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What constitutes good EC's vs. "stellar" EC's?

ivy1254ivy1254 9 replies6 threads Junior Member
(Especially for top 20 or so schools)
For example, is important to be like nationally or internationally recognized, or is it good to just have unique, interesting EC's that you're passionate about?

Thanks!
12 replies
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Replies to: What constitutes good EC's vs. "stellar" EC's?

  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2463 replies47 threads Senior Member
    Well, they don't have to be "unique" per se, nor inherently "interesting" to everyone out there. They must be interesting to the applicant, who will likely get bonus points if s/he can then make him/herself interesting to AOs. Depth, breath, progression, and commitment are what make a good EC into a stellar one, international awards being one way (but not the only way) to show those qualities.

    Why do you ask?
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  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 1991 replies72 threads Senior Member
    It's not like you have a choice to be "nationally" or "internationally recognized," right? Not everyone possesses such qualities, try as they might to possess them so desperately. Pursue what you're passionate about with commitment and dedication. Not everyone in top 20 schools are all spiky in EC accomplishments; there are plenty who are well rounded good students, as well.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34828 replies394 threads Senior Member
    edited November 14
    "Depth, breath, progression, and commitment." Very good. But I'd add, "relevant." And showing some stretch. You're applying to top colleges, they pick the kids who meet *their* expectations. If you don't like their rules, opt out, take those colleges off your list, don't apply.

    If a college expects stem wannabes to have some math-sci ECs, and you don't have them, there are no make-up points for, "Yeah, but he was really, really into xxx."

    Imo, that's not sad, it's savvy. You're not applying to go to a better high school. You're attemptng to make the college leap- and to some mighty competitive ones.

    No, you do not need national or international awards. Yes, you need balance.

    -What you do primarily based on your own interests (hobbies, side lines, the pie club. This does include involvement in ECs for that major that supposedly "interests you.")
    - What you do for/with your groups (peers, religious, sports, music, whatever it is. It shows engagement.)
    -And what you do for your community, for the needs around you, directly.

    Just doing what you want can't cover it all.
    edited November 14
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  • ivy1254ivy1254 9 replies6 threads Junior Member
    @MWolf
    I appreciate your thoughtful response, and would like to point out that this is not, as it seems like you though, a question that is meant to help me better scheme up EC's that I think colleges will like. In fact, I am already involved in numerous EC's that I have gotten very involved in and am very interested in and that I joined for completely non-college related reasons. I just often see people asking for chances of admission and listing crazy things like "performed piano at Carnegie Hall" and "paid intern at the New York Times," and mine are admittedly much more modest than that, so it can be a bit discouraging.
    Additionally, it seems that you think I am looking at these colleges for the name value, or the bumper sticker. In fact, the reason I am potentially interested in these schools is the following, in order of importance to me:

    1) Academic rigor/quality of education
    2) Better out-of-state financial aid
    3) Yeah, it does look good on a resume

    It seems you jumped to the conclusion that I am doing this for bragging rights. Nope. Almost everybody I know could give a damn if I told them I went to some prestigious school, and I also don't place much value in where someone attends school. I just happen to be interested in some specific ones that are competitive.

    Still, overall your response was helpful, so thank you.
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  • MWolfMWolf 1805 replies13 threads Senior Member
    "Depth, breath, progression, and commitment." Very good. But I'd add, "relevant." And showing some stretch. You're applying to top colleges, they pick the kids who meet *their* expectations. If you don't like their rules, opt out, take those colleges off your list, don't apply.

    If a college expects stem wannabes to have some math-sci ECs, and you don't have them, there are no make-up points for, "Yeah, but he was really, really into xxx."

    Imo, that's not sad, it's savvy. You're not applying to go to a better high school. You're attemptng to make the college leap- and to some mighty competitive ones.

    No, you do not need national or international awards. Yes, you need balance.

    -What you do primarily based on your own interests (hobbies, side lines, the pie club. This does include involvement in ECs for that major that supposedly "interests you.")
    - What you do for/with your groups (peers, religious, sports, music, whatever it is. It shows engagement.)
    -And what you do for your community, for the needs around you, directly.

    Just doing what you want can't cover it all.


    I think that we agree that a kid who is not interested in STEM should not be engaged in STEM ECs to increase their chances of getting into a STEM program at a prestigious college, because because they think that STEM is more prestigious than humanities. A kid who loves history and is talented in scholarship shouldn't be trying to win Physics Olympiads because they think that kids with Physics Olympiad awards have a better chance of being accepted to some prestigious school.

    So it is very sad that there are kids who are giving up the opportunities to explore their interests, during one of the very best periods in which they can do this, because they are spending all of their time trying to hammer themselves into a person who they think has a better chance of being accepted to an "elite" college...

