Are these extracurriculars good enough for Harvard?

I’m currently a junior, I’m a mixed Pacific Islander/Asian, I’m pretty sure this is neither disadvantaged or URM.

I’m still waiting for SAT to come out, I think it is somewhere 1500-1550. I’m going to take 15 APs including my senior year, I speculate all of them will be 4/5, more 5’s

Also, is my unweighted 3.7 GPA too low? I have a legitimate excuse, my father faced serious health problems from 9th to 11th grade; I will tell college admissions officers that.

I am seeking political science degree. Tell me if the extracurriculars are too much or too little. Also, tell me if I should include the chess extracurriculars, I don’t want to sound too stereotypically Asian
Here are my extracurriculars:
Played piano at Carnegie Hall in 7th grade in order to raise money for Autism

Assistant Operations Manager of MusicMds: a nationwide outreach organization of high-school and college musicians who volunteer their music to promote patient healing in hospitals.

Youtuber with 4k+total views, 70 subs I make track motivation videos (I don’t think this is really that good)

Founder of a small SAT tutoring service

Founder of the GREAT Team: An outreach organization of volunteers dedicating their time to volunteer and raise money in order to help the local community.

Founder of a Chess Club with 63+ members

Helped political campaign in 2020 election

Member of Model Student Senate, which I think is like Model UN

Republicans Club

Spanish Honor Society

National Honor Society

Varsity Track Team 400m

Camp Counselor

Adcoms will not like your excuse for a low GPA, or any excuses. If your family situation was exceptional it should be explained in the guidance counselor’s letter of recommendation.

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Good news - Pacific Islanders are generally considered URM. Bad news - for Harvard, unfortunately, 3.7 may not be high enough.

Harvard has 40,000+ applicants a year, from which they accept 2,000 or so. You are competing with students with similar ECs, but who have GPAs above 3.9.

Your ECs are probably good enough, but your GPA unfortunately is likely not.

Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of amazing colleges which not only will accept you, but some will even provide incentives for you to attend.

Do you think Pacific Islander and Asian cancel each other out?

Do not provide any excuses for the GPA. Many young people have various challenges and Harvard is interested in how you overcome obstacles. Not saying you haven’t: it sounds like you have done very well, and accomplished a lot.

Your guidance counselor can provide family info. Another way to address your family challenges is to write a short account in the supplementary essay. Of course you can also write about it in your main essay but if you have another topic for that, just write a short one on your father’s illness in the supplementary essay that asks you what they don’t know about you from the rest of the application. Best is for guidance counselor to do it though, unless you can pull it off without seeming to make excuses.

Are you submitting a music supplement? If justified, you can submit a recording, music resume and letters of recommendation related to music. I can’t tell if this is appropriate in terms of talent but you have some interest activities related to music.

Yes include chess if that is something you love. Be yourself.

I think that this is exactly correct. Do the ECs that you want to do, do them well, and keep up with your class work.

You should certainly apply to Harvard, but also make sure that you apply to at least two safeties. Match schools should probably be added unless your safeties are very good.

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If one parent is a Pacific Islander, you can put that as your “race”. Like any “mixed race” applicant, you can select any of them, both of them, or just one of them.

It will give you a bit of an edge in some schools.

My last name is Ji, which sounds very Asian. Also, on my high school records, it says I am both. Finally, both of my parents were born in China. Will these raise suspicions if I choose only Pacific Islander?

If you are both, I would say both.

Many of us are mixed race. If we go back far enough we are probably all mixed race. I think that universities need to get used to this.

I think there’s actually no thing as races

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Biologically speaking, that is true, culturally speaking, that is inaccurate.

Short answer is no, I think. Here’s the long answer. Take a look at Allen Cheng’s (successful) Harvard application file. They wrote a big red A on it by his name, and by both of his parents’ names, so I don’t think that it was for “admitted”. They might wonder about Pacific Islander if both parents were born in China, but hey, I’ve had friends whose 4 grandparents were Ashkenazic Jews, but one parent was born in Mexico, and they successfully claimed they were Hispanic. So I guess that you could get away with claiming Pacific Islander if one ancestor came from there originally. Anyway, Cheng’s advice is to concentrate on developing the biggest “spike” that you can, so that you would stand out from other applicants. I can tell you that my kid’s music spike seems to have compensated for an unweighted GPA that must have been like yours. Mostly A minuses in all honors/AP, occasional A or B. Kid did have a 36/36/36/34 ACT.

We didn’t find Cheng’s online advice until after the application had been submitted, but it turned out that kid just naturally fell into it by being highly successful at developing a big spike in music, because kid loved doing that activity, got very good at it, won international contests, participated in highly prestigious youth music programs (the kind that people move across the world for, so that their children can participate), had letters of recommendation from prestigious, highly -respected musicians.

I don’t know whether your playing at Carnegie Hall a year before high school in a fundraiser is a high school extracurricular. Did you win a well-known national competition in order to participate? Or was it a money-making competition/event - sort of like the “prestigious leadership conferences” that all students get invitations to and that are really just to get parents to pay a lot of money for their kid to attend. In any event, it was in 7th grade, and if you haven’t continued to play and make further achievements in piano, it might not be considered impressive. How does this accomplishment make Harvard want you? Are you at the level that you would be an accompanist for some of their many music ensembles? Have you continued and progressed with this skill?

Which of your activities is your favorite thing to do? What do you love? Perhaps you can develop this into something bigger and more impressive, before application time? From what I can see, most of your activities are at the individual school level. Most successful applicants whose parent isn’t donating bazillions, are one of the best in the country at some particular skill that either Harvard wants to have there (recruited athlete, highly talented and accomplished musician, national level winner of science/debate/etc. competitions, published author, researcher, etc.), or that Harvard believes will be a future leader, by virtue of the family they come from, or the promise they have already shown.

If you think that you can develop one of your extracurriculars into something really impressive, and you would really love doing it, then sure, go for it.

I don’t know if generalizations can be made about admissions. Except to say that it is about assembling a class and how you contribute to the mix, not some hierarchical process as many imagine. Since there is a need for talented musicians, accompilshments in music can certainly help, but you don’t always need a “spike” to get in.

The main thing, as I wrote before, is to be yourself. It is much better to find a school that fits you, rather than trying to fit yourself to a particular school. Do the extracurriculars that you enjoy and don’t try to do them just to please admissions. You will end up in the right place.


This should be one of the most important, if not the most important, factors in deciding attendance at any college.

So many students, are writing so many posts here on CC asking how should they recreate themselves to fit in some Big Name school or another.

It’s like looking for a shirt, and then trying to figure out how to change your body so that your body fits the shirt. What high school students should be doing is trying to find a college which will fit them.

Harvard is a great school, for certain students. There are many kids for whom Harvard is a very bad fit. There are even more students for which Harvard would be an OK fit, but for whom there are other colleges which are far better fits than Harvard.

My point, @xuezhiqian, is that your question, for any college, should be “would this college be good for me, based on my interests, strengths, and personality”", NOT “are my interests, strengths, and personality good enough for this college (be it Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or any other college)”.

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