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I need help writing a college application essay that will maximize my chances of getting into a school that the world considers prestigious. (17 years old, preparing to enter 12th grade at a central California high school as of this writing.)
Throughout high school, I resisted being over-scheduled, and basically eschewed all extracurricular activities in favor of having time to think and read. Even when my parents pushed me into things like tennis, dance, or debate clubs (ugh), I was secure in the belief that I could forgo them and rely on my grades and test scores to get me into a college that was good enough to earn a useful engineering degree and find a few interesting friends. (I was right.)
However, my priorities have changed, and I’m starting to really value the extra leverage prestige can bring me. I plan to start a Less Wrong/80,000 Hours club at whatever university I end up attending. I would have access to more intelligent, interested people at Stanford than at, say, UC Irvine. Perhaps more importantly, the club itself would have a better standing in the outside world if it were founded in Stanford. (This in addition to the fact that Stanford already has a world-class Decisions and Ethics Center that may be able to help.)
This is not to say I now regret not being an officer in a dozen useless clubs or participating in endless extracurricular activities. I do, however, regret not doing at least one really impressive, externally-verifiable thing like writing a book. Nothing in my life would make someone say, “Wow, how the hell did she do that?” If admissions officers could scan my brain, they would find a lot that would make them say, “How the hell could she think that?” – but not much of it would be positive.
So my question is, how do I write a personal statement essay, 250-500 words, that will leave an impression in an admissions officer’s mind, without lying or plagiarizing, given that my adolescence was spent thinking and reading, not *doing*? Each university then has 2-4 follow-up prompts (<= 250 words), such as these from Stanford:
- Stanford students possess intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development.
- Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. What would you want your future roommate to know about you? Tell us something about you that will help your roommate—and us—know you better.
- What matters to you, and why?
The problem with answering these is that all of my *best* answers for these questions (“Newcomblike problems,” “Hey, do you want to join this rationality club I want to start?”, and “optimal philanthropy,” respectively) would take way more than 250 words to explain.
The focus on Stanford, by the way, is because my parents would be extremely unwilling to send me to a university on the East Coast, even if it were really prestigious. But feel free to give me general advice or advice specific to another university. :) If it actually happens, I'll be in a better position to convince them.
May Be Relevant:
I once tutored a girl in Algebra 1 over a period of three months, bringing her grades up from a D to a B. She stopped needing help and I didn’t go looking for another tutee.
I completed NaNoWriMo my freshman year – yeah, it was pretty bad.
I’ve been writing a daily essay on 750 words since December 2010, and have written over 518,000 words in 562 days – writing something 98% of the time, and completing my words 95% of the time. (Although a lot of the missed days were due to glitches in the early website eating my words.)
I entered the Science Fair with a couple friends, hated it because it crushed the spirit of curious inquiry under a predetermined experimental procedure with a predetermined result, and unsurprisingly didn’t win – although we got a certificate from the US Army.
I joined a community service club, hated it because we were just unpaid labor for rich people who didn’t need much help, but stayed anyway because my friends were in it.
General SAT: Reading and Writing scores slightly above the median for most prestigious universities, Math score slightly below. 800's on SAT Math II (Pre-calculus), SAT Biology Molecular, and SAT US History.
5's on AP Calculus AB, AP English Language, and other, less relevant AP's. Five AP classes so far taken, received A's, planning to take 6 more next year.
High probability of a good letter of recommendation from APUSH and Calculus teachers.
Edit: Fixed the hyperlink formatting.
Since this fall I will be applying to college in the USA, I have compiled a hefty list of colleges based on the following criteria:
-co-ed or all men;
-"full-ride" financial aid available.
The problem's that I have quite a lot of choices, hundreds, as a matter of fact. So how should I narrow down my list even further, given that I don't care about other stuff, such as campus size or location?
Moreover, to how many colleges should I apply? As far as I know, mpst people apply to 6-9 colleges, but some even apply to 20! I guess that by applying to as many colleges possible, my chances of admission go up. But, I probably won't have time to write hundreds of admission essays, or the money to send in my application to all these colleges.
Lastly, as my objective is to gain admission somewhere, should I only apply to colleges with acceptance rates above a certain percentage? What should that percentage be?
If anyone would like to take this in private, I'd be more than happy to receive some advice from any member of the community!
My friend is looking for some advice on what he should do after graduating from Harvey Mudd College. Some relevant bits of information about him are that he
- is not a US citizen, so he'd only be able to stay in the US if he's working or at a grad school. He's open to suggestions for other countries.
- is great at math and computer science, including doing real-world programming
- wants to help the world
He's currently looking for a grad school where he could tackle interesting problems with possible high benefits in the future. I've made my own suggestions, but I'd like to get a (somewhat) independent set of opinions from the LW community.
So please suggest away!
I, and a lot of other people my age, are currently facing a pretty big life decision -- where to go to college. Since this is probably going to have a pretty big impact on my life, I'd like to get some more information on this.
Seeing as a lot of people here have probably made this choice already, gone through with some of the consequences of it, and are rational, I decided to ask here.
My current considerations are:
- Academic rigor
- Money (i.e. if a school gives me a full ride, should I go there rather than plunk down $250k over 4 years)
- Ability to do undergrad research
- Likelihood to meet cool people
- Novelty (this one's a lot weaker though)
- Accepted to MIT, University of Southern California, University of Maryland, Swarthmore, Harvey Mudd, Harvard, and CMU
- Getting some form of scholarships at USC and UMD, amount TBD
- Not likely to receive that much need-based financial aid
- Probably going to start in Engineering, might double major with Comp Sci, Statistics, or maybe Math. If I go to CMU, probably Engineering and Public Policy
- I also like and am competent in Economics, History, and English (though, definitely not getting a degree in the last 2)
- Maryland is my home state, and I would know a lot of people at UMD
Most people in the US with internet connections who are reading this site will at some point in their lives graduate high school. I haven't yet, and it seems like what I do afterwards will have a pretty big effect on the rest of my life.*
Given that, I think I should ask for some advice.
Any advice? Anything you wish you knew? Disagreement with the premise? (If you disagree, please explain what to do anyway.)
More specific to the site,
Any advice for high schoolers with a rationalist and singularitarian bent? Who are probably looking at going to college?
Anything particularly effective for working against existential risk?
Any fields particularly useful for rationalists to know?
Any fields in which rationalists would be particularly helpful?
This is intended to be a pretty general reference for life advice for the young ones among us. With a college selection bent, probably. If you're in high school and have a specific situation that you want help with/advice for, please reply to this post with that. I think that a most people have specific skills/background they could leverage, so a one-size-fits all approach seems to be somewhat simplistic.
*I understand that I can always change plans later, but there are many many things that seem to require some level of commitment, like college.
As Unnamed pointed out, also look at this article about undergraduate course selection.