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Extracurriculars and AP Classes

cmustang1cmustang1 Registered User Posts: 68 Junior Member
My post on this subject applies to all of the Ivy League schools, but especially Harvard.
I am a junior this year with a 4.0 unweighted GPA and a 4.15 weighted GPA. My school, for the first time, will be offering AP classes next year (my senior year). I plan on taking the AP offerings next year. I just finished reading Allen Cheng's article, http://blog.****/how-to-get-into-harvard-and-the-ivy-league-by-a-harvard-alum, which told the intricacies of applying to Harvard and other great schools. He suggests that Harvard wants superstars that have a "spike" in their extracurriculars. They really like to see applicants focusing on one (or at most two) major areas during high school to see if they are leaders. He said that they really don't like "well-rounded" students. I really like the medical field, and have geared most of my high school extracurriculars towards my passion, so my question is, "Have I done too much and become too well-rounded?" My other question is, "Will they understand that I have only had honors classes, not AP classes, available to me until my senior year?" I am in Texas, but I don't know if that matters to the Ivy schools.

Here is my current course load and extracurriculars:

Honors English
Honors Spanish II
Honors Chemistry
Honors U.S. History
Honors Pre-Calculus

Previous Subjects:
Algebra I, II
English 9
World Literature (10)
World History
Spanish I

Next Year course load:
AP Literature
AP European History
AP Biology
College Algebra
Anatomy and Physiology

Highest scoring team member in Science/Math Quiz Bowl
Shadowed Doctors in Clinic and Surgery
Biomedical and Surgical Research at Boston Leadership Institute
Award for Regional Science Fair, Biology Division
School Journalism Editor for Academics
One of four to start School Theatre Program

My SAT Score is 1520, and I am hoping to get it up from there.
I am also taking the following SAT II Subject Tests in May: Mathematics II, Biology E/M, and U.S History

Any thoughts on these questions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Replies to: Extracurriculars and AP Classes

  • cmustang1cmustang1 Registered User Posts: 68 Junior Member
    Some things that I forgot to mention are:
    -I am Latino; Latin America
    -National Merrit Scholar
    -Spanish National Merrit Scholar
    -Student Government Officer- Treasurer
    -Leader of schoolwide worship services in music
    -#2 in my class
    -Never made below a 97% in a class

    Thank you again!
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,581 Senior Member
    edited February 2017
    Several things to consider:

    All colleges judge students in the context of what their high school offers. If your high school does not offer AP classes, Admissions doesn't expect students to have taken any AP classes or AP exams. In your situation, Admissions will note that your school didn't offer any AP classes in your freshman, sophomore, or junior year and they will NOT hold that against you. But, they will expect you to have taken the most demanding course load your high school offers, and will expect students in their senior year to take AP classes.

    In terms of extracurricular activities: Keep in mind that Harvard is an academic institution and NOT an extracurricular camp. One EC is not better or more significant than any other. What Admissions is looking for is a student's long-time commitment to an activity outside of the classroom. The idea is that a student's commitment, drive and energy to something beyond academics is a transferable skill that might be applied to another activity in college or later in life. It's impossible to tell from your list of activities if you have something you've been doing for 1-3 years, which you might write about in your essays. Those long term activities are what Admissions will be focusing on.

    FWIW: Colleges understand that students taking a rigorous course schedule must spend 3 to 4 hours a night on homework. That leaves about 20 hours a week to devote to extracurricular activities. When you complete your EC list, college's ask you to list your EC's in order of importance to you -- and they prefer students who have made a commitment to several activities for 3-6 hours each week, rather than students who have a laundry list of activities that they spend one or two hours a week on. Use the bathroom rule: Spend a week adding up the time you spend in the bathroom, including showering and using the toilet. I guarantee it adds up to more than one hour a week. Bottom line: you should not list an EC that takes up less time than using the bathroom on a weekly basis!

    Lastly a 1520 on the new SAT is equivalent to a 2210 on the old SAT -- a good score, that is within Harvard's range, but a higher score will let Admissions know you could easily handle the work-load on their campus: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/higher-ed-brief-sat-concordance.pdf
  • BKSquaredBKSquared Registered User Posts: 1,040 Senior Member
    FWIW, I had a long discussion with a senior Yale admissions officer less than 2 years ago. You can fill every freshmen class 5 or more times over with applicants that hit the GPA/test score criteria. She also was very clear that they like spikey and rounded candidates, but whether they were rounded or spikey, they all shared a common trait of leadership, commitment and excellence in the things they pursued. In that context, as @gibby notes, "rounded" doesn't mean you are a participant in 10 different activities. Rounded can mean that you are a varsity athlete, a musician, a science/math geek and engage in meaningful service activity. Further, the letters of recommendation and the essays should tie together with the objectives and the EC's to paint a picture of a student who will enhance the school's community.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,035 Senior Member
    Once you meet benchmarks for grades and scores, admission is really about other things. Hence the term "holistic admissions." The other thing to remember is that they are assembling a class, and it is all about how you might contribute to the mix.

    I would advise you to stop reading about how to get into Harvard Don't try to fit yourself to a school, but instead find a school that fits you. By all means apply to Harvard, but also try to learn about all the wonderful schools out there (Colleges that Change Lives website is a good resource, and look at "little Ivies" too).

    If medicine is a "passion" and you have pursued it consistently in interesting ways, great. Of course, there is no premed program at Harvard and you can major in anything at all and still go to med school.

  • cmustang1cmustang1 Registered User Posts: 68 Junior Member
    Yes. I agree. One more question. I completed my 9th grade year over the summer between my 8th and 10th grade years. I also have gone to an online academy (homeschooled) this year (junior year). I will only have two years of consistent extracurricular from the private school that I attended/will attend in 10th and 12th grade. Will they take into consideration that I homeschooled and couldn't do the same extracurricular in 11th grade because I wasn't in the private school? Or do I just not have a chance? Thank you for your comments already!
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,581 Senior Member
    Will they take into consideration that I homeschooled and couldn't do the same extracurricular in 11th grade because I wasn't in the private school?

    Yes, Admissions will take all that into consideration.
  • sherpasherpa Registered User Posts: 4,677 Senior Member
    @BKSquared - I didn't realize you knew my kids.
    Rounded can mean that you are a varsity athlete, a musician, a science/math geek and engage in meaningful service activity.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,035 Senior Member
    I don't understand why you are asking about the lost opportunities for extracurriculars. The kids I know who got in did not really focus on in-school extracurriculars but did something interesting outside of school. Homeschoolers would seem to have more opportunities for that than those burdened by all that time in school.
  • tdy123tdy123 Registered User Posts: 423 Member
    edited March 2017
    @cmustang1 I'm a bit confused. How do you know you are a National Merit Scholar? You wrote you were a Junior, and the NMS results are not announced until senior year.
  • cmustang1cmustang1 Registered User Posts: 68 Junior Member
    @tdy123 I wrote the post at 2:00 am lol. I meant that I was in the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society.
This discussion has been closed.