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What can I do to increase my chances of getting into an amazing university?

Hi, I'm a sophomore in high school. I feel like it's too late for me to get into a great university and that all my opportunities to do something extraordinary have been missed. I was wondering if there is anything I can do this upcoming summer and junior year so that my application for college stands out.

I am aiming for UC's like UCLA and UC San Diego, Berkeley, and other great universities.

Also, my school provides 2 AP classes junior year and 5 AP classes senior year. There are no other options.
I am thinking of taking a college course this summer at community college as well as getting a job. Will this benefit me? What else will benefit me? #college #university #college-applications #ucla #berkeley

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Jenn’s Answer

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It's definitely not too late! :) This is actually great timing.

Colleges like to see a strong academic record as well as a student who is well-rounded. Challenge yourself academically - whether that's AP classes, a community college class, or an academic extracurricular like debate or math club. As for extracurriculars, something like a summer job/volunteer work could definitely fit this category, as well as any extracurriculars you do during the school year, like sports or theater or the school newspaper. Community service is definitely a great way to learn a lot of skills, bolster your application, and make an impact on the world at the same time.

The reason that colleges like these things is because they want someone who is driven to succeed and passionate about what he or she does. Show passion in what you do - don't just join an extra club because you think it will help; do it because you want to. You will perform better and be happier that way.

You will also be able to showcase your passion and the personal side of yourself in the application essay and in any interviews, when senior year rolls around.

Thank you for your advice Maeve K.

Thanks for the help. I will take some of this advice this summer. I plan on getting a job, volunteering, and studying for the ACT/SAT. I appreciate the help! Rama ..

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Eric’s Answer

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I graduated from UCLA. My high school grades and SAT weren’t stellar and no way I would have been accepted to UCLA out of high school. I ended up going to UCLA only after going to Cal Poly Pomona and transferring as a junior.

To be brutally honest, if your high school grades aren’t top-notch, it will be challenging for you to get into a top-tier school. But if you don’t, don’t feel your life is over. The beautiful thing about our education system is, there are second chances.

You can go to a community college and transfer into a great school. Just be aware that, while at community college, you’ll need to bust your butt and attain really good grades. See it as atonement for any shortcomings and youthful indiscretions you committed while in high school.

Nevertheless, you’re still a sophomore and have ample opportunity to achieve stellar grades and SAT scores. So maybe you’re worried for nothing. But if you don’t get into the university you want, console yourself in knowing that second chances are available.

Good luck!!

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Michele’s Answer

Hi Rama,

Echoing the great comment above, community service and extracurricular activities that interest you are key for showcasing your versatility and depth as a person. However, more specifically this summer you could start to look for summer job shadows and unpaid internships (or even paid--yay!), because those opportunities will provide both experience and networking for your future. When it comes to applying for such programs--persistence is key! Apply to as many jobs, internships, and programs that you are interested as you can and don't give up to easily if you don't hear back immediately. I would say your eagerness to prepare and excitement for college are good signs already. Good luck and please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have more questions.


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Paul’s Answer

Hi Sama,

I'm currently attending UCLA as a third year right now. To put it as honestly as I can, in my opinion of course, experiences triumph anything a GPA or AP classes show. While GPA and AP classes may be deemed as something important that weighs pretty heavily on your application, different experiences whether its an internship, job, or even just who you've talked to (TED talks) are the things that differentiate you from other applications. Experiences convey more about who you are as a person than any number or statistic will, and reviewers truly want to see your story. Don't shy away from putting your interests, hobbies, experiences, culture, or anything that you think tells who you are. You got this, good luck!



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Mallory’s Answer

Hi Rama,

You are not too late! In fact I would argue you are thinking about this at the perfect time. Much of what I included on my college applications were from activities I participated in throughout high school all the way into my senior year. In addition to what Jenn & Michele both recommended to you, I would encourage you to seek out opportunities where you can develop leadership experience as well. Leadership skills will help make you an appealing candidate to many opportunities in life throughout college and your career. You mentioned an interest in volunteering this summer which is great! That would be a great time to lead a project or take ownership for a specific area that you are passionate about. Best of luck!