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Getting an Edge on Vanderbilt - Chance Me, Advice Heavily Needed

KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
(incoming - lots of information; sift through as thoroughly as possible. Apologies, I just want a clean schedule and mindset going forward. I have had a wonderful person assisting me for months in my first thread here, and s/he's still helping, though I don't want to overwhelm him/her with my questions, so I came here to ask for other opinions and advice. You are not obligated to help, though it would really make my life easier. I'd appreciate any tips. Good luck!)

Hello all,
I am currently a rising senior engrossed in the summer of 2019. Days are being spent left and right on deciding what to do, as this summer matters more than ever. I've got to boost my ECs, polish my academics, and demonstrate my tenacity to admissions officers. My eyes have rested on Vanderbilt for a while, yet I am open to other schools. Vanderbilt, though, is my top choice, and I am doing everything I can to get an edge on other applicants. However, I am in need of assistance - my mind is a little scattered and I need opinions on some ECs I had thought about doing based on my intended major of one of the following: Biochemistry and Chemical Biology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, or the Biological Sciences. I am strongly attuned to these two fields in particular (with the addition of others I will mention later), and I want to show this in my application. I believe my academics are well off for a Vanderbilt student, and you are free to check me up on this as I list them below:

ACT: 34 composite (Eng:35, Sci:35, Math:30, Read:36)
GPA (unweighted, scale of 4.0): 4.0
NOTABLE CLASSES:
Sophomore:
-AP US Government and Politics (score:4)
-AP Psychology (score:5)
Junior:
-Cambridge AS Biology 2 (score:N/A)
-Cambridge AS Statistics (no test yet, will be taken with A-level Pure Mathematics I)
-Cambridge AS Travel & Tourism (score:N/A)
-Cambridge AS Thinking Skills (score: a)
-Cambridge AS English Language (score:N/A)
Summer:
-DE General Chemistry I at CSCC (overall grade: approx. 97/100)
Future Senior:
-Cambridge A-Level Pure Math 1 (first half)
-DE Beginning French I
i*.-DE General Biology I (or Philosophy if this connotes more rigor/advantage, let me know)
-DE Beginning French II
-DE General Chemistry II
-Cambridge A-Level Pure Math 1 (second-half)
-Cambridge AS English Literature
-Cambridge AS Global Perspectives (required)
SUPPLEMENTS:
-AP English Language & Composition (self-studied in conjunction with AS English, score:N/A)
ii*.-AP Chemistry
iii*.-AP Biology

The following questions need consideration (note the previous asterisk/roman numerals for each):
i*. Considering I have already taken Cambridge AS Biology 2, I would think a dual enrollment class here would only cover everything I already know. I was wondering if I should ask if I can skip to General Biology 2 to learn more for AP Biology or instead replace this class with something else that may demonstrate more rigor or some advantage I'm not aware of. I ask, what is the better choice: asking to skip to Gen Bio 2 (if it works), taking Gen Bio 1 anyway (if skipping fails), or replacing Gen Bio 1 with something else more fitting (if skipping fails)?
ii* and iii*. I had initially planned to take AP Chemistry and AP Biology exams my senior year to supplement my scientific rigorous schedule and further illustrate my passion. However, I have a couple of concerns:
- Will Community College Dual Enrollment courses be a suitable alternative to AP classes? I had my chemistry professor "gloss over" the glossary in the AP Barron Chemistry book, and he states that we go over all of it in General Chemistry II. I do know, with my experience in AP classes, that while he may cover it, AP classes tend to go more in depth. Do any of you know if that kind of course would cover AP Chemistry material, provided I may need to do a bit more studying?
- With that concern in mind, is it beneficial to have AP courses you PLAN to take on your application? I saw that the Common App (and probably QuestBridge) allows you to place future AP exams on there, but I didn't know if that was entirely useless or not considering I won't have any scores in time for Early Decision I. Do you think Vandy admissions officers would like to see that or is the pursuit of self studying these APs with the classes I have as supplementation for the course entirely in vain?
-Vanderbilt states on their website that "any student with 12 or more credit hours from a college/university on their transcript is considered a transfer student". Transfer students have significantly less chances of being admitted, and I do not want to be one. Since my DE courses (except for the summer one) count towards my high school graduation, are they necessarily counted towards this credit limit, or are they null since they don't transfer and go towards graduation? Is this something I should worry about and completely redo my schedule over?

