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

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

  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 27,956 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.
  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 Registered User Posts: 1,821 Senior Member
    edited May 16
    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
  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 Registered User Posts: 1,236 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.
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 13,928 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
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 27,956 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.

  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    This thread kind of turned into "chance me at Princeton," but I can't say I'm disappointed with all the information and attention everyone has given!! Thank you all.

    I kind of wish this attention was directed to my 'chance me' thread, because that included a lot more detail on my story and why I think/thought I had a (small) chance at my reach schools (Northeastern, UDub, etc.).

    @Mwfan1921 I didn't disagree with anything, was simply surprised at the fact that you think I can't get into most of these schools. I've been basing my search of stats alone, and mine far surpass the average of a lot of these schools/departments, so I figured I'd be fine.

    Regardless, I do have some Canadian Universities on that list and I will apply to another pure safety (UBCO) to ensure I'm not left stranded ;)

    @lookingforward I guess you're right! This thread has really opened my eyes into what I can and can't get into. I've been researching a ton but I guess I'm not very good at finding the right information, haha. I get a ton of conflicting information on this forum, but overall it has given me a lot of general insight.

    @cptofthehouse Thanks for the comment. To be honest with you, what you said is kind of the reason that I was planning on applying to these dream schools. This moving target that you mention is something that I think works to my advantage. We don't know what applicants Ivy admissions officers will be looking for in fall 2020. Maybe, just maybe, they are looking for initiative, self-motivation, and more spots in their design program. I know it's extremely unlikely, I just want to apply because I think I'm so unique of an applicant, there is a chance (albeit very minimal) that I will hit this moving target.

    I still don't have any expectations or anything, but I still want to apply!

    @Mwfan1921 Full pay offers that much more of an advantage? If that is the case, I can definitely, 100% full pay my admission. To clarify, this means paying for every single cost in the four years upfront? My family can (thankfully!) do that-- I just preferred to pay for some of it myself. Repaying them would work just as well.


    You guys are toying with my emotions here! haha. Two of you say that I am not likely to get admitted into any of my schools, others say I'm fine. If only my 'chance me' thread got this kind of attention.

    @Happytimes2001
    I totally understand, thank you. I'm still going to apply simply because of the very slight chance that I will be what they are looking for, but I understand that it's next to impossible!

    Still, I wouldn't say doing ECs right now would be a waste of time. I want to commit more time to ECs because I have the time to spare and I want to prepare myself for college better.

    @bopper
    Thank you for the recommendation! I'm glad to say that I live somewhat like that already, I just haven't dedicated a lot of time to my passion and prioritized spending time with family (in hindsight, the incorrect move for ivies :tongue:). I haven't taken any honors/AP science courses because I hated them, I've only dedicated my time to a few ECs (although they suck lol), and I won't sacrifice my mental health for an improved application. I'd love to check out that book this summer, thanks!



  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    To clarify, I can fully pay. I apologize for the confusion. I was planning on paying for it partially by myself, which would require more time and loans. But, if it affects my admission this much, my family can afford it and I can simply pay them (partially) back in the same way I would a loan.
  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 Registered User Posts: 1,821 Senior Member
    edited May 16
    Two of you say that I am not likely to get admitted into any of my schools, others say I'm fine.

    Not sure who that is directed at, but I certainly didn't say, nor imply, that. Not sure anyone else did either.

    I broke the news to you that as an international, all the US schools are reaches, not safeties or highly likelies or even matches. I would certainly encourage you to apply to any schools that you feel are good fits for you, just know the schools are the sole arbiters of making the 'fit' determination, and that international students have tough odds at US schools.

    I wholeheartedly agree with doing ECs that you like. Good luck.
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 13,928 Forum Champion
    edited May 16
    Do not think 'Every point I get off of a homework or test is a point away from going to Princeton."
    Think: "I need to do my best, and there will be a college that is right for me when I graduate."

    Do not think "If I don't go to an Ivy League School/Top20, I am doomed forever."
    Think: "No matter where I go, I can bloom where I am planted. I can get involved and shine."

    Do not think: "My life is over...the kid in my math class is taking 20 APs and I am taking 5. I will never succeed."
    Think: "I need to challenge myself, but only to the point where I can still do well."


    Do not think: "All is lost, I valued spending time with my family over ECs"
    Think: "I can find a school that values what I have done."
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 27,956 Senior Member
    Be aware that need blind for admissions does not always pertain to international students. There are different rules for international applicants at many schools. If you are applying for financial aid, at a number of schools, you get a whole other set of standards because there are ever so many highly qualified International students. You really need to research those threads here on CC that are for international students applying for aid.

    It does take some of those applicants two trys to understand the US system of colleges.
  • MWolfMWolf Registered User Posts: 1,132 Senior Member
    @FakeName1332 With high stats and very weak ECs, I would say that you should focus on their Canadian options. While you can apply wherever you want, I do not think that you have any realistic chances of acceptance to any college which is as good as, or better than, your Canadian options.

    However, if you want to pursue a industrial design or design major, you may be accepted to good programs (they are not generally in places like Ivies), if you have a very good portfolio. If you do not have a portfolio at all, than forget about those two majors.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 27,956 Senior Member
    I think OP wants to give this a try, his family can afford it, he certainly should. He has Canadian options. He has time. He has good numbers.

    Without knowing him personally, recommending ECs not useful. No idea what opportunities there for him with his interests and talents With my kids and their peers, these things evolved and then we kept an eye out for opportunities in interests.
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 12,666 Senior Member
    @Mwfan1921:
    Columbia College in Chicago is essentially open admissions (except for maybe some majors that require a portfolio) so is a likely.

    However, I would not say that it is absolutely worse than Canadian options. In some subjects, it quite strong in terms of career preparation (being essentially a trade school for the creative arts that uses practitioners to teach), though yes, I don't see how it fits the OP's interests and goals.
  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    @MWolf

    I'll apply to a few Canadian options, as reflected in my list, but I will still be applying to schools in the states. I'll set my expectations low, though. Thanks!

    I do not have a portfolio at all, but the schools on my list do not require a portfolio (afaik, still checking them all). I appreciate the help but that's a bold claim to say forget about your major because you don't meet the requirements set by a few schools with those majors.

    @cptofthehouse
    Does this still apply if I do not require any financial aid?

    @bopper

    I love that! Contrary to what this thread painted me as, I actually don't care too much about getting into the top schools. What I'm looking for is a great fit, and I think my list really reflects that. I am just as fine with going to a local community college and Harvard, as long as I am a great fit and enjoy myself. The primary reason why I want to apply to top schools is that I think the people there would really compliment me well throughout my four years; however, that isn't to say that I can't find those people at other schools too!

    @Mwfan1921

    Doesn't reach mean the same thing as not likely to be admitted? I think it does, personally. Considering you said "I broke the news to you that as an international, all the US schools are reaches," you most definitely implied that I wasn't likely to be admitted.

    I'm not trying to pick a fight. I really appreciate you opening my eyes to the competitiveness that an international student faces! Just trying to clarify my intentions, as you were questioning them. Appreciate the help, regardless!

    I'll be sure to apply to many safety schools in Canada and have low expectations for my American schools.


  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 13,928 Forum Champion
    Compliment you? or Complement you? lol
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