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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?

  • MWolfMWolf Registered User Posts: 1,113 Senior Member
    @FakeName1332 Looking at post #51, I can see that you tell a good story. If you write your essay along those lines, I personally think that it could be really good. What you also need to do is have your entire Resume in your application tell a story.

    However, what came through is your connection to where you live, and to how you live. I think that you should look at colleges which are in more rural areas. Have Cornell as a reach instead of Princeton (keep Dartmouth). Look at Liberal Arts colleges in rural areas, as well. There are a good list of LACs you can put as reaches, matches and even safeties.
    I simply do not know how much you will feel comfortable at an urban location like Northwestern, or even Princeton.

    I really think that a smaller college, in a more rural setting may be a better fit for you.
  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    @MWolf I appreciate that, thank you. I'll definitely keep that in mind over these

    I completely understand why you are saying this. After all, it would be a big jump going from such a remote lake to a big city. I have some-what accounted for this by doing some schools on this list that are more like that, but they are more like a safety for me (UBC Okanagan, for example). The reason for this is mainly because of my travels and opportunities.

    Though I agree that schools like Columbia, Princeton, and Northeastern could pose some problems, I still want to apply to a lot of schools that aren't necessarily right downtown. I traveled a lot in my life, so I am really familiar with spending time in more urban areas. I love the benefits of being close to a big city: sports, airports, and other events. With that said, I think suburban is ideal for me, because I think I would get too bored in a rural area but might be overwhelmed by living right downtown. Now I know what you're thinking-- 'you live in a rural area right now.' The difference is, just outside my door are boats, water, and a ton of potential activities; it's not exactly like that in rural colleges like Dartmouth.

    I checked out some LACs but, to be honest, I liked universities a lot more. The curriculum, the size, the locations-- almost everything is better for me at universities. The reason I was so excited about Northwestern was because of the programs they offer and the campus itself; I think they would make me feel more comfortable than if I were at a rural college with programs that I didn't enjoy as much in a campus that I didn't really like.

    With that said, I still have plans to apply to some rural, some suburban, and some urban. The ideal campus for me would probably be Northwestern; Chapman (suburban), WWU(rural), ASU(urban), and Stanford are close to perfect.

    Here is my updated list:

    Stanford- Product Design
    Brown- Behavioral Decision Sciences: Early Decision
    ***probably another few top schools to cast a wider net. I have the time for it**

    Babson- Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Design
    Northeastern- I love so many, can't include them all
    U Washington- Industrial Design
    Penn State University Park- Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship **likely remove and replace

    ASU- Industrial Design
    U San Fran- Entrepreneurship and Innovation
    Chapman- Behavioral and Computational Economics
    Western Washington University- Industrial Design
    UBC Vancouver
    UBC Okanagan
    Simon Fraser
    Waterloo

  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 Registered User Posts: 1,718 Senior Member
    "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... "

    Just for the record, our Math Team this year is sending two seniors to Harvard and one to MIT. The remaining seniors are not going to tippy tops. However, just about all of those others got FULL scholarships to the various colleges they will be attending. Almost all of them had been on the team for all four years. I was blown away. Our team is "up and coming", but not exceptional, yet they certainly had what I considered to be exceptional results in the college process. These kids were obviously were "pursuing a passion", and it showed - even in an activity you consider "forced".

    Just wanted to illustrate that it really doesn't matter WHAT activity you do.
  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    @Groundwork2022 Absolutely! I just meant some people are forcing themselves into activities that they don't actually enjoy, and colleges look through that. As you mentioned, those kids were obviously pursuing a passion, which would definitely help their application.

    Maybe math contests weren't the best example. From my research, however, adcoms can (for the most part) tell when you're doing something with the sole purpose of improving your application. Since those kids you mentioned were on the team for all four years (among other reasons), they are clearly passionate.

    Sorry if I misrepresented my stance here. I completely agree with what you're saying-- thank you for the comment. And, congratulations to your Math Team!
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,394 Senior Member
    When a stem wannabe is on the math team, why would adcoms see that as padding? It's a relevant activity for someone interest in pursuing math-science. If a kid has no community service, do you think they say, "Good, it must be because he didn't think he'd enjoy it?" And if they only do what they do like- and become unilateral- that's no help.

