Don't Have Activities until 11th grade

Hi there,

In 9th grade, I had lots of underlying circumstances (wasn’t in school for a month), so I couldn’t do any activites. I thought in sophomore year, I’d turn everything around. However, I chose to do swim team. I hated that activity, and I’m never doing it again. However, since I did swim team, I wasn’t able to pursue any other clubs that I was interested in , such as Robotics, Scioly, and CS club.

Now I’m ineligeble to become a leader in those clubs. And I have 0 activities, I’m going to start doing those clubs in junior year.

Here’s my question: Given the fact that I start most of my activities in 11th grade, am I disqualified from any Ivy League Schools or Top 20 Schools?

Why wait? ECs don’t have to be school clubs, they can be anything. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, volunteer as a museum docent, get a part time job at Taco Bell or dog walking or babysitting or stocking shelves at Costco, play a sport or take up a musical instrument, organize a book club and invite your friends to read and discuss books in your favorite genre…Whatever you like to do, do it. You don’t have to wait to join a school club to get involved in activities.


My only 2 activities from 9th grade:

Volunteering at a temple, and CS club.

I doubt I’m getting leadership in CS club this year because I’ve missed so many meetings due to swim team. What’s even sadder is that last year I got a certificate in CS club.

Volunteering at a temple is a great EC. CS club is great, too, but my point is don’t wait around for opportunities to find you, go out and find them. You don’t have to be a leader in a school club to be successful in college applications - in fact, there are many more interesting things you can do than that. Follow your passions. Find new things. And leadership can take many forms - tutoring other students, or tutoring elementary students, or teaching CS to younger kids…It can be starting your own initiative in your community or, if you’re already involved in a temple, then maybe some initiative you can start there (or hey teaching basic computer skills to elderly member if you’re into CS). Find a need in your temple (or other community) and think about how you could fill it. Alternatively, just think of something you enjoy, a hobby of some sort, and see what you can with that. Or a cause you care about and see what volunteering opportunities exist there. It’s great to do school clubs, but it is totally not necessary. There are so many other kinds of ECs you can do and you don’t have to wait until a new school year to start.


You can get into many great schools with zero clubs. You can get rejected at Ivies with lots of clubs.

Having a leadership role does not make you a leader. You want activities you can quantify.

Not sure what year you are - but be the best you that you can be and you’ll find plenty of great schools, Ivy or otherwise.


You are not “disqualified” from top colleges. ECs are one of many data points in an application.

That said, you (like everyone else) should work to create an application list that includes reach (which will include all T20), match, and safety schools that appear affordable and that you would be happy to attend. It is easy to find the well-known reach schools – it takes more research and effort to find match and safety schools you love. There are so many fantastic colleges and university out there where you can have a great 4 year experience and get where you want to go in life.


A couple of things…

  1. Why are you focused on the Ivy League schools and Top 20 schools? There are TONS of other very very fine colleges you could be considering.

  2. You don’t have to be a leader in anything…you just need to do something you enjoy. Swim team is very time consuming and it’s not for everyone. So…what do you enjoy doing? Find some activities related to that. Get a job. That’s a very worthwhile EC.

And like I said…open your mind to a lot of other colleges.


Hi all,

Thank you so much for your responses. Realizing all of my lost time has had a profound mental impact on me, and I really appreciate everyone in this forum encouraging me.

I just fear that since I’m starting my activities so late, and I will lack leadership roles, I might not be able to make it into a top level school. I hear a lot from my friends, who are seniors, about being rejected from safety schools due to activities.

My grades are good, I’m taking AP classes, and I will do well on the SAT. I have an excellent relationship with my counselor, and with my teachers, so recommendation are not a problem. I fear my activities will be the selling point of my application.

Yeah, I’m very attracted to other schools, but I fear rejection from them because of my poor activities.

What do you do with your time? Serious question. You are in school for 6 hours a day. What did you do in Grade 9 when you got home from school? In Grade 10, even a very strong swim team practice is max 2 hours a day, so what are you doing when you got home at the end of the day? Video games? lounging around the house? hanging out with your friends? household chores? caretaking younger siblings? part-time job? working on a hobby? writing your novel?

Being president of the X club will not be the difference between getting into a highly selective college or not.

…but what action are you taking? why are you waiting 6 months to start doing something? If you have the drive to be one of the 5-10% of students accepted at the schools you want, you should have the drive to figure out something that is genuinely important to you and find a way to start doing it.

“I hear” is anecdote. Your friends do NOT have facts about why they were rejected- they have guesses. And spoiler- those weren’t safety schools. A “safety” is a school that is certain to take you and that you can afford.


It is what it is. Your lack of significant ECs over the last 1 1/2 years is not helpful to your application at a T20, but you need to focus on what you can do going forward to make your application as compelling as possible.

Also keep in mind that just serving as an officer at a pre-existing school club is not really going to move the needle for highly selective colleges – many of your fellow applicants will have significant EC accomplishments well beyond the school level. As previous posters have mentioned, a good mix of safeties, matches, and reaches is important.