    It is sad when teenagers are not being allowed to be teenagers in the name of prestige, and it's worse when the pressure is coming from the adults in their lives.

    Kids ECs should reflect their real interests and passions, rather than those which they think that "T-10" colleges like. Kids who are "really into XX" instead of STEM should do ECs related to XX, and pursue that, rather than STEM, even if those ECs are less likely to get that kid accepted to an ivy.

    A kid whose real interest is sociology should be doing ECs related to sociology, even if it ends up leading them to a college which isn't even a USNews T-100 (OH, THE HORROR!)

    I'm not saying that you should "follow your dreams and everything will work out". I'm saying: "find your academic interests, and actually invest time and effort into them, and then attend a college where you can pursue those interests. Find your non-academic interests and put effort and time into them. Find out where you can contribute to causes that are important to you, and put time and effort into those".

    That being said, following your interests and passions often does a lot to help kids, not only in their mental and emotional states, but often in acceptance to a college which is highly ranked by USNews. I can say that it worked decently well for a number of kids from my daughter's class.

    PS. regarding "following your dream", rather than working at finding and investing in your interests, here is one of my favorite quotes from the late great Terry Pratchett:
    “If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.”
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34828 replies394 threads Senior Member
    I did say, "Stem wannabes." And I do think our views at least overlap. Great quote and we should use it more on CC.

    Personally, I think it's nuts kids join or "found" an array of ECs just for leader titles. I think "passions" is misused for 14-17 year olds, they're just learning what's out there. They're free to try various things, I agree that's healthy. But if you want to aim high, just be aware this is about them building a class. Include some of the expected things. As in the real world, if you have goals, work toward them.

    You won't end up at (the proverbial example) Google, if you never built the right knowledge and skills, can't show the right experiences..
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34828 replies394 threads Senior Member
    Btw, I know "played at Carnegie Hall" has entered the lingo and is used to represent some pinnacle. But it's a LOT easier to get to CH than folks assume. https://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2012/07/31/157671080/how-do-you-get-to-carnegie-hall-no-seriously.

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  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 1991 replies72 threads Senior Member
    edited November 15
    Yes, I've seen many kids listing "played at Carnegie Hall" on their EC resumes, and I know what that's about because I've gone through that with my violinist son. My son did play at "Carnegie Hall" with his youth symphony in collaboration with a group of Taiko drummers from Japan. That was through an invitation, not by rental.

    My son also had a chance to play "solo" (like Amy Chua's daughter) at "Carnegie Hall" except we turned it down and never showed up in NYC. My then young teen son unknowingly entered this online "international" competition for fun one day and won. Then, shortly thereafter, we received an "invitation" to perform solo at "Carnegie Hall" but we'd have to pay to perform, including a photo shoot. My suspicious instinct kicked in. Upon further researching into this organization that "sponsored" a series of "international" competitions, I learned that the organization rents the Weill Recital Hall space at Carnegie Hall and "process" about 300 "winners" in all different age group and musical categories in one day. That's a lot of money to be made just in one day, so it's no wonder the organization holds such winners' recitals several times throughout the year. They depend their livelihood on over-zealous parents who are willing to pay so their children can list "played at Carnegie Hall" to look impressive in the eyes of gullible (hopefully) college AdComs. Suckers are born every minute.

    A close friend of my son, a fine musician, who later went on to win the MTNA National competition (that's legit), also fell for this online "international" competition. His mom almost paid to go on a trip to NYC, but she asked me about it just before. I saved her over $1K right there. Her son, already with an impressive resume, decided not to list this "honor" in his resume in fear of "tainting" his reputation.

    I will not divulge the identity of the organization that still holds to this day such online competitions. It's a legit but for easy profit making scheme using the power of the name "Carnegie Hall." Just about every one of my son's peers, regardless of their true playing skills, "won" this international competition just by entering. By now, any savvy college AdComs should be aware of these schemers by the sheer number of such "international winners" that they come across their desks (I hope).

    edited November 15
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4603 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @MWolf. Totally agree. Do something you love and love what you do. Find something that interests you and have some fun. I do like a social justice aspect to some ecs if they are into that. But never do any activities because someone "thinks" a college will like it.

    I do think also that some activities should be over a longer time frame like 2-4 years. Having something new yearly doesn't show commitment.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29670 replies58 threads Senior Member
    A great book that answers this question directly is “ What It Really Takes to Get Into the Ivy League & Other Highly Selective Colleges”.
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  • MWolfMWolf 1805 replies13 threads Senior Member
    I really wish that there were, instead, a book which titled: "How To Find, And Get Into, The Best College For You (and it's most likely not an Ivy League College)"
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