd be a good place to start to check out some activities they look for.

    @PurpleTitan
    -Mostly their major and level of academics.
    -I want to be able to have the skillset to see any idea through from design to manufacturing to marketing. This is because I love design and entrepreneurship and want to see my ideas come to life. The better the education, the better this skillset. (doesn't necessarily mean top 10 schools, there are very distinct majors at a range of schools that I need).
    -As long as I am happy with my progress and I have enough money to support my family and myself without debt, I'm fine.
    -Actually, if you closely read the thread, you will realize that I am actually only concerned with improving myself. I just want to improve myself in a way that could benefit my application as well.

    @lookingforward
    I'll try to understand these terms you are using, but don't have many expectations here haha

    This wouldn't count as research? Most 'research' shows something like an article written by someone with experience; I just received eight, personalized comments by people who have witnessed thousands and thousands of these experiences. I have been doing research, however. Please see above where I talked to Yucca. I don't genuinely think I have a good chance at Princeton, I'm essentially asking for the best activities that I could do.

    "not looking to create a 'perfect' applicant of myself by doing stuff I don't like." Oops. The tippy tops look for a more expansive attitude.

    Ahh I can't help but laugh this one off. So many applicants forcing themselves into math contests, all the concrete courses, clubs, volunteer work, and other unfavorable activities with the sole purpose of improving their resume. From my research, colleges see right through that and see it as a weaker applicant than someone who has spent their time at high school pursuing a passion, say, a person who makes a mobile app and reaches top 100 on the app store or someone who has an income from selling their product on Amazon. I do stuff that I don't like-- that's given with academics. But I'm not going to pursue something for hundreds of hours if I don't actually enjoy it. That's criminal. I can tell that you're writing everything I said off because I mentioned my dream school along with my lackluster ECs. Everything else I must've said is completely off-base, right?


    Additionally, I am trying to "learn what top colleges look for." Why do you think I made this thread? I'm literally asking for ECs that they look for. This isn't my only source of information, but I thought I'd explore it to get a good base. It's really difficult for me to learn about American colleges, so I'm trying my best by reaching out here to get a more personalized approach. I'm doing online school in an extremely remote little village in Canada and I have no friends or siblings going to college, so I've had some troubles fully understanding the process from scratch. Also, since my situation is so unique, this is one of the best places to find answers!

    Thank you for the information, regardless!

    @Mwfan1921

    Will do, thanks. Any chance I can take Math 1 and 2 and count them as two different tests? Not sure what the material covered is, but I am relatively bad at science so I'm not sure what to take after Math and Literature.


    I appreciate everyone's concern. I don't really want this to turn into a chance me thread, because that's normally when it gets locked. I'd appreciate some more comments on what the best thing I can do for ECs in my last year is, disregarding that Princeton is my dream.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 4920 replies86 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    OP, I would not take Math 1 and 2, pick one along with lit. Further, if it is a hardship for you to take those tests (as you live in a remote area), most schools will consider that when they review the application. When you are applying as an international where there are extremely low acceptance rates (e.g., MIT 2%), you want to put together the strongest app you can.

    Also as an international, many of these schools are need aware, and some provide limited fin aid for internationals. You have to be strategic. What is your annual budget for college?

    Regarding classification of the above schools - None of the US schools are highly likelies/safeties for you.

    As stated above, for ECs, I suggest you focus on community service---whatever is available and/or of interest to you.
    edited May 2019
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13431 replies31 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    "I want to be able to have the skillset to see any idea through from design to manufacturing to marketing. This is because I love design and entrepreneurship and want to see my ideas come to life."

    I would advise you to come up with ideas and try to bring them to life. That would help develop you regardless of where you go to college. You can get started because these days, there's just a ton of information on the internet.


    "I'm literally asking for ECs that they look for."

    I'd say that they are not really looking for any specific EC's. They are looking for people who will contribute as students and contribute something as alums. Make the school and world better.
    edited May 2019
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  • liska21liska21 673 replies10 threads Member
    I think @yucca10 hit it on the head "Princeton and "minimal ECs" don't really go together". So Princeton is not a good "dream" school for you (right now).

    However the EC you listed suggested that you have tried creating some kind of software product? "trying to license two products, but I haven't gotten too far!" Creating products is where your interests clearly lie (given you major interests), and you can pursue that passion from a remote village. You can also combine this interest with community service or business if there is a community program or small business that could use your product.

    So in answer to your question "What Activities Would Really Help Me In My Pursuit of Top Schools?" where you list major as "Industrial Design / Industrial Engineering / Business / Entrepreneurship / Design / Technology". Put your passion into making something real. You have the whole summer to do it.

