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I feel like my extracurriculars are all over the place

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Hi,

As the college application process nears, I'm getting increasingly concerned with the state of my extracurricular activities. I'm getting the impression that they're all over the place, and that they don't indicate a particular passion for anything. I feel like I've fallen into the trap of being that student who does tons of random ECs for the sake of doing tons of ECs, with nothing to show for it. Here's my list of standout ECs so far:

- Student council PR officer (11th grade + maybe 12th)

- Co-president of this service club called TESOL, where we teach English to Chinese staff and their families at our school (I go to an international school in Beijing) (10th and 11th grades). This was a great experience in that it taught me how to work with other people, but also how to build something from the ground up; I was part of the executive team for the first and second years of the club. We had a goal to to build the club's reputation and set it on track to grow into one of the iconic service clubs at the school; it's something we're still working on, but something we're definitely getting closer to accomplishing.

- Co-founder of a Python programming club where we teach middle schoolers how to program in Python

- Teaching position in a high school programming club a more advanced level (10, 11); will be promoted to co-president in 12th grade

- Worked with some Microsoft engineers to create a map app (that's kind of a stretch; although it's technically true, I don't feel like I gained many valuable experiences from this; it was mostly us doing work and them critiquing it) (10th grade). Probably won't be including this in my apps, but I thought I'd mention it here just in case.

- YouTube channel where I post transcriptions of songs by Pentatonix (my favorite band, anyone else??). This is something I am very proud of and hold very dear; many choir directors and a cappella groups have reached out to me thanking me for my transcriptions, sending me performances and gifts and whatnot, it's all very heartwarming. Maybe not important, but the channel has 3,600 subscribers as of today; I hope to surpass 5 or 6 thousand by the time apps roll around. (started 9th grade)

- Rubik's Cube, aka speedcubing, as a hobby (This has become a big part of my identity. I've done pretty well at competitions, and this is definitely something I enjoy doing in my free time.)

I'm not really too concerned with GPA or SAT/ACT scores. So, could this list of extracurriculars potentially hurt my application? I plan on studying something like neuroscience in college, and then going to med school (computer science/programming is fun as a hobby, but it's not something I would study in university. I find that neuroscience is one of the only things I've wanted to keep learning more about ever since I was a child), but nothing in my ECs indicates an outstanding passion or interest in that field. I have tried getting internships at Chinese hospitals, but that's really hard to do here. I'm considering doing a research project for ISEF with my friend next year, but I'm still looking for a topic I could 1. do in China, and 2. actually be passionate about conducting research on, so it's still tentative. Besides, adding even more to my plate might not be good for me (all of the above ECs + Chem, math, bio HL + English and chinese A lang lit, psych SL). The only thing I have to show for a major like neuroscience is my grades in the STEM subjects + a 3-week neuroscience course I took at Columbia in the summer that I enjoyed very much. I'm entering the 11th grade, so I still have time to make some changes. I know I don't need to list every EC, but I'm having trouble deciding which ones to drop. Should I drop some and add new ones, or is this whole situation something I can make up for in my essays? Thanks for everyone's help!

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59 minutes ago, georgedodia said:

Hi,

As the college application process nears, I'm getting increasingly concerned with the state of my extracurricular activities. I'm getting the impression that they're all over the place, and that they don't indicate a particular passion for anything. I feel like I've fallen into the trap of being that student who does tons of random ECs for the sake of doing tons of ECs, with nothing to show for it. Here's my list of standout ECs so far:

- Student council PR officer (11th grade + maybe 12th)

- Co-president of this service club called TESOL, where we teach English to Chinese staff and their families at our school (I go to an international school in Beijing) (10th and 11th grades). This was a great experience in that it taught me how to work with other people, but also how to build something from the ground up; I was part of the executive team for the first and second years of the club. We had a goal to to build the club's reputation and set it on track to grow into one of the iconic service clubs at the school; it's something we're still working on, but something we're definitely getting closer to accomplishing.

