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How can I make myself more competitive to get into college during this quarantine?

I am a junior in High school with decent grades. I don't have much leadership position but I have played basketball for 4 years so far and track for 2 years. I don't have any volunteer experience and I was planning on this summer but due to covid 19 I can't. #volunteer #sports #college #job


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John’s Answer

College admissions are highly competitive Simratpreet. The only way to beat this strong competition is to take time to put together a strong college application that stands out from the rest.

5 TIPS FOR DEVELOPING A COMPETITIVE APPLICATION

Admissions officers will all want to know why you want to attend their school, why school is the logical next step for you, and how your degree will benefit your master career plan. Practice telling your story to family members, friends, mentors, professors, and career counselors. Ask for help to refine your pitch, and look out for any parts that people find particularly engaging. Be sure to highlight those parts for admissions officers!

1.) APPLICATION ESSAY TOPIC – Don’t just pick something that would be easiest to work on. It is more important to choose a topic that will tell the reader something about you. Pick an experience that moved you and talk about how it changed you. Or pick a learning experience and talk about what you learned from it. Emphasize what you will bring to the school and what you hope to get from the time spent at that college.

2.) STRONG LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION – Colleges look for students who show initiative, leadership qualities, and a strong community spirit. Reflecting on your extracurricular activities is a great way to show them that you have what they are looking for. In the absence of extracurricular activities, Choose a teacher who knows you well enough to write a compelling letter recommending you as an asset to any college that accepts you. Ask early so your chosen writer has sufficient time to think about what to say. Provide the chosen writer with all relevant details about your grades, achievements, strengths and goals so that they can write a letter that reflects all of these qualities.

3.) PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS – With all other aspects being equal between you and your competitors, it comes down to the little details and these can make or break your application. Before submitting your application to any college, go through the college website and re-check their requirements. Have they asked for one recommendation letter or two? Do they require you to submit ACT / SAT scores? Make sure your application complies with all of their requirements.

4.) REVIEW YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE – Almost everybody has done it at some time or the other—posted embarrassing photographs on Facebook, made inappropriate comments on other people’s posts, and generally used social networking sites for our personal amusement. It may have seemed like harmless fun at the time but from a college’s perspective, your online presence is a reflection of who you are. And yes, they will check to see what they can find about your social media pages.

5.) LINKEDIN – Building a Student Profile. Your profile headline gives people a short, memorable way to understand who you are in a professional context. Think of the headline as the slogan for your professional brand, such as “Student, University USA.” Check out the profiles of students and recent alums you admire for ideas and inspiration. LinkedIn is not Facebook. If you choose to post a photograph — and we recommend that you do — select a professional, high-quality headshot of you alone. That means no party photos, cartoon avatars, or cute pics of your puppy.

Hope this was Helpful Simratpreet

Thank You Jemima. “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.” – Erma Bombeck John Frick

Than You Aun for Your Support. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia John Frick

Thank You Dexter for your Continued Support. I appreciate your faith in my abilities and will certainly do my very best to continue to help the students. John Frick

Thank You Daniel. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi John Frick

Than You Winson. “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr. John Frick

Thank you Ro for your continued support. Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much. John Frick

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Kimberly’s Answer

Hi Simratpreet,

First of all, do not be too hard on yourself for not having volunteer experience yet. It sounds like sports and school alone have you kept you pretty busy in high school so far. The fact that you basketball and track on your resume is already pretty impressive. If sports are a big part of your life, I would suggest highlighting on those aspects when you fill out college applications, send in essays, and meet with any college admission staff. It is definitely not too late to take on something new, but do not feel like what you have done so far is not good enough.

If you are interested in volunteering this summer you can always participate in some sort of virtual online volunteer experience. There are many opportunities available such as reading to children, calling senior citizens, tutoring, sending cards to patients in hospitals, etc. As the months go on, there will hopefully be in-person volunteer opportunities that open up as well. Keep checking social media and your local community boards for updates and new opportunities to help out in your area.

Good luck!

Great post and couldn't agree more! Maggie Valerio Parker

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Arleen’s Answer

Hi, Simratpreet!

While these are indeed unprecedented times, it is not impossible to get some volunteer experience during these summer months. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer virtually or responsibly. For example, there are a lot of organizations focused on distance learning right now so you could tutor or read to kids via video call. Also, a lot of animal shelters are looking for help so you could volunteer to walk/exercise dogs, or build beds, or make enrichment toys for the animals. They are also hosting a lot of virtual or socially distanced adoption events, so maybe you could help with something like that.

My advice is to search for an opportunity that fits your strengths and can be performed remotely and safely. Everyone is having to adapt to this pandemic and now more than ever need help. Find those opportunities and they will certainly strengthen your college applications and resume by showing initiative and willingness to serve your community.

Best of luck!

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Courtney’s Answer

Simratpreet, this is a great question especially considering what life looks like nowadays. COVID has made it difficult to do things that were once simple but that doesn't mean the opportunity isn't there.

