Chance me (a junior anxious about ECs)

hi everyone !! i’m a current junior and i’m getting really anxious about colleges so it would be great if i got some input on how to utilize my remaining high school years.

some basic information:
i am a Asian queer nonbinary person (but i don’t really want to reveal that on college apps esp if my parents might see it, willing to pass as cis female). fluent in mandarin chinese. parents are both immigrants but both have bachelor’s degrees from China. living in LA region. low income family, probably need full aid. I have a 4.11 W gpa with an upwards trend, no class rank since hs eliminated it last year.

ap classes:
this is my first year taking APs so I have no AP scores so far. currently taking AP Lang, APUSH, AP Chinese. prospectively taking AP Spanish, AP Lit, AP Gov, AP Stats senior year.

test scores:
i’m studying for the SAT, taking it next month. hoping for 1400+ score.
only other test I’ve taken is PSAT sophomore year with a 1410, wasn’t able to take it this year because school didn’t provide it / counselor never got back to me.

honors / special classes in general:
before freshman year - took a test to skip 3 years of Chinese classes, got an A, A, and B for each respective year.
freshman year - honors english, accelerated math, straight As
sophomore year - honors english, honors chem, accelerated math, straight As
junior year (this year) - as mentioned above, ap Chinese, ap lang, apush, accelerated math, straight As so far
prospective senior year - as mentioned above, ap stats, ap gov, ap spanish, ap lit, journalism

extracurriculars:
please tell me what to improve on this category, i’m really anxious about this

speech & debate - participated in freshman + this year (parents didn’t let me participate in extracurriculars during sophomore year), hoping to be event captain + JV or novice chair next year
red cross - started this year, hoping to be on regional executive board + school art chair next year
English Outreach Commissioner in local food drive organization starting November of last year, hoping to have helped in at least 4 food drives by the end of the school year
key club - general member, not hoping for anything
i also run a small Instagram for my bullet journal with 300+ followers so far, hoping for 400+ by the end of the year. started in freshman year

prospective extracurriculars by end of junior year / senior year
part of tutoring club on campus
AP Ambassadors - hopefully VP or some position
applied to be a Wave Tutor, hopefully will hear from them by next month
journalism - too late to be in any position but i want to pursue journalism as a career
currently applying for QuestBridge college prep scholars

honors:
also anxious about this category.
not much here. got a gold key last year / honorable mention this year for scholastic art and essay contest, nothing national.
not sure if CSF counts as an honor ?? pandemic has mixed it up a lot so applications are iffy

possible majors + career paths:
majors : journalism, political science, international affairs, english?
careers : journalist, translator maybe?, diplomacy, politics?

schools:
ucla (reach)
Stanford (dream)
uc Berkeley (reach?)
uc irvine
this is an incomplete list, also im planning to apply for questbridge college match program next year.

any input would be fantastic, thank y’all so much!

Even though your school eliminated class rank, do they give you or the colleges any idea of where you rank within your class, percentile wise? Does your school give an extra 0.5 for an honors or AP class? An extra full point for an honors/AP? That 4.11 could be top 5%, or top 50%. With straight A’s and all the honors/AP you’re allowed to take, it sounds as if you probably are in the top 5%. Do you have any idea where your GPA places you within your class?

For extracurriculars. I think that you are probably wise to not focus on your queer nonbinary status, if you’re not out to your parents yet. There might be serious repercussions for you - like they might refuse to pay for college. And I don’t think that it would give you an advantage in college applications. Fortunately for you, race is no longer an issue in CA admissions, so for your CA public schools, you’re not at a disadvantage, so I don’t think that you need to reveal your status in an attempt to counteract the “high achieving Asian female” stereotype. I don’t know if it would be of any help to you for Stanford, or other private schools.

I think that it would be a good idea to focus on developing one thing in the extracurriculars to a “spike”, an outstanding, high level achievement. And I think that one thing could be outreach to the Chinese immigrant community, especially those for whom English is a barrier. Forget the school paper. You’re not going to be the top person on that, because you weren’t doing the heavy lifting in sophomore year. But there’s a whole big world out there! Contact papers, TV stations, radio, social media, websites, prominent Chinese American blog writers, whatever and find out who are the leading Chinese-American journalists, especially women, and go ask them for an unpaid internship. I know I’m showing my advanced age here, but what do you think would catch the eye of an admissions committee? “I worked on the high school paper”, or “I was an intern for Connie Chung”, (or whoever the local leading Chinese-American journalist is in the LA area)?

There are SO many things that a person in your position, with your cultural and linguistic fluency in the Chinese immigrant community, could work as a story right now. How is the pandemic affecting the Chinese immigrant community? The immigration freeze? Do they have appropriate access to the vaccine? Are they still suffering the consequences of racist blame for the virus having come from China? Do they have access to stimulus benefits? How are they staying safe? Staying housed? Staying fed? Are they continuing as frontline essential workers, even as they are experiencing discrimination or a high/low rate of infection (and if so, why), or linguistic/cultural barriers to care? You could develop a tremendous spike with your access by DOING journalism, instead of working on the school paper and some committees.

NPR has a student journalist program - I’ve read and heard pieces done by student journalists, even high school students. Keep up your great grades, and laser FOCUS your extracurricular activity on what you really love doing, and it might get you into any school you want to attend.

i think it’s a full point. i haven’t asked my counselor about percentile ranks, i should do that lol

we’re very low income so i don’t think that would be an issue, they probably would not be able to contribute much anyways. the main issue would probably be family dynamics. (ie, not academic)

that is a great idea !! i never thought of that, thank you so much for the suggestion.

overall, thank you so much the suggestions. i am a little afraid of piling too much during my senior year but i will try to pursue more opportunities during spring break / the summer. and i will definitely look for internships and possibly start my own blog.

Be careful still about revealing your status. Your parents may be low income, but if they were to refuse to fill out the FAFSA and the CSS, you would have a very difficult time qualifying for financial aid.

i absolutely will !! i probably will not come out until after high school and well into college anyways. thank you for the advice.

A high-profile internship without journalism experience may be difficult. Perhaps more doable would be to seek out an internship with existing organizations that do outreach in the Chinese community. Focusing there is a great idea and seems like it could be very meaningful. You could help with communications— newsletters, PSAs, social media. Many of your ECs read like resume fillers - not meaningful pursuits. Focus on a couple of things and do them well.

i will try to do that !! the pandemic has made everything harder but I’ll try to look for some online options. thank you!