    Don't forget, adcoms at more competitive collges DO look or evidence of the right sorts of involvements.

    Many feel hs kids are too young to have developed "passions." They're something that comes over time and some breadth and depth of experience. And is "Show, not just tell."

    Of course, there are colleges that don't care, that primarily look at stats or have high admit rates.
  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    @lookingforward

    As I mentioned above, math contests weren't the best example. And doing something is better than not doing anything.

    I'll admit my faults here. Before these past two replies, I didn't really think that being so well-rounded would be a good thing, but it shows many traits that you pointed out. I agree with you, now. Thank you for changing my mind, here! It's always humbling to be wrong every once and a while ;)

    I do, however, think that it is tough to talk about college admissions this generally. Surely-- as you mentioned-- some will care about passion more than others. Some schools might want people with a more direct passion, others might be looking for work-ethic and self-expansion.

    I would imagine top schools would take a student who started a business, ran it without parental help for 3 years, and made a total of $20k over a student who did 5 different clubs, volunteering, and an internship. People always speak to the 'lottery' that is top college admissions, and I think that is because the '5-different-club' student is far more common than the student who took their passion extremely far. That was my original thought, although I articulated it very poorly. I could be wrong here, too-- I'm still getting a hang of this admissions thing :)

  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,394 Senior Member
    edited May 23
    I think "passion" is an over-used concept. And if a kid just says he has some passion and can't show how he pursued it, not much help. Plus, it needs to be relevant to the interests and traits the college wants to see.

    No, starting a business is no tip. (Not for the kids who describe such in chance threads.) Nor a non-profit. How much money is generated, same thing.

    Why would they take that kid over one with balanced ECs, depth and breadth?

    Not a lottery. In holistic, you earn your way in and it's more than stats.

    Your challenge is to find the right activities.

    There's a video of a former Stanford dean of admissions discussing the misunderstanding of "passions." They look at the choices one does make, how those apply.
  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    @lookingforward I'll definitely note your comment, and I respect your opinion-- you have a lot more knowledge than me. However, nobody really knows how college admissions work at top schools, so I would like to challenge you on some of this stuff. After all, there really isn't a right or wrong answer here.

    "And if a kid just says he has some passion and can't show how he pursued it, not much help."
    Of course, but irrelevant to this case because they did show it.

    "No, starting a business is no tip. (Not for the kids who describe such in chance threads.) Nor a non-profit. How much money is generated, same thing."

    "Why would they take that kid over one with balanced ECs, depth and breadth?"

    Kid A (business kid) shows two main traits here: an incredible skillset and passion. Kid B shows that he can expand himself to many environments and excel-- although to a lesser extent than the other student. Kid A will be more impressive because they have proven-- shown, as you like to say-- that they can take a passion and follow it through with incredible success. Kid B only shows that they are willing to try new things and they have a wide skill set.

    Although this is an extremely basic argument (I don't think either of us wants to be writing essays here), I can't imagine how anyone would pick Kid B over Kid A. What skills are more pertinent to success? Kids like Kid A have the proven potential that can be used, alongside a great education, to change the world-- all without any of the skills that Kid B demonstrates. The only thing that Kid B can bring to the table that Kid A can't is a demonstration of growth expanded apart from many different activities. You're comparing a skyscraper to a 10,000sqrft bungalow and saying the low but wide building is more impressive. One is safe and not really unique, the other stands out and is considered more dangerous and delicate. I'll take the skyscraper-- I'll take the kid starting his own business and bringing in a ton of money.

    My prediction? Kid A get's into his dream school almost every time, with the exception of those that come with liability. Kid B is the type of kid talking about the lottery. I am just an outsider compared to you guys-- I don't really know anything about college admissions. This is just my hot-take.


    "Not a lottery. In holistic, you earn your way in and it's more than stats."

    This isn't relevant to this specific case; both are earning their way with more than stats. Although, for the record, I definitely agree.

    "Your challenge is to find the right activities."

    Yes, and if you find one 'right' activity and accomplish incredible feats within it, then you are in a much better position than someone who has only done somewhat average (relative to other Ivy applicants) activities.

    "There's a video of a former Stanford dean of admissions discussing the misunderstanding of "passions." They look at the choices one does make, how those apply."

    I don't really have enough information to comment on this.