If you are truly interested in volunteering, there are numerous virtual volunteering opportunities as well as other local opportunities you may not have thought of (delivering groceries, building care packages, or helping your local food bank). It can be as simple as googling "volunteer opportunities during COVID Lathrop, CA." Start by doing some light research and see what options you do have. Community engagement is important and also intertwines with volunteering - talk to your parents about setting up a bi-weekly trash clean up day around your town/neighborhood. Just remember to keep a journal/log of when and what you do.

Another thing that will help with your college application is the addition of extra-curricular activities. Sports are great and really emphasize that you are a team player and have the ability to stay focused despite a rigorous schedule. However, you want to also appeal to admission committee members that do not relate to sports. For example, are there any clubs that you would be interested in joining? Since you will be a senior next year, perhaps there is a program that you can join to help incoming freshman?

A few last thoughts - with the uncertainty of what the next few months look like, studying for the SAT/ACT may also be a good option for the summer. See if there are any free resources online that you can start to review. Also, if you know what career you would like to pursue, see about job shadowing. Even though you may not be able to do it right now, create a network and reach out to people so when things do get back to normal, you already have your contacts in place. Finally, letter of recommendations can add a lot of value to your application. If you do not have people lined up to write those for you, start considering who you would like to ask and speak to them to see if they would consider writing a letter for you.

I really hope this helps, continue to work hard and do your best to keep those grades up for your final year. It will all pay off!

Best,

Courtney

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Arleen’s Answer

Hi, Simratpreet!

While these are indeed unprecedented times, it is not impossible to get some volunteer experience during these summer months. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer virtually or responsibly. For example, there are a lot of organizations focused on distance learning right now so you could tutor or read to kids via video call. Also, a lot of animal shelters are looking for help so you could volunteer to walk/exercise dogs, or build beds, or make enrichment toys for the animals. They are also hosting a lot of virtual or socially distanced adoption events, so maybe you could help with something like that.

My advice is to search for an opportunity that fits your strengths and can be performed remotely and safely. Everyone is having to adapt to this pandemic and now more than ever need help. Find those opportunities and they will certainly strengthen your college applications and resume by showing initiative and willingness to serve your community.

Best of luck!

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Katelyn’s Answer

Colleges definitely like to see that you played sports and were involved at your school. Good grades and a solid SAT/ACT score is also important to them. Volunteer experience also is good to include on your application and any part time job. I would suggest looking for a part time job, a lot of restaurants and stores are hiring right now as states start to reopen. You can also look at volunteer opportunity at food banks, religious organizations, and animal shelters, they will need volunteers.

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Paul’s Answer

Hi Simratpreet,

You have been given a lot of good advice so I won't add to that, but maybe give you something to consider. There are still plenty of great volunteer opportunities even through this pandemic.

What I think is more important is how do you set yourself apart from the rest of the candidates. Think about your personal story and how you got to where you are today. How has this pandemic changed your story and what do you want to do to learn or improve yourself through it?

Whatever you can add to Simratpreet's story that got you to where you are today will propel you through tomorrow and the college you want to get into. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable with how you feel, it might be hard, but it will help you figure out what makes you unique and different than any other candidate.


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Austin’s Answer

Hi Simratpreet,

I hope you are doing well during this time. This is a great question to ask and the first thing I would suggest is focusing on your college application essay. Remembering that this will be an unusual year for applying to colleges so depending on the school, they may not require test scores. If that happens to be the case for whichever school you apply for, your essay will be a big component. So start early, review with your high school counselor and even go to a teacher (possibly an English Teacher) who could even help shape up your essay for you.

And for volunteering, there are several opportunities online that have been created because of COVID. Just be creative with searching online for great ideas to give back. The biggest thing is thinking out of the box during this summer to see how you can maximize your time to better shape your application and add one more element to your already solid grades and athletic experience. If you can do that, you'll be more than set and will certainly get into college.

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Anthony’s Answer

Hi, Simratpreet. I am happy to help answer your question. Being involved with athletics, and in your case multiple teams, means a lot to colleges and their admissions office. It aimed that you have good time management skills and are passionate about something. Make sure you highlight any of your accomplishments during your playing career, including any leadership roles that you held on the teams.

You will also want to make sure that your grades and test scores are strong and meet the requirements of the schools you are applying to. Not meeting these standards is the easiest way to miss out on the opportunity to get into a school of interest.

I would also recommend talking to your teachers and getting string letters of recommendation from them. Also ask for help in writing your personal statement to make sure it appropriately and effectively highlights what you can offer to the University. This is where you can highlight what you have learned from sports, as mentioned above.

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Abhinav’s Answer

Hi Simratpreet, you are a well-balanced candidate for college but as you know admissions for many schools are extremely competitive and do not just depend on test scores and GPA. The number one piece of advice I can give to you is to tell your story through your application. You want to use the essays to your advantage by connecting your meaningful experiences to your personal traits. You want to be as authentic as possible when you are talking about your activities and your essays.

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Matthew’s Answer

There are a few things you can do to stick out.

