Friday, November 14, 2008

Open Discussion - 1

Here is our first open discussion.

Post a comment on anything - any questions on deadlines, advice, the application process, anything! You can post your stats (SATs, GPA, activities, schools interested in) and we'll tell you (honestly) what we think your chances are of getting in to the colleges you want, and what direction you should take to improve. Everything is anonymous, so please ask all questions on your mind! Remember, we were in high school not too long ago.


  1. Hello,
    I am a Canadian grade 12 student and will be applying to the IV leagues. I have been doing SAT practice tests and scoring about 1950 so far but I will be meeting with a tutor so I am confident I can improve my scores. I have many extra curricular activities such as pottery club, peer tutoring, crew coxswain, ski club, executive/treasurer of a school club against discrimination and many others. The teachers who are writing my recommendations are very enthusiastic. My main concern is my GPA it is on the lower side (still above 80%) due to extenuating circumstances. In my freshman year alone I missed over 4 months of school due to a heart transplant. During my high school career I've also had to deal with 2 emergency intestinal surgeries, a foot surgery, rejection, complications with my immunosuppressant medications and my dad being diagnosed with lymphoma. I am ensuring the institutions I apply to are well aware of my circumstances and I am hoping to do well on my SAT to prove my competence. Also, my college essay connects my unique life experience with my future career goals. Thank you for this great resource. I look forward to hearing what you believe my honest chances are.

  2. Wow! Given your circumstances, I would say that you are doing extremely well for yourself. Your extracurricular are pleasantly diversified, showing that you have a legitimate interest in your activities. It seems that you do have a commitment to community service, but colleges would love if you partook in more volunteer opportunities.

    I am very sorry to hear about your misfortunes, and it is proper to inform the institutions of your setbacks. They will be taken heavily into consideration, and well, quite honestly, significantly increase your chances of admission. In some of the essay opportunities you have, try to show the universities how you've overcome these impediments, and how they've helped you grow as a person.

    However, you can ENSURE your admittance with a great SAT score, to, as you said, prove your competency. Although the SAT is not the be-all end-all, a 2200+ for you would guarantee admission. When will you be taking the SAT? You may want to consider taking the December one and the one in January. Also, don't forget to take the required SAT II's. Most Ivy's require that you've done 2-3 of these; check with each school to see which ones you need. Be wary that there aren't many test dates (or time for preparation) left.

    However, even with your current credentials I think you have an good chance at all the Ivy's and other top schools. Apply to many of such schools, even if you don't think you'd want to go there now, so you have a good breadth to choose from later.

    Best of Luck,

  3. Hello. I am Lee and I just applied to Stanford University's Early Action Program. I'm the kind of person who stresses over my decisions so i want to ask you about my chances of getting in.

    First of all, I am proud to call myself a very well-rounded person who has excelled in all areas. I have been the President of student government in 9th and 12th grade and has received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award and the Presidential Service Award for my work. I am also involved in sports: track and basketball and had won awards in both areas including a championship in basketball (also was the captain of the team) and several top place finishes in track. I have always been involved in clubs and is right now the Pre-Med President. What do you think of my extracurricular activities? will these be enough to get their attention?

    Now to the Academics. I currently have a 4.0 GPA with a 32 ACT. what bums me out is my SAT grade, which is a mere 2030. I hear from a lot of people that grades are very important in the admission process and i know my SAT grade is not in the top 99 percentile around the nation. I am giving my self a 50/50 shot at getting into the school, but somehow i feel that is even too high. maybe you can give me a boost of confidence?


  4. One more thing about my academics. I have always taken the hardest courses possible. will that help too?

  5. Lee,

    It seems like you have a good amount of community service, which is the criteria colleges seem to be scrutinizing nowadays. Based on the information you gave me, your admission at the early decision time would depend on your essays.

    But don't worry - getting accepted early action in a top university is really difficult. I feel they mostly reserve spots for those who are legacy students and those who are beyond-the-top, overqualified students.

    You have good extracurriculars, but to be honest so does everyone else applying at this level. That's why it's really hard to get accepted early decision.

    In all honesty, I think you will get deferred to regular decisions, but don't worry! I'll probably write a blog about it sometime, but in the time period before regular decisions you can send the college additional information (if they accept it) about what you've done in the time since your application. I'm not entirely sure and I'd have to research it first, but you might also be able to take the SAT again and send an updated score. You can call the admissions office and see what they prefer.

    I'm sorry if I didn't give you a boost of confidence, but please realize that if you're not accepted early action, then you still have a second, better chance, where you'll be compared to an applicant pool on the same terms as you.

    Don't stress out!