Some clarifications you may need:
- I am not taking APs for credit, though I would take the credits at Vanderbilt if they would benefit me. I am primarily taking them to show that I am no stranger to college rigor and that I crave it.
-While I know most DE courses and AS-level courses do not have corresponding credit grants at Vanderbilt, I take them still for the same reason mentioned above. The Cambridge website on credit policies does state, though, that their courses (A or AS) qualify a student for "advanced standing" at Vanderbilt, whatever that means.

Now, my extracurriculars are muddy. I'm not trying to be the President of every single school club in my town, but rather to have a FEW extracurriculars that are STRONG and show what I love, rather than "a dab here and a dab there". Here are the ones I can think of currently:

-Part time job as a hostess at Old Chicago (by the time of an ED application, I will have been there 1 year and 4 months)
20-35 hours a week, purpose: lower-income family needs money, mainly so my dad doesn't lose all income on gas and food for me and him
-Unpaid lab intern at a local university (by the time of an ED application, I will have been there 6 months)
4 hours a week currently, will increase in July, purpose: understanding of lab prep and chemical creation
-Member of National Honors Society (at high school) (by the time of an ED application, I will have participated in around 100 hours of community service for a little over 1 year)
*i.-Established a ketogenic diet to maintain in order to lower weight; exercise 3-5 days a week (by the time of an ED application, I will have maintained this for 6 months)
purpose: Expands my knowledge regarding nutrition and its effects on cell groups in the body; lots of nutritional research underway; I have also gotten several people at work interested in having me as their mentor so they can start the diet
-Worked on the county Election Commission for the 2018 senatorial election

Remarks:
*i. - I KNOW THIS MAY SOUND LIKE A PETTY EXCUSE FOR AN EC BUT IT TAKES UP A LOT OF MY TIME AS I DOCUMENT EVERYTHING I EAT IN A JOURNAL. I also spend at least 1 hour every day going to the gym and working out if I am not working. You may say, "Health is something everyone should maintain; it's nothing special and not an EC". I just thought I would list it in the circumstance it may be considered as one, especially since I'm coaching coworkers on it.

This EC game is shabby, I know. I'm not like other applicants who start some booming organization or become the founder of everything ever... which is exactly why I want to improve it. I feel as if I pale in comparison to other applicants. Vanderbilt has sent me a lot of mail, but they explicitly tell me things like "You have a really good chance of getting in, but keep in mind that mostly everyone who applies does and it comes down to splitting hairs"
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Replies to: Getting an Edge on Vanderbilt - Chance Me, Advice Heavily Needed

  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited June 24
    Continuation:
    That kind of stuff terrifies me, and I want a distinct competitive advantage. Thus, here are some ways I've thought about using my OTHER talents to enhance my ECs in a unique way:

    -Writing a book about teenage psychological behaviors, tying it to biological triggers, and explaining ways they can manipulate their own mind to their benefit (I have thoughts about writing books every day about such things and would do it if it demonstrated a passion to educate the youth, as I have a lot of meta-cognition going on)
    -Working 30-35 hours a week in July, saving up for and purchasing a graphics tablet, and then creating professional, educational, scientific art (I am an artist who has been self-taught for over 15 years. I have been wanting to do this for a while now and have wanted to create animations, infographics, art books, and other works revolved around biology as well as cultural staples of my life, such as portraits of my coworkers and the diversity in my job)
    -Trying to get a second job at a laboratory as a bench chemist (I haven't had luck with this, as one lab in my town I've emailed requires BS degrees. Still have to contact 2 more, though)

    Any other ideas that may be good for me, PLEASE throw my way.

    Other information you may need regarding admissions chances:
    -First-generation child
    -White, female
    -Lives in-state to Vanderbilt
    -Separated household, one parent, one child, <$30,000 income
    -One completed essay, one in progress, many more drafts to come (if they're needed I'll send you them in a DM for confidential reasons)
    -Class ranking: top 1% (3 out of 423)
    If you've made it this far, I genuinely appreciate the time you've taken to at least read my monologue. This has been simmering in my mind for a while, now. I've recently been consumed with a lot of self-doubt over it. I've had a lot of help from someone else, and I hope s/he continues to help me, but I wanted to branch out some more into this community and get the opinions of others.

    Please, tell me what you think of all this.
    Thank you.
    edited June 24
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  • elena13elena13 826 replies15 postsRegistered User Member
    Congrats on your great grades and scores while holding down a part time job. You're doing really well! I can't answer specific questions about your courses as well as some others could, but I do think colleges like Vanderbilt will view AP classes more favorably than those at your community college. In general you should be taking the most rigorous senior year schedule that you can manage while balancing your other activities. I would not suggest listing your diet activities as an EC, although they could potentially lead to a good essay. I don't think it is worth the time and effort to write a book at this point. How would you finish it and having anything happen to it before application deadlines? Similarly, adding another intense EC right before senior year probably won't help you that much with regard to admissions. I would suggest spending time on your current activities, highlighting who you are as a person/applicant, and writing very strong essays. Make sure to work on multiple revisions and get feedback. Hopefully your writing will help you stand out. Best of luck!!
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thank you for the advice, Elena. I had thought about the cons of my extracurriculars just as you had posted. However, the copious amounts of "Chance Me!" threads with students saying they were captains of this, presidents of that, professional athletes in this sport, and so on seems to kind of dwarf me. I do have a lot of financial setbacks that may be partly the reason for this, but I don't want these people to outshine me because of all of the extracurriculars they have listed (up to 10, whereas I have a meager 3 or 4). It really makes me second guess my chances at a big-league college, with all these prodigies running amok, you know? Would colleges truly be interested in my extracurriculars, given they are passionately dedicated and long term, or are they genuinely weak? I seek a second job at a laboratory in town above most of this, for that would provide me the experience I need for a major in Biochemistry. As far as essays go, I feel as if that's really my strong point. A lot of teachers have told me of their engagement in my works, and how I don't even sound of a girl my age. Not to boast, sorry, but that is truly what they have said. You and others are more than free to assess the validity of their claims by allowing me to send you an example essay I have created, but that's up to you whether or not you want to read it. I haven't read other applicant essays and what I'm running up against, so who knows? I may just be average. I appreciate your optimistic tone, though. I could use more of that in my life, haha.
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  • 4Gulls4Gulls 525 replies0 postsRegistered User Member
    I agree with @elana13 about not including your diet monitoring as one of the your ECs. Your work at the restaurant is very good - especially since you can talk about how you contribute to household income. Having a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility is excellent. The lab work is also good since you are interested in the sciences. Under Honor Society, you mention 100+ hours of community service. What kind of community service did you do? Perhaps you can break some of this out into a separate Common App activity and expand on it a bit. It's a bit late to be adding new ECs. Focus on those you've already got and keep at that. Afraid I don't have any advice on Cambridge vs. Dual vs. AP, but any AP exams that you can take and demonstrate your knowledge by scoring a 5 or 4 are a good thing. Good luck. I think you definitely have a shot, especially if you ED.
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Gotcha, figured that would be a no-no but I thought I'd speak of it just to see.
    Community service wasn't anything extravagant, involved volunteering at school-held events, at a local animal shelter, and donations such as clothing and other necessities. So, to clarify, any ECs I add at this point are useless, even if I start now and keep it up until school is over? Even if I work at a lab? Colleges will just overlook it?