You can get certifications (microsoft, adobe, code)

Start learning another language (free apps or pay for online classes)

Start a non-profit organization, and find a way to give back to your community.

Email universities some of your sports clips, and see if any are looking for walk-ons

Use this time to prep for the SAT or ACT.

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Dexter’s Answer

Hi Simratpreet,

You can always volunteer remotely through catchafire.org. :)

--
Dexter

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Kuei-Ti’s Answer

Others have mentioned virtual volunteering. Here's one I know - translating for audiopedia: https://www.audiopedia.org/volunteer

In addition to virtual volunteering, consider taking MOOCs and maybe getting the certificates. MOOCs are usually free and self-paced, but their certificates aren't always free. Coursera, edX, and Udacity are good places to start.

As others mentioned, you can prepare for SAT and/or ACT. Also, if you want to take AP exams without taking AP classes, you can also prepare for AP exams using online resources such as MOOCs.

Kuei-Ti recommends the following next steps:

Do virtual volunteering.
Take MOOCs.
Prepare for SAT, ACT, and/or AP exams.

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Juhi’s Answer

Hi Simratpreet,

I think a lot of students will be in the same position as you when applying to college but the main thing is to make the most of the situation you are in which is what the admissions board would want to see! There are several volunteering programs that you could help online by gathering funds, raising awareness or hosting online events.

I wouldn't say volunteering with a specific org is as important as helping a social cause which is important to you. Find something you are passionate about and create some unique ideas as to how you would want to support the cause during COVID times.


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Ai’s Answer

Hi Simratpreet! There are plenty of volunteer opportunities even though this pandemic, such as Cards for Smiles and Zooniverse. There are a lot of great virtual volunteer opportunities that would be great to do during this quarantine. You can also start/work on project on your own to add to your college applications and resumes!

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Jonathan’s Answer

Find a way to give back! I think the next few months we'll be faced with unprecedented times and showing that you were proactive will be important in your upcoming college admissions applications.

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Lauren’s Answer

Hi Simratpreet,

I hope you are staying safe during all of this. My recommendation would be to search for volunteer opportunities online or consider things that are related to COVID-19. You could consider canned food drives, mask drives, etc. You can differentiate yourself and help others in an otherwise extraordinarily difficult time.

Thanks,

Lauren

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Ai’s Answer

Hi Simratpreet! There are plenty of volunteer opportunities even though this pandemic, such as Cards for Smiles and Zooniverse. There are a lot of great virtual volunteer opportunities that would be great to do during this quarantine. You can also start/work on project on your own to add to your college applications and resumes!

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Daniel’s Answer

Hello, Simratpreet,

Hope you're doing well!

One way you can give yourself an advantage is establishing your professional presence online. Creating an online foundation for yourself may prove beneficial for your future career endeavors. This can be done in a variety of ways.

Daniel recommends the following next steps:

Create a LinkedIn Account: Think of your profile as a master resume for all your accomplishments, as well as career opportunities that sound interesting. Connect with as many professionals as you can!
Build a Website: This is your digital footprint on the Internet! Use it as a personal portfolio to showcase your favorite in-game basketball photos or a brief overview of who you are as a person. Many job applications accept personal sites as supplemental material.
Write a Personal Blog: Writing skills are required across all industries - a great way to sharpen that tool is writing about anything that interests you. Compose a detailed observation of Michael Jordan's greatest post moves, write a letter to your future self, or list your favorite homecooked meals.

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Alycia’s Answer

Hey Simratpreet!

This is a great question; a lot of high school students are in your position due to worldwide isolation, and I can only imagine the struggle of completing college applications right now. What a lot of students don't utilize is that the hardships they've been through make them stronger. Have you had a hardship in your life that may have set you back in some way, and made it harder to focus on your grades or take on more extracurriculars? Almost four years ago I wrote on one of my personal statement essays that I planned on working in medicine because I wanted to serve stigmatized groups like my younger brother, who has low-functioning autism. Now I'm a pre-physician assistant student who is looking to shadow practicing PA-Cs who work with special needs children.

On another note, you could even write about how you were planning on gaining volunteer experience this summer, however the pandemic made you have other plans. Look into virtual volunteering opportunities; check out dosomething.org. They offer volunteer credit for completing at-home activities like creating face masks or sharing stories your grandparents. All in all, I would try to find the silver lining in all this and use it to your advantage.

Good luck!

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Angela D.’s Answer

Great question! You might want to check out Frieda T.'s question and all the answers regarding online volunteering/opportunities. She listed her location as Alamo, CA and asked her question on 4/30 under #volunteer #college. I listed the websites that I recommended below. Hope this helps, best, Dr. B

Angela D. recommends the following next steps:

https://www.operationwarm.org/blog/25-volunteer-jobs-to-do-from-home/
https://www.dosomething.org/us/articles/9-places-to-volunteer-online-and-make-a-real-impact
https://www.goodwill.org/blog/volunteer/build-your-career-by-volunteering-online/
https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en
https://www.volunteermatch.org/search/virtual

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