  6. thank you sohan. your answers have helped me a lot in adjusting my mind to prepare for the college's decision. i kind of knew my chances of going into the EA but decided to try anyways.. hopefully i will stand out as one of the few bright spots in the pool of applicants during regular decision. again, thank you for starting this forum in the first place and thanks for answering me. i may have questions in the future so please check this thread when you have time.

  7. one more thing sohan. i would really like you to look at my resume and i would really like you to make some suggestions of which clubs or activities should i join in these last days of college application.

    National Honor Society (2005-2008)
    Academy Honor Roll (2005)
    Honor Roll (2006-2008)
    Quiz Bowl team member (2006-2008)
    Academic Betterment Competition (2004)
    MathCount participant (2004)
    Mississippi School for Math and Science Competition Participant (2008)
    Junior Engineering Society Bridge Building Competition Hosted by Mississippi State University (2007)
    Academic Betterment Competition 4th Place in Physics
    Junior Engineering Society Bridge Building Competition Judges Award
    Senior High Student Council Vice President (2008)
    Junior High Student Council President (2005)
    Pre-Med Club President (2008)
    Club Student Ambassador (2008)
    Junior Engineering Society Event Organizer (2008)
    Junior High Basketball Co-Captain (2005)
    President’s Volunteer Service Award (2005)
    Prudential Spirit of Community Certificate of Merit for hurricane Katrina relief efforts (2005)
    Jackson Academy Leadership Award (2005)
    Jackson Academy Certificate of Award for outstanding accomplishments during tenure as the Junior High Student Council President (2005)

    Work Experience
    Department of Otolaryngology Lab Assistant at University of Mississippi Medical Center
    (2 weeks 2008)

    Department of Surgery Lab Assistant at University of Mississippi Medical Center
    (2 months 2006)

    Volunteer Experience
    Habitats for Humanity Blitz Build (2006)
    Organized Jr. High Student Council to distribute supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson Mississippi (2006)
    Big Brother/ Big Sister

    High School Basketball (2007)
    High School Track and Field (2006-2008)
    Junior High Basketball (2005)
    Junior High Track and Field (2005)
    High School MPSAA Triple Jump 3rd place
    High School MPSAA Triple Jump 4th place
    High School MPSAA High Jump 4th place
    Junior High MPSAA basketball champion
    Junior High basketball intimidator award
    Junior High MPSAA triple jump 1st place
    Junior High MPSAA high jump 2nd place

    Book Club
    Chess Club
    Coffee Club
    Habitat for humanity
    Junior Engineering Society
    Latin Club
    Obscure Sports Club
    Pre-Med Club
    Young Democrats

  8. Lee,

    Applying EA was a good decision; don't doubt yourself. Because you applied EA, in the regular applicant pool you will already have an advantage, if you don't get accepted EA in the first place.

    Your resume looks great. I have a question though: in these "junior high" positions, do you mean middle school, as in 8th grade? I'm not completely sure if those achievements are apt for a college application; you can double check with your guidance counselor or call the admissions office to see if they want to see your achievements in middle school. I recommend calling the school; it's not really a big hassle and you'll get definite answers. Plus, you shouldn't have to give your name to get your question answered.

    Your strong community service will be highly beneficial in college admissions. Perhaps you may want to consider writing some of the short essays on it. I feel like it really compensates for your average SAT score - no offense.

    As for what other clubs/activities you should partake in, I would recommend that you don't join any new clubs. Instead, do something BIG in the clubs you are already in. Then, you can write an essay about it and send it in the colleges to which you applied. They love to see that students keep working after their applications. However, if you just join a bunch of new clubs, they see this as a ploy to simply impress them, and they'll know that you can't be much committed to these activities, that they are just there to pad your resume.

    So you would be better of organizing something big in one of the clubs you already in, like something along the lines of a fundraiser for charity.

    And I will always check what comments I get, because I get an email every time someone comments =)

  9. thank you sohan. my junior high stuff is from the 9th grade so i don't think that will affect any part of my resume. As for doing BIG for one of the clubs, i'm already working on a project as the president of the premed club. thank you for answering my questions, my counselor is basically a dumbass (sorry, but she is) so i have to get my answers from somewhere else. and thank god there are someone out there that actually cares!

  10. Hi!
    I really want to know how you can join the Quiz Bowl? Thank you.

  11. hi, i just want to respond to the quiz bowl thing. i joined my school's quiz bowl team by just asking my teacher, but i heard there are schools that requires tryouts. just get in touch with your school's staff and see if you can join. good luck

  12. one more thing sohan, you said that everyone at this level will have a similar resume as me. so how competitive do you think I'll be among those who do what i did? about how many people do you know in your class that has about the same thing i have? and i'm chinese. do you think it will be harder to get in as a minority? thank you

  13. Thanks Lee for answering that question about Quiz Bowl.

    When I say "everyone at this level will have a similar resume as you," I mean that students at your level have accomplishments of similar magnitude and scope, and they are not necessarily the same exact activities.