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So grade 9, I was involved in CS club, robotics club, and Model UN. After my dad left, I was forced to leave every club, because my mom could not drive, and I live far from the school. In 10th grade, I tried swim team, you’d think that practice is 2 hours a day. But in reality, I leave for school at 6 AM, and get home at 6 PM after practice. Since my mom cannot drive, I am forced to carpool and carpooling takes more time than driving yourself. Apologies if it sounds like I’m making up excuses

I’m pursuing a volunteering opportunity for computer programming where I get to code an application for a non profit charity. I have started the programming team for my school, I have founded a cycling club at my school, and I’m planning on getting a job this summer. And I’m looking to continue my volunteering at the temple as well.

Do these sound like extracurriculars that could fix my application?

Yeah I see. Thank you for helping me realize that.

That’s what my mom keeps telling me. I can’t do anything about the past, so focus on the future. I just hope I can do enough activities in the next 2 years to fix my application.

Don’t look at it as “fixing your application”. Look at it as finding what you’re passionate about, and doing that thing/those things at as high a level as you can. Quality over quantity.


Many current juniors are in the same position. Freshman year, our high school was on hybrid, 95% of clubs didn’t exist that year, and students weren’t able to volunteer with rare exceptions. We are in a private, the public schools were virtual until May!. Sophomore year, volunteering opened up but clubs/activities were slow to get going. Some teachers had stopped their club and didn’t want to start it back up. Kids slowly started getting involved. Now it is junior year and everything is finally back up and running. This is not unusual for high schoolers everywhere.

It’s not a race vs others. There’s a ton of fantastic colleges that base admissions on academics, btw.

Be the best you. And you’ll be fine. Maybe it’s Hofstra instead of Harvard but so what ?

Be the best you that you can be and it will all work out.

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Don’t beat yourself up about things you can’t change.


Also…from what I read on CC Canadian colleges don’t focus on ECs so maybe look at some of those (ex. McGill, UToronto). Of course many US colleges would be happy to have you as a student as well. As I said earlier work to create a well balanced application list.

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Persevering on swim team despite all the adversity was a good ec.
Agree with other, don’t think of fixing your application.
Don’t worry about titles, most average excellent students are rejected from T20.
Plenty of great colleges.
What majors are you considering?

“Here’s my question: Given the fact that I start most of my activities in 11th grade, am I disqualified from any Ivy League Schools or Top 20 Schools?”

I don’t know if you realize it or not but a lot of those top 20 schools are small and they have limited seats. Unless you have a hook, that they want, you will probably be rejected from them, regardless of how many EC’s you do. They just don’t have the room for all of the hundreds of thousands of great students who apply there.

So although you can apply, assume that it’s a matter of luck, and it doesn’t matter what ECs you now do.

That doesn’t stop you from applying. So apply, but also apply to all of these other great schools that will fit you.

I would suggest that you start looking at jobs now for the summer. Start doing some research. I know that, in our area, all of the jobs for high schoolers, such as the amusement parks, zoos, museums, etc. start looking in Spring for their summer staffs.

Someone has directed you, incorrectly, about what your focus should be. You are supposed to do activities that help you to understand who you are. It doesn’t just have to be specific to the major that you hope to study.

It’s a good thing that you did participate in Swim. The Swim team is a really respectable EC. Even though you didn’t stay with it, it’s still something that you want to report on your college applications.

The reason I say this is because the colleges and universities like to see people who go out of their comfort zones. Swim shows discipline because you’re not only doing your studies, you’re also performing some very physically hard practices at insane hours of the morning and evening. It is definitely not an easy thing to do that’s why the colleges like it. It demonstrates discipline and good time management. So don’t neglect to put that on your application. Please remember that all of the admissions counselors, at the colleges and universities, went to high school and a number of them did swim team. They know what it’s like to be on the swim team.

When our children did swim they had to get to the school at 5:30 (breakfast was provided after swim practice), then I didn’t see them till after dark. Did they hate the practices? Yes, that’s why they didn’t last in it, but they continued to other sports that they loved!

Just remember, if you’re doing computer software studies you can go to any university and you will be very employable, at very many different TECH companies. One of my kids went to a top 10 and is the CS engineer at a big corporate company. Our eldest went to the State University of New York, a public university. She majored in electrical engineering and computer software studies- it’s called EECS. She graduated and continues to go straight up, not only in titles and wages but in accomplishments.


No, you’re not.

You may not be able to be elected to a leadership position, but that’s not the same thing as being a leader.

My kid had a leadership position in one school organization, the LGBTQ advocacy organization. That’s it.

However, she was a leader in the school. One of the people who other students and faculty knew they could turn to when something needed to be done, one of the people who would take the lead when she saw something that needed to be done.

Most of what she did and accomplished was during her Junior year.


You dont have to join school clubs to get into top colleges. You need grades, test scores, recommendations, an essay, and activities that show something good about you. Sounds as if your life got turned upside down when your father, the only driver, left. Unless you and your mom live in a ciry witg great public transit, i would imagine that wouldve been very hard on you both

You can do things outside of school that would mean just as much. You could just get a job, to pay for driving lessons and a car, to help your mom. You could get jobs as the tech person for all sorts of places, like small vusinesses, mYbe your tenple. You could also lobby your school to institute a late bus, to help kids whose families cannot drive them, so tgeyre not shut out of activities. I see an essay called Learning to Drive, that is really about growing up and coming of age.

Different is good. Different majes you stand out. For most kids, lear ing to drive is an entitlenent. For you, it is a necessity. What do you love doing? What does your household need? Put these together to come up with your own, unique plan for you.