What should I focus on for next year?

I’m am going into junior year and I’m aiming for pretty selective colleges. I’m sure that I will go into a STEM based major. While I know admissions have some luck aspect to them and all these colleges are indeed reach schools, I was wondering what I should focus on to optimize my chances for getting into these schools.

Gender: Male
Ethnicity: Asian American (Indian)
State: TX
School Type: Public (Magnet)
Prospective Major: Engineering (don’t know specifics yet}

Rank: School does not Rank
GPA: 3.8/4.0
SAT: 2250+ (800 math, 750 Reading, 700 Writing) [Working to improve to 2350+]
AP Taken: World History (prob 5), Calc BC (Prob 5), Chemistry (Prob 5)
AP Taking: Junior Year: Physics C and Physics 1 & 2, APUSH, AP English Language 4
Senior Year: AP Stat, AP English, AP Euro, AP Drawing Portfolio others haven’t decided
SAT II’s: Chemistry (800) Math II (800)

-AIME 9th and 10th grade (max score 8)
-AMC 10 and 12 Honors
-Intel ISEF finalist
-Intel ISEF 2nd Place
-International Eco Hero
-Broadcom Masters Semifinalist
-TSA TEAMS Nationals
-TSA TEAMS 2nd Place State
-1st place in Regional and State Science Fairs throughout (9th and 10th grade)
-Generic State level mobile programming competitions
-VASE State Honorable Mention
-ISWEEEP Gold Medal
-Genius Olympiad Finalist
-Smaller Math competition wins
-TAME State
-Science Bowl 2nd Place Regionals
-Bunch of recognitions for my work in Environmental Sciences
-Other smaller competition wins
-(Aiming for chem and physics olympiads next year along with improvements in AIME and Intel)

-Lots of Research under a professor (300 hours+) (still going on)-Intern
-Art (Drawing and Painting)
-Currently helping Grad student with his or her masters thesis (idk if gonna be published)
-Lot’s of clubs (Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, Math Club etc)
-NHS? (idk if this is even that significant)

-Founder and President of Engineering Club (Brought the team to national competition wins in it’s first year)
-Treasurer of Math Club
-(Most likely going to be President of Math Club in senior year)
-City Block Leader

-Still really need to work on this aspect
-Have hours because of some environmental based work

-Not really anything big
-Hopefully I think I’m unique because of all my work with the environment (i love research about new technologies to help)

Couple things. Take off all of the things from awards/ec’s that are from middle school. No college asks for anything pre-9th grade, and listing them anyways is a very (VERY) bad idea. Hate to break it to you, but there are a lot of awards that you can cull. Once you start racking up international/state level awards, regional and smaller stuff basically gets thrown away. That’s pretty much it for housekeeping.

I have a really similar resume (best of category at ISEF, GSF regional finalist, etc.) and now that the list has gotten long enough that more stuff just doesn’t really matter, I’m trying to focus more on the non-scholastic stuff. Volunteering (bonus points if it involved underprivileged kids), ‘community’ (aka public service or whatever) work, all that good stuff. You might look into open source software; I was talking to an admissions director from MIT and they said that it’s a cool and very valid volunteering EC.

Finally, for your class schedule, I would cut out Physics 1&2. I had the (dis)pleasure of taking both of them this year, and they are an unneeded and utterly credit-less headache. Considering that only 4% of people that took Physics 1 got a 5, it’s basically just a crapshoot as to whether or not your teacher elected to get the material from CB and factor it into their teaching. NOBODY other than registered teachers has access to that material, so the rest of us got boned.

It sucks for people like us that there is essentially a plateau effect that’s present when you start racking up an insane amount of awards. Two IMO gold medals are the same as one, for all intents and purposes. Almost noone gets to the point where the laundry list effect sets in, but a few on here have. I know that @PurePhysics has a resume that’s similar to ours, and he’s posted a few times about it. He might be able to add something else.

@berkinit2021 I sooo agreee. I took AP physics 1 & 2 and C this year. I can tell you that 1&2 are a waste of time. Take the C exams instead!

@tomatoes124 @berkinit2021 Thank you for your responses. I really did want to get rid of Physics 1 and 2 from my schedule, but my school makes those courses mandatory. So, my other question is; if I just focus on the Physics C class, will I also be able to do well on the Physics 1 and 2 AP’s without really focusing on their respective classes?

@047pusapatys Probably not. Thing is, you probably aren’t going to do well on them anyways. The % 5’s this year was lower than Stanford’s admit rate, lol. Focus on Physics C and the rest of your classes, and hope that next year those exams aren’t as bad.

Apply for selective summer programs like RSI and Telluride. Good luck you have great stats

UPDATE: I got a 5 on Calc BC and Chem but unfortunately a 4 on World History. Hopefully I’ll do fine on AP’s next year.

@sgopal2 I am really interested in applying to RSI. But similarly to all top tier colleges, my chances are slim. I’ll still apply and hopefully we’ll see what happens.

@berkinit2021 Just for a reference, the Broadcom Masters award is the only middle school award on that list (you probably already know that).

^also to add onto the update, I just became an “official volunteer” at my state’s university. aka my professor got me to help with the research/thesis of masters and phD degree students. I will be racking up a lot of documented hours now. Hopefully this helps add to the dearth of my volunteering.

also just a general question. Next year my courses will only have 4 AP courses (with only 2 sciences in them). My school offers a lot of extra math and science courses (all honors) so instead of racking on AP’s I chose those courses instead. For example this year I took Differential Equations as well as AP Calc BC. Next year, instead of AP Stat, I’m taking Multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Organic Chem. Was this a wise choice?

The exact courses probably don’t matter as much as the fact that you are challenging yourself, which you clearly are.

Also, on the note that @berkinit2021 pointed out, I think that you should enter regardless as competitions are enriching and many have neat prizes. I doubt that you entered entirely for the EC.

But I do agree that you have enough in the competition department. It probably wouldn’t be bad to try some other things like sports and non academic community service as a sign of character (because frankly, your list is almost frighteningly strong, and it may be its downfall due to stereotypes). Even things like working fast food could show that you are a person, and convey that, which is what I would focus on if I were you. (But I do agree that those activities are less enriching then say, olympiads. It’s a hard choice). Since you like the environment, I’d volunteer some direct involvement with environment (activism, nonprofit etc.), rather than just lab work, to show you understand the realities and it may actually be kind of interesting.

Exploring open source software and putting your own projects on GitHub is definitely something you should look into. Personally, I wouldn’t worry about your SAT score at all. Getting a higher score will not significantly affect your admissions chances and will definitely not be the factor (among all your other accomplishments) that will cause you to get the final yes.

Your activities in art seem interesting to me (as a complete stranger). What have you done so far with art and what could you do to take it further? I think highlighting that or focusing on that would be good down the line - it serves as a great complement to your left-brain activities and shows adcoms depth into your character.

@andyis i totally agree with you. I am worried that while I do have a lot of competitions, my resume will look very similar to other people who also do competitive competitions. Thus, i lose the unique factor. But since 4th grade I really have been building up my art skills and entering a bunch of art competitions. I really enjoy art and am trying to be active in it throughout high school. So yeah, like @oreganese probably noted, I use art to make me look unique and hope that colleges see me as a lively person, not just some person who just studies.

For Art I have only been really acknowledged at a State Level so far. Probably the only time past state level was Doodle4Google finalist (but that wasn’t really art quality, more for the idea). Is state level art work good enough to use for supplementary art admission for colleges?