    These "similar" accomplishments are usually the academic ones - e.g., NHS, quizbowl, honor roll, math counts, and other academic achievements/clubs. I feel that such distinctions, as well as a certain GPA, SAT score, etc., are just about required to reach a certain tier in the applicant pool.

    What you do besides your academics (or if you have extraordinary academic achievements, such as winning a national science fair or the likes), sets you apart in this tier. To clarify, everyone applying to top schools is undoubtedly smart, but you have to show that you are committed, diligent, charismatic, service-oriented, and a whole slew of adjectives.

    For example, your service work for victims of Hurricane Katrina is impressive and will set you apart. What you write about in your essays will set you apart. If you wrote a superb essay about how you helped out victims of Hurricane Katrina, I think that would put you at another level, because it's something that not every student can do, and it reveals something about your character.

    You can really divulge this "extra" information about yourself in your essays, where you want to reveal your character.

    On a side note, I find that the top colleges like students who not only smart, but also are EXTREMELY proficient in on area or activity rather than someone who is generally well-rounded. If you do something BIG in one club or activity, it counts more than participating in numerous clubs and sports teams. In the end, it all depends on how you spin it to make it sound important, I suppose.

    Unfortunately, being Chinese in college applicant pools is NOT a minority, and it will be more difficult to get in. Affirmative action, in fact, works against you, but that is not a topic I want to delve into today.

  14. Hi Sohan, thanks for taking time to read my profile, I am currently a high school senior in DC and I am originally from Ethiopia, I have a 3.7 and an 1800 on my SAT. I will take the ACT in the coming days. I have done a lot of extracurriculum stuff including co-captain soccer, president youth choir, preventing underage drinking, tutoring young kids, collecting books to send to africa. I have very good reccomendetions and i am currently writing my essays. With all this stuff and the fact that i am culturally diverse, does that give me an edge over the regular applicant? Schools are Cornell, brown, nyu, univ. of roch., boston u and some more. Thank you so much.

  15. Hello again Sohan. This time, I have a small question for you since I've already finished applying to schools. I was just wondering when will I hear from schools that applied to? a lot of people keep on telling me that I will know in early April, but there are some that tell me that I will get it at the end of Feb. When will the decisions come down exactly? I mean do schools keep their promise of letting everyone know the decision in April? or is there an exception?

  16. When you hear back from a school will depend on the school itself. Some schools have rolling admissions, which means you'll be told once they review your application, and others have set dates. Again, some schools will tell you in late February, mid March, or the first week of April.

    They will absolutely keep their promise of letting you know by the deadline; the only exception could be a lag due to mail; e.g., if you're an international student.

    You should check with the individual school to let you know how/when you'll find out, whether it's by mail or online, by checking out their websites.

  17. Hello, I am a junior in a high school in California and I was wondering if applying early decision is better for me or not. I have always wanted to apply to Cornell University as an interior design major in the school of human ecology. But my junior year grades are not as good as I expected and I heard that it was better to apply as regular decision if your junior year grades are not that great. My cumulative GPA so far is 3.5(UW). But I have taken the hardest courses possible with many APs. My SAT score is 2040 and I'm planning to take it again in October. I also took SAT II Korean, Chemistry, US History, and Math IIC. My Extracurricular activities include varsity golf team (MVP and captain), strong art portfolio and art-related awards, and volunteer at a nursing home for four years. I am in few others clubs including NHS and photography club. I am also involved in my church as a preschool ministry teacher and mission team.
    I just want to know if I actually have a chance at Cornell and if I should apply early or regular decision. And also, is it true that some schools have higher acceptance rates than others? Thank you so much.

  18. The fact that you're taking the hardest courses possibles balances out any GPA deficiency. Taking the SAT again is definitely a good idea, as you will want to boost that score. Your extracurriculars seem good, and as long as you raise your SAT you will have a good chance of acceptance. (just a note of consolation: if you are not able to do better on the SAT, then don't despair. A close friend of mine was accepted into Human Ecology with a score of 2000).

    As far as applying early decision, I cannot say anything for sure. From what I've seen in many others' cases, applying early decision never hurts, but only helps. If you're sure that Cornell is your dream school, then do it. With your credentials, I can see you getting deferred to regular decisions at the least. still, be sure to send them your updated SAT score.

    Lastly, it is true that some schools have higher acceptance rates than others. I'm not sure whether you're referring to schools as in the colleges within Cornell, or just different universities in general, but both are true. For example, Engineering is the most difficult college to get accepted to for Cornell's undergrad (I'm not too sure about the architecture school, though). Cornell also has the highest acceptance rate among the Ivy League schools, I believe.