- Co-founder of a Python programming club where we teach middle schoolers how to program in Python

- Teaching position in a high school programming club a more advanced level (10, 11); will be promoted to co-president in 12th grade

- Worked with some Microsoft engineers to create a map app (that's kind of a stretch; although it's technically true, I don't feel like I gained many valuable experiences from this; it was mostly us doing work and them critiquing it) (10th grade). Probably won't be including this in my apps, but I thought I'd mention it here just in case.

- YouTube channel where I post transcriptions of songs by Pentatonix (my favorite band, anyone else??). This is something I am very proud of and hold very dear; many choir directors and a cappella groups have reached out to me thanking me for my transcriptions, sending me performances and gifts and whatnot, it's all very heartwarming. Maybe not important, but the channel has 3,600 subscribers as of today; I hope to surpass 5 or 6 thousand by the time apps roll around. (started 9th grade)

- Rubik's Cube, aka speedcubing, as a hobby (This has become a big part of my identity. I've done pretty well at competitions, and this is definitely something I enjoy doing in my free time.)

I'm not really too concerned with GPA or SAT/ACT scores. So, could this list of extracurriculars potentially hurt my application? I plan on studying something like neuroscience in college, and then going to med school (computer science/programming is fun as a hobby, but it's not something I would study in university. I find that neuroscience is one of the only things I've wanted to keep learning more about ever since I was a child), but nothing in my ECs indicates an outstanding passion or interest in that field. I have tried getting internships at Chinese hospitals, but that's really hard to do here. I'm considering doing a research project for ISEF with my friend next year, but I'm still looking for a topic I could 1. do in China, and 2. actually be passionate about conducting research on, so it's still tentative. Besides, adding even more to my plate might not be good for me (all of the above ECs + Chem, math, bio HL + English and chinese A lang lit, psych SL). The only thing I have to show for a major like neuroscience is my grades in the STEM subjects + a 3-week neuroscience course I took at Columbia in the summer that I enjoyed very much. I'm entering the 11th grade, so I still have time to make some changes. I know I don't need to list every EC, but I'm having trouble deciding which ones to drop. Should I drop some and add new ones, or is this whole situation something I can make up for in my essays? Thanks for everyone's help!

Doing ECs for the sake of doing them is indeed unrecommended, but that shouldn't stop you from doing a wide range of things if you're genuinely interested in them. The most important thing however, is that it's all up to you as to which extracurriculars you list. I suggest only talking about the ones that both mean the most to you, as in you contributed most meaningfully in those areas, and they help give your profile a decipherable shape. For example, 3 of your ECs -- Python progrmaming, position programming, and Microsoft internship -- all help convey a genuine enthusiasm as well as proficiency in software. Community service in your case is great as you actually did something, so TESOL is worth including as well. Honestly, and considering how you feel about Rubiks and your Youtube channel, there's no reason to leave those off too. If anything I'd just exclude the student council stuff since that's overrated and judging by the lack of description you don't feel that strongly about. 

Again, "doing ECs for the sake of doing them" is just a general rule of thumb and can't be applied to every individual. Your case is unique, but with a deft hand you can convey all the characteristics of yourself without seeming superficial. I suggest discussing with a counselor as to what kind of profile you want to convey to colleges, and then prioritize how you want to explain your ECs based off of that. 

Best of luck! 

 

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I want to say that it is very impressive that you are doing all this.

It could be a strategy to use different combination of ECs for different schools. If the school emphasizes teamwork, you can talk about TESOL, programming clubs, maybe student council. If you want to present yourself as innovative, TESOL, probably the advanced programming club, and the app. For personal growth, you can probably use all of them. It's hard to extensively write about the Youtube and speedcubing in any essay, but just list them if the school give a place to list ECs. In essays just focus on how you worked with others, solved problems, . 

I assume for next semester, you will still be doing TESOL, student council, and the advanced programming club. Perhaps obvious, but for TESOL and programming you should probably focus on training new leaders: let them do some of co-president's tasks, even if they might make a lot of mistakes early on. This is the only way you can manage your course load and do research. I think your research should be a highlight and so work on that instead.

Finally, there are many ways to med school. Even without physics, you can still consider biology, chemistry, biochemistry, biomolecuar engineering (maybe), life science, health science, or even physiology. Good luck! Wish you the best

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