    If you don't mind me asking, do you think college admissions is a 'lottery'?
  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 Registered User Posts: 5,802 Senior Member
    It wasn't directed to me but I have been doing alumni meetings for my alma mater for twenty years. Starting a business or not for profit seems to be an "it thing" theses days. I agree with @lookingforward that it's not enough to tip the needle on its own.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,394 Senior Member
    edited May 23
    Starting a business is not a trait or accomplishment adcoms look for. Your app is for 4 years at that college- not some life award. An openness to "trying new things" is a college value. The want kids who will do that, not just pursue their quasi career interests. Kid B would need some of the activities to mirror the major he's interested in. Depth and breadth in the ECs.

    You do NOT need to "accomplish incredible feats." Period. CC says so, but no. Few kids even at tippy tops have these. Nor do you need special titles, any titles. That's superficial, in many cases. They look for the choices that speak "leadership qualities, not some collection of 'titles light.'

    No, I do not think it's a lottery. You don't just throw in an app, any app, and expect to be chosen at random. Holistic colleges vet each app for how you match, how you present this. That's the traits they want, the choices you made, how that shows the awareness, industry, activation- and more- that they want in their class. It's not leaning back or just using one's circumstances to explain a lack of engagement. Again, relevant activities. I mentioned my 3 prongs in a pm.

    Granted, you may not apply to elites. But there's plenty of competition for, say, NEU and Chapman. Lots of activated kids. Even from rural or poor areas, even kids with family responsibilities.

    And again, better to put forth the effort and present a better rounded and relevant app than sit back and hope they read between the lines and assume what you do not show. (They do not tend to guess.)
  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    @momofsenior1

    Would you say a wide range of ECs like the 5x club member, volunteering, internships, instrument, etc. would be enough to tip the needle on its own?

    I'm not necessarily saying one will tip the needle and another won't, but I would argue one is a lot more valuable than the other.

    Also, the business was an example (although, I see now that it was a really bad example lol). Replace it with someone who made a top app on the app store. Or maybe someone who did psychology research for hours every day after school, publishing papers and working with college professors. I'm not too in-tune with what applicants look like, so my examples are really bad lol

  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    @lookingforward
    Okay, well said! As I mentioned early, I really don't know anything about this process. I just thought I would challenge you to see what you would respond with. I've saved your reply because it has so much great information in it-- thank you for that.

    I apologize if my response seemed aggressive in any way. I assure you that I only wanted to further my understanding ;)

  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,394 Senior Member
    edited May 23
    No, not a top app on the app store. Not a big fundraiser or 20k you tube followers.

    Yes, volunteering- really, community service, not shelving books at the library or painting park benches. Not solo resaerch (I already said this.) Few kids "publish" papers of substance. Yes, working with a college prof. I suggested you look into an internship with a co in the nearest city.

    You might want to just ask for clarifiation rather than positing who'd be more valued, then realizing it was a bad example. Sorry for that. But you need some relevant and challenging opps, as well as service.
  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    @lookingforward

    To clarify, I wasn't talking about me doing any of these things. I was just curious about how they would compare.

    I find that challenging someone on their points makes them explain it in a more passionate and explanatory manner, hence why I did that. From my experience, most people will explain things really simplistically-- which jeopardizes important information-- when someone asks them to clarify. My examples might have been bad, but they served their purpose-- I thoroughly understand how passion fits into college admissions.

    Switching the conversation back to me, I do plan to do some service, but I still don't really know what a relevant and challenging EC (that's what opps means, right?). I have some listed, but I'm still not too sure about how well they will benefit me.

    -Volunteer in the community with small stuff like clearing bushes, putting out speeding bumps, doing buoys, cleaning the beach, etc.

    -Starting a business with my brother and cousin. Debating between fish filleting, tree-cutting, or wood-chopping and delivery.

    -Do something online with product design. I have an idea to design something that would help my family and I put in our boat lifts, but I wouldn't sell it or make any money off of it so I'm not sure if it's worth my time.

  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,394 Senior Member
    On CC, we don't like being teased out, just saying. We all want to see you're forming an accurate understanding of how to proceed.

    I just pm'd OP that these side activities will be interesting to adcoms/readers, but not the sort of other relevant experiences colleges seek. They form *part* of an interesting backstory, but not enough.

    OP is near enough to a city to look or opps there.
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