Are these ECs/Volunteering activities enough to make me even slightly competitive for HYPS?

For the sake of this thread, even though it’s not entirely true, assume I have a perfect UWGPA and SAT/ACT/SAT II scores, as well as copious amounts of 5s on AP tests. Basically, that I am academically competitive for these schools.


Track team: All four years, varsity sophomore year and onward

XC: JV junior year and onward

Peer Mentor: Junior year onward. Essentially helped students transition into the terror that high school can initially be. Acted as an advisor and a support group. Pretty selective program at my school, so not everyone can be one.

Mentor: I helped kids who weren’t quite understanding math. 10 or so hours cumulatively.

NHS: Junior year onward. Pretty self-explanatory. No special positions, volunteered at Catholic Relief Services for a little more than 20 hours. Helped package food, sort clothes, and that kind of thing for Latino immigrants who can’t speak English.

Job Shadowing: I shadowed a pediatrician on the job and saw the good, bad, and the dull parts of the job.


Lung Cancer Initiative 5k: Checked in race participants & cheered on runners (some people were survivors who were over 80 years old!). Not a lot of “deep” achievement here though.

WakeMed Spring Volunteer: Volunteered over 30 hours at WakeMed hospital. Did what typical volunteers do.

UNC Medical Center Summer Volunteer: Volunteered over 50 hours. Did what typical volunteers do. Got a little bit more patient interaction here.

Farms of the Future: I learned about sustainable agriculture methods and how a lot of them are actually more productive than industrialized monoculture. Then, I created a presentation to educate Raleigh Charter students about our current methods of agriculture and livestock raising, their detrimental effect on the environment, and more efficient, resource-conservative, and better-yielding farming techniques. Later, along with a group of other Raleigh Charter students, I went to Coon Rock Farm and saw first-hand the free range chickens, pasture-raised and grass-fed livestock, and helped plant some heirloom crops (red and white onions). Around 12 hours.

Triangle Land Conservancy: Helped maintain the area surrounding Temple Flat Rocks, clearing invasives and collecting seeds. Learned about the area and how it’s one of the few exposed granite outcroppings in NC, and how fragile its ecosystem is. About 12 hours (not in one sitting, of course :)).

Raleigh Parks and Recreation: At Fred Fletcher Park, I helped plant flower bulbs in Fred Fletcher Park along dirt patches we had dug up beforehand. I planted around 150 bulbs. They will bloom in the spring! Around 12 hours, again.

So, there’s my ECs and volunteering _____ (things? opportunities? experiences? Or do I just call it “volunteering” haha. My resume seems a little bit fluffy, now that I’m looking at it. Will that hurt me?

Any advice is much needed and well appreciated.

Oh! Forgot to add. I am an immigrant from Jordan (moved here when I was 4; I am now a citizen). URM: Arab. Income: <45k annually for a family of 6 haha. There, now I’m done.

I hope you realize that you don’t have to do any volunteering for HYPS. That was a paradigm that existed 10-15 years ago.

How do you know that, @Multiverse7 ? How a student commits his time can show much.

This seems good, but doesn’t say “stands out” to me in a particular regard the same way I’d expect of other students applying to the same school. Perhaps because it seems that your interests and volunteer hours seem scattered or that you don’t seem to stand out particularly much in the EC’s you are involved in, or at least choose not to shine the spotlight on yourself. The next important thing to ask/answer yourself: what have you gained from those experiences? That may be an essay answer and that may be a place where you could potentially stand out

If you are looking at top schools, I would consider applying through QuestBridge.

@lookingforward. I did virtually no community service and was accepted to every one of the schools I applied to including the above. The same for my sibling. Gibby has often said that his kids who attended H and Y did no community service. They were also accepted by a whole host of other top schools. Notjoe, whose sons are at Harvard has said the same thing. I also have quite a few friends at top schools who did little to no volunteering. Only perhaps at MIT is community service vey important and I say perhaps because I know someone who only did a few school required activities and is a freshman there now. They did attend RSI though.

