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Are my extracurriculars good enough?

lawandcollegelawandcollege 1 replies1 threads New Member
Now, I know that regardless of my extracurriculars, my chances of getting into Harvard are slim. I have the academics, but I'm not as confident in my extracurriculars because they're much less quantifiable. I'd appreciate any constructive criticism. (Note: I am a junior, so I will have one more year to develop these.)

First area: Writing

- I'm the co-president of the Creative Writing Club at my school, which had grown dormant upon my arrival at the high school. My friend and I revived it sophomore year, and we've fostered a growing membership and hosted multiple published authors and a professor at a selective university nearby.
- I have a completed 350-page manuscript that I started the summer before fifth grade. I mostly completed the editing process in sophomore year. It's been entered twice into a teen manuscript contest (nothing prestigious, mostly popular in the YA twitter community lol, but acceptance as a finalist is <10%) and made finalist both freshman and sophomore year. Unfortunately, it's been cancelled for junior year due to corona. I really spent a lot of time on this manuscript and though I have no plans to publish it (I've found that YA isn't really my thing and I've been more short-story oriented as of late), it really taught me how to critically assess my work and taught me self-discipline.
- I've started working on more short stories as of late. I've been published in the school magazine. Additionally, I won the award for best sophomore short story (all sophomores write one). I've started submitting some short stories to literary magazines, and haven't gotten anything back yet (they take forever) but I've applied to a ton and I have high hopes that I'll get in somewhere, even if it's not super prestigious. (I intend to apply to YoungArts for short stories next year, but I don't think I'll get in.)
- I'm a writing fellow at my school, which is a competitive position that I managed to get as a junior (most applicants are seniors).


Second area: Music and Theater

- My theater journey definitely shows a lot of improvement and effort. I've always made every play, even the selective ones, but mostly as vocal troupe or ensemble in my early years of high school. However, my voice has really improved due to practice and a really amazing singing teacher, and this year I got a couple principal roles, and I hope to get more next year given the departure of the incredibly talented class of 2020 (several of whom are going to school for musical theater). In terms of acting, independent of vocals, I'm definitely one of the best.
- I've been playing piano since the age of six, and I'm good. I don't compete or anything, and I don't intend to play professionally, but I love the instrument and intend to play for the rest of my life. I have trained in classical and jazz.
- My school has these bands (not formal instrument ensembles, more like pop/rock/whatever genre the kids want) that are incredibly popular. I'd say like a quarter of the school is in a band. All three years of school, I've been in the best one, which is handpicked by the musical director. For two of those years, I've been the only pianist in that group (most groups have two). It's really challenging and is affectionately referred to as "AP Band" by most students. I will be in the group again next year, likely a solo pianist again.


Third area: Politics and Law

- I've been a member of the Young Democrats club at my school for the past two years, and this year I got a position as Public Outreach. We raised money and taught students how to canvass for politicians, as well as held meetings dedicated to phone banking.
- I managed to fit Mock Trial in my schedule this year! My school has a really good team and we made it to the elite eight statewide (MA) before corona got the competition cancelled. I was an understudy for four separate roles this year (meaning I had to memorize all of them) and I'm definitely going to be at least a witness next year, and possibly a lawyer. I suspect my scores will be good because I'm good at acting.
- I phone bank a lot, and my goal is to get up to 100 hours this summer.

That's everything I can think of. Thoughts? Advice? Any chance Harvard (or, for that matter, other selective schools) will think this is adequate?
5 replies
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Replies to: Are my extracurriculars good enough?

  • lamatunatunalamatunatuna 17 replies0 threads Junior Member
    First of all, great job. You clearly have a very impressive profile and combined with your strong academics, they'll make you a strong candidate.

    However, with Harvard, it's something of a roll of the dice when they get down to shortisting competitive applicants like yourself.

    Shedding some light on myself as an example, I'm from Canada and was the highest-ranked debater in the country. I also ran a non-profit organization in a developing country in Eastasia where I'd go every summer to conduct English literacy programs, as well as hosting polio campaigns and a specialized program for students with autism. As well, I also had been coaching for debate and mock trials in local high school, whilst holding a lot of prominent positions at my high school. I was rejected. I had thought I was good, at least in this department. I got rejected.

    My point is, you can't really know. Your extracurriculars are great for most universities, even perhaps for Harvard but honestly speaking, I've seen students way less impressive getting accepted. So we can't really postulate. Having said that, the fact that I know people less impressive candidates making it only serves to tell you how you should at least try and apply. The rest we leave on the forces.

    All the best.
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  • lawandcollegelawandcollege 1 replies1 threads New Member
    @lamatunatuna Thank you for your insight! I know it's a long shot for anyone, no matter how impressive a student. Your extracurriculars sound outstanding.
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  • mathmommathmom 33084 replies160 threads Senior Member
    Your ECs sound great. Remember that extra-curriculars are more than just a list. You'll have a couple of opportunities via the essays to talk about/describe them in more depth. It's how you do that will matter in the end. Good luck!

    For example, my older son was a computer nerd. His EC's did not sound that overwhelming on paper (awards in Science Olympiad and Academic Team and lots of miscellaneous computer related stuff all done on his own because his school offered nothing.) It was the way he wrote about the computer stuff that I think made a difference. He was funny and also showed just how much he'd gone beyond what he could get in school. The head of the CS department ended up calling him encouraging him to accept Harvard. (After much agonizing he decided to attend Carnegie Mellon instead BTW.)
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  • compmomcompmom 11547 replies81 threads Senior Member
    I would continue doing what you are doing, pursuing authentic interests and growing as a person. Please don't worry about fitting yourself to Harvard. Find a school that fits you.

    If that is Harvard, sure, apply, but make sure you have other schools to love.

    Remember it isn't so much about you as an individual but about assembling an interesting class, and how you might contribute to that mix.

    Your EC's come off as organic and genuine, and that is a big plus. The way you compliment the class of 2020 and show some humility are strong signs of character, which is also important.
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  • flamingogirlflamingogirl 25 replies0 threads Junior Member
    When it comes to your application perhaps push the writing. It gives kudos to your character I feel like Harvard sees a lot of musicians each year so whilst that might blend in the writing and politics section stands out more.
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