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  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 threads Junior Member
    @Mwfan1921

    I'm really surprised by that comment. Can you please check out my chance thread (https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/what-my-chances/2143435-chance-my-weird-application-at-some-top-schools.html#latest)?

    Regardless, I plan to apply to UBC Okanagan in Canada which would be pretty much guaranteed, I think.

    Thank you!

    @PurpleTitan

    Awesome! Thanks.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 4920 replies86 threads Senior Member
    OP--not sure what part you disagree with? International acceptance rates? If so, those are just facts you can look up, like the MIT 2% number.

    Regarding paying, can you take out Canadian loans to study in a US school? You won't qualify for US Federal Direct Student Loans.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35356 replies399 threads Senior Member
    Lots yet to learn OP. Including what resources are likely more accurate. Some solid posters on CC and time will show you, some guessers.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30246 replies59 threads Senior Member
    The OP appears to have a solid list of schools that he can afford and will likely accept him. So, find that plays the lottery. Also fine that he looks for the optimal strategies.

    Great test scores are a must for most Home school and on line students. IMO, for the more selective schools, it’s often important to have some reason that a student isn’t in a school community. When you apply to the top US schools, the most selective ones, you are asking to join a community, one that the AOs are hand picking to be as exciting, diverse, vibrant as possible. Most of the candidates are excellent students. They need more than that. They need to stand out while at the same time show how they will contribute to college life, to the Princeton legacy.

    So staying at home and self studying doesn’t exactly make you the poster child for these schools, you understand? They don’t need the highest test scores, they don’t need the highest grades, what they want is someone to bring a positive vibe to the university community. Yes, celebrity and great accomplishments fit the bill. But barring that, since even HYP kids aren’t all celebrities, the schools are looking to fulfill their wishlists. And they keep that moving target pretty much secret.

    Get a copy of that book Chuck Hughes who was a Harvard AI wrote: “What It Really Takes To Get Into the Ivy League and Other Selective College’s”. Gives you a good idea what the applicant pool is at those schools.

    There is also an element of chance and luck in the mix. I’ve known a few Harvard alum who were surprise admittances. Also know a number who did not accomplish what one might expect from going to these highly selective schools. All of this is not done by fail safe formula.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 4920 replies86 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    The OP appears to have a solid list of schools that he can afford and will likely accept him.

    On top of being a homeschooled applicant, OP is also international. I would not be comfortable saying any of those US schools are 'likely' to accept him.

    Most likelies--U Wash, USF, and Western Wash, but international slots are limited and OP is not full pay, so a disadvantage. Columbia College Chicago is an outlier here based on OP's academic chops and desired majors, OP should not go here over his Canadian options--I would strike it from the list altogether
    edited May 2019
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1968 replies13 threads Senior Member
    Op, kids have always “played the lottery” in college admissions. Otherwise application numbers would be far lower. While the reality is in fact, correct. Schools do not and will not drop down that low in the application pool since they have so many that fit the bill ( and a whole host of “special kids” who have connections via legacy, sports and many more. So the reach is actually, more of a waste of time. But it is your choice.
    I think some are trying to say don’t waste your time and spend it elsewhere on places where you have a better shot.
    I’d agree. But if you want to go for it-then do.
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  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU 14468 replies104 threads Forum Champion
    Check out "How to be a High School Superstar" by Cal Newport.

    "The basic message of the book is this: Don't wear yourself out taking as many classes as you can and being involved in every club and sport. Instead, leave yourself enough free time to explore your interests. Cultivate one interest and make it into something special that will make you stand out among the other applicants and get you into the toughest schools, even if your grades and scores aren't stellar. Newport calls this the “relaxed superstar approach,” and he shows you how to really do this, breaking the process down into three principles, explained and illustrated with real life examples of students who got into top schools: (1) underscheduling—making sure you have copious amounts of free time to pursue interesting things, (2) focusing on one or two pursuits instead of trying to be a “jack of all trades,” and (3) innovation—developing an interesting and important activity or project in your area of interest. This fruit yielded by this strategy, an interesting life and real, meaningful achievements, is sure to help not only with college admissions, but getting a job, starting a business, or whatever your goals."

    http://www.examiner.com/review/be-a-relaxed-high-school-superstar
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30246 replies59 threads Senior Member
    He has Canadian options too. I agree that as an international applicant who needs money, all of the US schools are reaches. So it is with international students. If his test score numbers are super high, and he truly wants to study in the US, he should look at those schools that will pay for them. They are not likely to be schools with names he’d recognize and it will probably take an admissions cycle for him to get it that its going to be that tough to into a college here with enough scholarship to make it affordable. He would do well to look at the numerous international students looking for merit money threads. That’s what he is. Another one of those, and the rules are different for Non US citizens/residents.

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