I don’t disagree with your statement that how a student commits their time can show much. In fact, I think it’s a key factor in AOs decisions. I’m just saying that volunteering is not a requirement. A student’s time can be well spent in many other ways that show dedication and commitment. I’m also not saying not to volunteer if that’s where a student’s passion lies, just don’t do it to check off a box as so many HS student’s do. Their time could be much better spent going more deeply into something they care more about.

MV, I’m closer to.the process and see how it matters, how it reflects on many of the attributes they seek. Especially tippy tops. Some kids may not realize how different things add up, then they sweep aside the notion of some form of sharing, including outside the hs. Not much different than many declaring you have to retake a 2300. Or only pursue “passions.”

OP’s issue is he’s focused on the hours, minimizes some of what he did. I agree with @shawnspencer that he needs to rethink how this is presented.

So I guess your saying that myself and all the cases I cited even from respected veteran posters are pure anomalies. During an admitted students days I attended last spring at of one of the " tippy tops" schools, I spoke with the Director (not Dean) of admissions about service trips and volunteering in general. On service trips I heard “when I read about kids doing a service trip abroad, I find myself wondering why the applicant couldn’t find ways to get involved in their local community”. On the subject of volunteering, I was told that many HS’s now mandate community service so it’s hard for them to distinguish genuine concern for the welfare of others versus fulfilling a school obligation. Of course, they do value kids who show deep empathy for others or a cause and are able to demonstrate this passion at a very high level. However, the implicit takeaway I got was that community service is not a requirement (I along with the people I mentioned are living proof). It’s not that we didn’t care deeply about others (which probably was conveyed in our recommendations), it’s just that we were so busy pursuing our passions that there simply wasn’t enough hours in the day to work at the local animal shelter or the like.

What my original post above was about is the fact that kids still feel that you have to be strong “all arounders” to get accepted to tippy top schools. That entails doing community service, playing sports, playing an instrument, getting over a certain test score hurdle like 2300 as you said, etc. Unfortunately, and I hope you agree, this is not the case. You can’t just check off these boxes and expect to be accepted. Spending time doing successful research that helps the human condition or writing a literary piece that touches the soul of others can be much more impactful than logging perfunctory hours at a community service event.

Anyway, this is my opinion and out of respect, I will defer to your opinion if you think it is wrong. I’m not looking to get into any disagreements here on CC.

I think you misread the pieces. You wrote, “you don’t have to do any volunteering for HYPS,” that it’s an old paradigm. I’d rather posters not steer kids away from good service. Not declare. K?

In fact, there does need to be the right sort of rounding. No particular formula involving this level of sports or that level in music. But awareness matters. Research is just one component, not always available, and mostly seen for stem. Few kids, precollege, can write great lit.

Most can do more than classes, clubs the hs offers.

Agreeing with several of the above: what you have put down looks fine, but as you have framed it, it doesn’t shout ‘super achiever’. What about your summers - is that when you did the volunteering? 50 hours sounds like a lot, but for a whole summer it isn’t much. I have heard the Dean of Admissions at Princeton say “we don’t care what you do during the summer, but we care that you do something and we are interested in what you have done with that experience.”

The students that I have seen be accepted at those schools are really high achievers in a couple of areas - not necessarily community service related (they will all have some community service, b/c anymore most schools seem to have a requirement of 50 or 100 hours worth to graduate).

XC is a tough one for having other big ECs, b/c the hours are so tough during the season. But I’m thinking of a varsity XC runner who was a 3 season athlete (captain in 2 of the seasons) and also had a leadership role in student government; summers she worked full time at uninspiring jobs to save money for college; she is now at Princeton. I could list more, but the point is that no one of those things are the key to success: it’s that these students were all in the top handful of kids in their class academically AND in other areas as well. They simply stood out from the crowd. Is that you? we can’t tell from a post on CC. Your essays / LoRs / activities / course rigor / stats will all be part of the AdComms assessment.

I didn’t “misread any pieces”. I stated a fact which I supported by actual experience of myself and others which include veteran respected posters.

I’m not steering anyone away from good service if that is what is in their hearts. I’m just saying to those out there doing this “good service” and clocking (often inflating) hours as a means to gain college acceptances that their efforts can better be spent in other areas.

