Worried about weak ECs?

Hey guys I’m sorry this is long, but this is something I am completely panicking about

After spending too much time looking around here (i need to stop it’s giving me so much stress you guys are so stressful), I have noticed just how many extracurriculars ALL of you guys do and how many clubs and sports and volunteering and what not people on these threads are involved in who then get rejected and I am now super stressed out that there is no way I can get into any good schools. I see people here who complain about their “weak ECs” but are involved in at least 4-5 different things. Everyone’s complaining about how there is not enough room to fill out all their ECs on the common app but can literally fill out like 2 slots on the EC part of the common app.

here is some of my info:
ACT: 35
Subject tests: 800 math 2, 760 chem
GPA: 3.94 UW /4.67 W
ECs: varsity swimming (9-12), swimming from club (10 years), and some informal tutoring.

That’s it. no clubs, no jobs, internships or whatever, and no community service/ volunteering. However, it’s not like I sit around doing nothing - I train for swimming about 21 hours a week in winter and 24 hours a week in the summer which takes up a lotttt of my time. However, I’m not good enough to be recruited to any top schools (you have to be so freaking fast!!) so I won’t get help with that… Do you think showing a lot of depth, commitment, dedication, and passion for one thing is OK? Or am I totally doomed??? D: D: D: I also lettered and went to state for all the years for swimming if that helps?

The thing is that I am OK with going to less competitive schools (okay maybe I would be pretty (very) disappointing but hey there’s always graduate school!), but my parents basically EXPECT me to get into a great school and don’t listen to me when I try to explain to them that it is literally impossible with my very weak extracurricular.

Is there any way I can at least make up for this a little bit by having great essays? Or are all my chances dashed?

Thank you.


First question, do you have anything you do outside of school that you might not be thinking of as an EC? Example, one of my kids collected insects. It wasn’t a school activity, but she listed it as an EC and talked about it in essays. Also, what have you been doing in summers? Any camps, work, volunteering?

Not gonna lie, it will hurt you for the very top schools, unless you are good enough to be recruited. A few thoughts:

  • if you are good enough to help a D3 team, it could help you there. I don't know if they have swim teams, but LACs like Williams, Amherst, Bowdoin, etc are worth looking at. Also, I think U of Chicago is D3 if they have a swim team.
  • I think you are quite late in the recruiting process if you want to pursue those. The Athletic forum out here can help if you have questions about that, though.
  • You need to make sure you have some matches & safeties on your list no matter what your parents think. Your GC might be able to talk some sense into them if they balk at that.

I second the idea of looking at academically strong D3 colleges. Sounds like you could be an asset to a D3 team.

Think why you swim so much. Do you love it? And why? I do think colleges appreciate that swimming is a very time consuming sport. And while you discount your times, you have some state recognition and it sounds like you are a local leader.

I think that if you explain the amount of time commitment that is represented by swimming, that will help a great deal. There are only so many hours in the day.

@intparent Hey so I have been talking to some d3 schools with swimming and im going on a visit to MIT and the uchicago assistant coach said that he wouldn’t be able to promise anything, but that i should contact him when i submit my application and he would be able to tell the admissions people that I was someone he wanted on the team. Could that kind of make up for my lack of other stuff???

Yes, it can (sometimes). Be sure your essays are really good for U of C, and apply in the EA round.

@intparent I’m definitely applying EA and I’m going to write as good of essays as I possibly can (no promises that they’re gonna be amazing but I won’t procrastinate). Do you think I have a chance?

Your stats are good. They like high test scores. Not sure if you have visited or are familiar with U of C’s vibe, but you need to think about that in your essays. And have an adult review them if possible.

Anyone else?

I don’t think ECs are that big of a deal when you’re applying to bigger schools. If you’re looking at small LACs, they will focus more on your ECs. For me, i got into BU with only 3 legitimate ECs so i dont think big schools really look into it that much

For most schools heavy involvement in a couple of things is fine. At this point it is what it is so play to your strengths and just go with it.