How much will I be disadvantaged due to the unavailability of ECs to me?

My school offers virtually no extracurriculars to its students other than sports and theatre. My unweighted GPA is 4.0 and my weighted GPA is 4.72. What can I even do?

You can take part in extra curriculars. If you’re a Senior it’s too late - but a college is not going to want someone who cannot think outside the box. Go walk dogs at the animal shelter, get a part time job, help in a city park trash cleanup, play a sport, take part in a band, tutor young kids or help at Big Brother.

Colleges don’t just want smart people - they want people who can think.

I respect that you are young - but you should have been able to come up with some ideas on your own.

Find your interests and pursue that - ECs are not only in-school activities. In fact, the best ones are often out of school.

Good luck.

PS - lots of colleges take people on a GPA or GPA/ACT metric. With a 4.0 UW, you’d score $35K off tuition at Arizona for example, so you’d only pay $3k a year. Many other schools are similarly aggressive - no clue on what you want to do, what type school you want, etc. Just pointing out that all isn’t lost - there’s many a great school and scholarship out there for you.

Good luck.


Agreeing with @tsbna44.

“EC” = extra-curricular = what you do outside of your schoolwork. You are at school for a certain number of hours. You have to eat and sleep and do homework. What do you do with the rest of your time? Even with travel back and forth to school and household chores you probably have several unscheduled hours most days- the things you do in those hours are your ECs.

I’ll add…what was wrong with doing something sports related (either playing or something else), or something theater related (on stage, off stage, tech, production related, etc).

Or something in your community as noted above. What else are you doing beside going to school and doing school work?

If it is geographically difficult to get to EC’s of your own choosing, outside of school, and if your parents are working and there is no transportation, you can explain the situation. Access to EC’s outside of school often depends on the family having the money to pay for them, and/or the ability to transport, and colleges recognize this.


I can think of many things a kid could do outside of school time that are free, and don’t involve transportation by parents. Unless this kid lives in a very rural area, there should be something.

Babysitting, walking dogs, mowing lawns, any job, tutoring younger kids, volunteering or working at a day care or senior center, doing something in the community for beautification…maybe planting flowers.


All or most of these might require transportation. That was my thought. There are obviously hobbies like crafts, programming, art or music that can be done at home but those are private and not generally listed as EC’s.

I was just trying to counter the idea that every kid can “go outside the box” and find EC’s outside of school. Just as colleges consider only classes offered at school (though again, if kids have transportation, they can go go CC or do online), I think colleges should consider socioeconomic or geographic limitations for EC’s when schools don’t offer them at the level many schools in higher SE areas do.

I completely agree- and I think that many/most? do. According to multiple AOs that I have spoken to, having to go home straight from school to mind your younger siblings b/c your parents are at work explicitly counts as an EC.

Not generally listed as ECs- b/c most students have other options that they want to do! But they are legit ECs. The point of ECs is not the activity itself, but that you have channeled your energy in an area of interest and found ways to grow in it.

Random example: I know somebody who developed a love for old-school wooden jigsaw puzzles during a long period of confinement to bed. She got seriously into antique puzzles and became quite the expert, becoming a mod in an online specialty forum. She got better and went back to school, but the puzzle interest has continued: she now has a small home business making replacement pieces for old wooden puzzles that are compatible with the original image. That was her only “EC”, yet she did very well in terms of college admissions

All that said: yes, it’s harder to make your own path. Coming up with an EC of your own- especially if resources are limited! - is harder than signing up for swim team and showing up for practice.

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What do you do during the day other than go to school and do homework? What are your interests? In this time of Zoom and connecting with people/groups virtually, you should be able to get involved in organizations and activities that are outside of your school.


Colleges that care about ECs are looking at them as a marker of leadership and accomplishment. When you write “My school offers…” that is a passive approach, as if all colleges cared about was whether a student chose to sign up or not. Students believing this also sign up for an armload of ECs at their school, leading adcoms to term them a mile wide and an inch deep.

So why don’t you start a club for something that does interest you? If your school offered that activity already there would have to be enough interested students to make it viable. So if these students exist then why not get the ball rolling yourself? And as others have pointed out, there is no requirement that ECs be connected to your HS. Kids have worked in the offices of local elected officials, in college labs, taken part in community groups, etc.

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I agree with everything you wrote, and I do think colleges are much more aware and honor regular jobs, taking care of siblings etc. a lot more these days.

If the high school doesn’t offer EC’s I am maybe making assumptions but the school itself would seem to lack resource and may be rural or in a lower socioeconomic area.

I don’t think colleges care as much about traditional measures of leadership as people think.

It is not always easy to just start your own club at school. Many public schools require a faculty person to supervise and it would seem the OP’s school does not do that.

I think we should recognize that in certain situations, if the school doesn’t offer EC’s, the student may be limited in what they can do other than online options or hobbies at home. The guidance counselor should include the info on no EC’s offered along with the transcript.

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You can volunteer in your community in something you find interesting or have a passion for. You can get a part time job. EC’s are a privilege that not everyone has access to. Some students care for and have to drive younger siblings, help elderly relatives or have to work a part time job. An AO wants to know what you do with your free time. It’s up to you to make the most of the time you have and make sure it tells a story about who you are.

Also, COVID, in some areas and among some people, is still limiting what young people (and others) can do. Again, colleges understand the limitations this generation of high schoolers is dealing with. Stay safe!

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Why not do ECs outside of school?

Are you in the USA?

This does depend upon what stage you are at in the process. If you are a high school senior it is late in the process. If you are younger you have more time.

A part time job is a good EC. One daughter volunteered at an animal shelter. Another worked part time on a farm near here. Taking care of younger siblings is an EC. One of my ECs (a long time ago) was over the summer and had nothing to do with my high school.

You could start a chess club at school, or a volunteering club. You could tutor other students.

There are many options.

Also, ECs are of the most importance at the highest ranked universities (Harvard, Stanford level) in the US that get too many applications from essentially perfect applicants. If you are an American (citizen or permanent resident) living in the US you probably can get into an in-state public university without much in the way of ECs.

I also agree with another comment that COVID has messed up ECs for a lot of students. Universities will be well aware of this. A lot of us (whether young or old) did not do much over the past 18 months or so.

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And many still aren’t able to do much. The pandemic is hardly over.

What about something at your religious community? My son found something online. There was a website looking for editors who would look at images and classify what type of animal it was. Something to help with a national database or something. You can look online for similar things.