Of course awareness matters! That’s my argument. You are arguing for an old paradigm which I expressly said AOs no longer place much stock in because it became to formulaic that kids needed X hours of community service and because many schools started requiring it so how do AOs distinguish compassion from obligation?

I only threw out two examples of what can be strived for. When you have acceptance rates of 4-7% at very top schools you are best off trying to have impact on a much higher level than simply showing up at Key club sponsored event like what happened at my HS.

Finally, you tend to write in these clipped phrases that seem fraught with meaning but are often non-sensical. If you have a logical argument, please state it clearly. I know I’m just a student home on Thanksgiving break (wasting time on CC) but I would appreciate a reply that is more than condescending platitudes. I believe you are the one steering kids in the wrong direction. I’m saying that instead of encouraging kids to try to hit arbitrary targets of say 600 hours of community service (you see it all the time that kids write things like “I have 250 hrs currently but hope to have 400 by the time I apply”), it is best that they realize that there are no measuring sticks being applied to their community service (unless of course they have started or run significant efforts that resulted in major tangible benefits) and that having no community service will not count against them if they spent their time productively in other pursuits. For some, even having a job at McDonalds might mean more in the context of their circumstances.

I said I didn’t want to get into an argument and I have. I will leave this discussion and get back to things I should be doing.

I have known several Ivy admits who had no volunteering activities. However, each had an exceptional talent which they developed fully outside of school, leaving no time for volunteering. (International chess competitions, national-level+ athletes, published writers, top science-award winners.)

I have never said there is a target number of hours. There isn’t. So countering about hours, whether one has to split time among sports, music, whatever, leans toward straw man.

But I know the impact of rounding (despite what CC parents and kids say, even those with kids in tippy tops,) and the necessity to stretch outside what’s the comfortable path, just those self-serving pursuits, when a tippy top is the target.

Perhaps, in some anecdotes, their kid stretched in ways adcoms did see- and more than can be shown in a typical chance me or results thread. Perhaps a GC noted efforts the parents or kids didn’t think mattered. Or despite not listing X and Y in the activities section, something came out in the rest of the writing (which is more than the main essay.) It really is holistic.

No, a kid shouldn’t just show up and put in the hours to add up more and more, thinking they’re gaming something. But doing X, the right sorts of efforts, being committed, etc, are, in fact, real experiences. And no, just doing some fancy trip isn’t an “it,” if the kid never did anything locally.

This isn’t just about a resume, a tick list. It’s what a reviewer can learn about the thinking behind choices. And the energy and follow through.

So, several of us are saying OP needs to re-view what he did and how it meets what adcoms like to see, including attributes, how to present it. Not just tell him it doesn’t matter or this kid or that did no (or “virtually no”) things outside his own interests, and still got an admit.

I wasn’t expecting such a terse debate haha. If listing my hours came across as too formulaic, I apologize; that was not my intention. I am well aware that hours aren’t as important as what experiences you learn during those volunteering experiences/ECs. Those extracurriculars have, truly and honestly, changed my point of view about a lot of things. About our health care system, about sustainability, about adaptability, and about many other things. I fully intend to express what I have learned and come to understand through my application, in some way or another. Thank you for all of your responses.

It’s nice to know CC is a place where arguments can happen without digital fists being thrown.

P.S.: I’m just curious how much of a factor me being an URM is? Does it just give me brownie points in the “can help make the campus diverse” department?

Again, thank you all so very much. :slight_smile: @lookingforward @Multiverse7

That’s a tribute to the people commenting on this thread. Sometimes it is less friendly, but even then CC rarely gets to the level of name calling other sites do.

Census definitions include *White – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. * However, your cultural background may interest them. Depends on how and what you present. Try to learn what they look for.

As @lookingforward pointed out, you are not URM. Glad to hear you are volunteering for all the right reasons. Good luck with everything! As for fighting, I was really wasn’t fighting. My nature would be to bring a pillow to a knife fight so it’s best I steer clear of them :slight_smile: