I am 15 years old (sophomore) and I don't think that I have what it takes

Hi, I want to get into an Ivy League school but I feel like I am a bit lacking in my extracurriculars. I live with an emotionally manipulative mom and also have social anxiety. I’ve gotten into several depressive episodes this during this year and the last year which resulted in low motivation and inactivity, and am very inerested in climate change advocacy, mental health advocacy and criminal justice as well as writing but I feel that I know too little. I recently moved to a new school and I have no friends. Frankly, I hate my new school and I don’t feel included. I just get discouraged when I see the amount of people who have already won national competitions and are leaders in their local communities when I feel so detached from my own.

First of all, you need to take a deep breath. There are way more schools out there than the Ivy League (which is really just the name of an athletic conference) and it is way more important to find the right one for you, not just one that has an impressive name. I am sorry if you are feeling isolated and out of place but trust me - everyone feels like that on the inside regardless of what it looks like on the outside. The best advice is to just do you and don’t put all of the pressure on yourself to meet someone else’s expectations.

A few comments:

  1. Your mental health is more important than anything else. Please seek out help either within your school or outside of school.
  2. Why the fixation with Ivy schools? With single digit acceptance rates very few people end up at these colleges. It appears to me that you can study the topics you are interested in, have a great 4 years and get wherever you want to go life at a multitude of wonderful colleges, Expand your horizons.
  3. In terms of ECs, seek out activities in your areas of interest -- things that excite you. This may be a good way to meet some like minded students in your new school. But remember, ECs don't have to take place in your HS so you can also consider volunteering in your community.

I can relate to part of your situation. I, too, have several mental illnesses, and so does my mother. Both of us were hospitalized during my freshman year (her for much much longer), and it resulted in a lack of energy and motivation. I ended up getting my worst grades at the end of my freshman year than I ever had before. It was so difficult to push past that semester and reach for my dreams of being a part of an ivy league institution. I just didn’t understand how I was going to figure out how I was going to make up for that semester.

The best advice I can give is make sure you’re giving yourself the help you need to alleviate any emotional obstacles. Once you take that necessary time, it will be much easier to focus on the future. After that, just try your best in school so you can show colleges that you’ve grown. Finally, regarding your EC’s, look up stuff in your city or community that are relevant to what you’re interested in. Make a club if you can’t find anything at your school. Just do what will feel best in the moment and will make the future easier. Good luck!

@erongke - One of my daughter had a horrible freshman year in high school and her sophomore year wasn’t that great either all around her social life and feeling sad and disconnected. I know Covid is making it harder now too for so many. Hang in there - I know this seems like a lot of time, but it will get better and many of the previous posts gave you ideas too. My daughter did keep engaged in her school work and spoke with a mental health counselor too. There were things she did not want to talk to us about and we respected that and a counselor is a great neutral person trained to help you.

My daughter also viewed getting good grades as a way to provide her more options when she graduated high school and she is right. She hasn’t won any major awards and will still have amazing college options by doing what she loves - sounds like you have a lot of passions and all could use your skills in advocacy and writing. Pick one and go for it.

It was hard and she did her best to find activities outside of school that were of interest and by junior year she has an amazing group of loyal friends and no one attends her school - all through her involvement in things that interest her.

Are you able to contact your school counselor and get a referral to speak with someone over Zoom. Many mental health counselors will work at reduced fees and are there to help you have someone to talk to verses your parents. Also, could your school counselor, principal or teacher help you brainstorm organizations you could get involved with or a club you could start at your school around your interests ?

There are so many amazing colleges out there and not just the ones that people talk about all the time. I have worked at two major tech corporations and while people were ivy league grads (mainly for their masters in business - MBAs) I also worked with equally talented and passionate people from Montana State, Lawrence and small east coast schools I had never even heard of - you are not your college name and sometimes being on these forums can make everyone feel a bit less.

Take care of yourself - there is not many people that would ever want to go back to their teen years - they are not easy and you sound like an amazing person ready to move forward.

Why are you obsessed with attending an Ivy?

Thank you so much for the advice! I think that it would be better for me to start small and in my own community. I realized that

You are starting multiple threads, please take a step back and get help

Ditto from my other response.

Please reach out to get help

I had this same problem before. It’s really difficult to stop comparing yourself to others, especially when you’re trying to achieve excellence. You don’t necessarily need to seek help unless you think it’s very severe. I think the best way to overcome this is to find yourself. Ignore what other people are doing and really focus and hone in on who you truly are. Don’t be afraid to be your quirky self because of a fear that other people won’t accept you. You are enough. Be who you truly want to be, an know that everything will work out in the end. You just need to stay strong, be confident, and be yourself.

So now, if you want to make a website, go make a website. But, if you’re going to try to publicize your website in your school, maybe not make it if you think that other people are going to accuse you of “copying” someone else. There’s a lot of other things you can do. Just get creative and start. ?

A girl at my old school recently started a website that specializes in politics and education. I had this thought a few months ago before I even heard of her website.I really want to start one of my own but I think that it will be unoriginal. I keep comparing myself to her and saw how established her website was on so many platforms. It made me feel inadequate and lazy for not being more outgoing in the past and realizing what my real gifts and talents were.

I spent most of my years at school with social anxiety so I never really reached out to others that have common interests. Now that my ambition has been kindled, I fear that it may be too late to readjust my work habits. I am trying to start a blog in light of new events and i plan on starting a nonprofit organization in the future. I also think that my school doesn’t have that good of an academic system and is more athletics based so this is a constraint. However, this is also a way for me to test myself. I want to become a better person and I would appreciate some tips on:

website building
research (politics, philosophy, history, art, websites, books)

Your interests make me wonder if you would love Mock Trial. If your school does not have a Mock Trial team maybe you can start one or if they do, get involved with the team. The book Just Mercy is very powerful and might be something you find engaging for summer reading. My DD was able to intern with the public defender’s office this summer; they are desperate for help processing paperwork and closing files. Maybe see if you can intern locally? Another option might be getting involved with your local food bank or community kitchen. You will meet wonderful people who care. We all go through rough seasons. We all have heart work to do. We all need our communities. It’s always hard to find and make those communities in new places or after rough seasons of life. You are not alone. May grace guide the path. Keep at it. The right doors will open.

Look at the website Colleges that change lives and find 6 colleges you like from that list. Knowing these excellent colleges are out there will help with your anxiety.

Note: if you have anxiety, the Ivy League is not the best goal to have. There are lots of excellent universities that you can aim for that won’t exacerbate your symptoms while satisfying your ambition.

For starters, take a look at the Hidden Ivy’s. Just google them. They’re’s 64 of them, and they all offer ivy quality or near ivy quality education, along with a great name brand.

And get your mental health checked, I struggled sophomore year two.

Just for an idea of other schools you should look at:
-Trinity (CT)
-Wake Forest
-Case Western