    My internship is fine, but I don't get a lot of hours currently, even though I've asked, which is why I was trying to supplement with an actual job. I wouldn't replace Old Chicago for it, not in a heartbeat, as that job has taught me much more about living than any education has. I would do them in tandem.
    The ONLY reason I am taking Cambridge and DE is because my high school is very poorly funded and not academically driven. The students here have many financial instabilities and domestic issues and don't have enough academic drive to pursue them. I have wanted to try and breach those gaps to unify the small community, but they are proving to be very stubborn and divisive. Thus, they do not offer AP courses, but Cambridge. From an experienced user here, AS level Cambridge is slightly lower standard than AP, as it covers the same material, but only half of it as it is half of a course. A level Cambridge is above AP, as the textbooks are more concrete and the exploration into each topic is deeper. It is a year long course, though. We only have one of those. We do have a lot of Dual Enrollment opportunity, which is lower than both of those options, but the best we have. As a result of this, I'm trying to use both of these "advanced" classes as a backbone for studying AP tests. I want to take Biology and Chemistry, as said, but I have an A level mathematics here, so I don't need to take Calculus, I think. Had we APs, I would have taken as many as I could.
    Thanks for the good luck wish and optimism!
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  • 4Gulls4Gulls 525 replies0 postsRegistered User Member
    Your application will be evaluated within the context of what your school offers. If you are taking the most advanced classes your school offers - and extending yourself even further by self-studying for APs - you are *fine* As for adding another EC, if you can get more lab work that would be great. You might also look for a volunteer opportunity somewhere that ties in with your intended area(s) of study. We don't know where you live so it's hard to make suggestions. Again, good luck.
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks again Gulls. I will try to get more lab work in. I have been looking for volunteer opportunities, but have been unsuccessful. Cleveland, TN, while not entirely rural, is a smaller town in Tennessee with lesser gifted programs. I was hoping my in-state residency wouldn't butcher my chance to Vanderbilt, as someone told me it might. Not sure. If you have any suggestions for this town, let me know! :)
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  • suzy100suzy100 5695 replies58 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 26
    Have you checked to make sure Vandy is affordable? You said your parents are separated. Do you have an idea of what you mom’s income is? I believe Vandy will take that into account.
    edited June 26
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Suzy, I am not exactly sure how financial situations are worked into a Vanderbilt application, as they are need blind. That is why I was considering either applying through QuestBridge or ED I to maximize my chances of admission. They promise to meet 100% full demonstrated financial need, and I have a lot of that. My father is an individual business owner who makes less than 40,000 a year with subtracted necessary business expenses. He also has overpriced medical bills that cannot be paid in addition to thousands requested by the IRS. (Don't know if that matters, some say it does, some say it doesn't, I don't know.) Mom works a very basic entry position at a retirement home as a chef, makes around 18,000 a year. She currently pays child support, but has recently told me she won't be for much longer, as she'll find "some legal loophole" to evade it, as she cannot afford it. I would assume that, by application submission time, she won't be paying child support anymore.
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Update: My dad just told me his net income is around 15,000 if he subtracts his business expenses. 40,000 is his gross income.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2011 replies28 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 26
    I can't chance you but recommend you work with your GC and consider going thru the Questbridge process, which allows you to basically apply ED or EA to 12 schools. https://www.questbridge.org/
    As you know, Vandy is on the partner schools, as well as many other great schools, all of which will meet full need, as defined by them. When you apply for finaid for frosh year 2020/21, you will use 2018 financial information. Some, or all, of your dad's business deductions will be added back to his net income, and your mom's child support payments will also be taken into account when determining need. Good luck.
    edited June 26
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks Mwfan, I have a separate thread already considering the QuestBridge process. I'm having a bit of trouble ranking the schools, let alone finding reliable information about some of them.
    My mother didn't pay child support for most if not all of 2018, if I remember correctly.
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