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How can I improve my application if I have medium/weak ECs (no leadership positions)?

LeafstormLeafstorm 3 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
I have ~4 decent extracurriculars like summer research at a lab, a selective high school research program, school plays and musicals, and weekly volunteering to tutor kids, but otherwise my activity list mostly consists of personal hobbies like piano, guitar, and drawing. I know it's not a bad list, but the problem is I literally have no leadership positions at all, and that's stressing me out. I'm applying as a biology/psychology major, if that matters. How can I make my application stronger with the other components? Maybe I just need reassurance, but has anyone been in a similar boat where your grades and test scores are great but your extracurriculars are lacking? Do I ask for an extra recommendation letter from the lab I interned at over the summer? Any advice regarding the essays, in this particular situation? Any help would be appreciated!!

Here's my college list: Williams (ED), Amherst, Vassar, Tufts, Brown, UChicago (EA), Swarthmore, Harvard, Hamilton, Brandeis, and UPenn. I don't expect to get into any of the Ivies, but I'm mainly hopeful that I'll get into one of the liberal arts schools on my list, hopefully the reaches (Williams, Amherst, and Swarthmore especially). Williams is currently my first choice, which is why I'm applying early decision there. I have a 1580 on the SAT and 800 on the biology subject test; I'm taking the Literature and Math Level 2 subject tests in October. My GPA is 3.92 unweighted.

I have also won no awards except for National Merit Semifinalist.
edited September 16
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Replies to: How can I improve my application if I have medium/weak ECs (no leadership positions)?

  • HippobirdyHippobirdy 358 replies1 threadsRegistered User Member
    You need to focus on what you have done. I do think a rec from your summer lab can help for some of your list if the college will accept it. Not all may want it.

    Certainly volunteering and research are fine activities and you will be successful wherever you go with your talents and caring character.

    You need some safety schools. Your list sounds like all reaches.
    Vassar may be a good match for your research interests.
    What is unknown is, how many applicants are similar to you in terms of strengths, diversity, skills that the college is looking for to fill out the class. Most excellent students are rejected.

    From Williams website: "We want creative thinkers, diverse perspectives, and people who’ll bring as much to the community as they’ll gain from it."
    Reach out to the regional admissions rep for Williams. This person is your first possible advocate for admission.
    Do you have a scientific abstract to submit?

    Best to pick some safety schools that appreciate your academic excellence and ecs. Your state flagship or some public LACS will have great opportunities for you.

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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34201 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    What courses got less than an A grade? Tippy top adcoms will especially look for strengths in classes that most relate to the proposed major. The competition will offer lots of 4.0, including rigorous classes across the board.

    Other than theater, what do you do with peers? Top colleges like to see you engage this way, can try more than just your own interests. It gives them an idea how you 'll get involved on campus. That's where sometimes hs clubs help. Plus, if tutoring younger kids is all you do for comm service, you can add something now. Real service, where you get out of your own comfort zone.

    "Perspective" means more than just what you come from. It's how one is aware of opps around them and can stretch- for themselves, as well as for others.
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  • LeafstormLeafstorm 3 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
    edited September 18
    I had a B+ in US History in 11th grade and a B in freshman year art. Yeah, I know, a stupid class to get a B in. But neither of these directly relate to my bio/psych major, so that's a plus I guess. I'm in a Korean Language and Culture club with a lot of friends and classmates, but I'm not sure if I should add that to my activity list because it's not a super serious club and I'm only a member. Should I?

    I'm not entirely sure what I can do at this point to boost my community service activities, but I can look into it. Thank you for the advice!
    edited September 18
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