The college admissions process was recently thrust into the spotlight when dozens of wealthy parents were accused of bribing test administrators and college admissions staff to help their children get into top universities.
While some people are looking for illegal ways to boost their chances of admission to their dream school, we have a much more inspiring, equitable, and legal idea to achieve that goal: activism!
Many YEA Campers over the years have shared with us that the activism that they’ve done following attending YEA Camp actually helped them get into more prestigious colleges than they otherwise would have.
Take, for example, former YEA Camper Madison Cole, who was recently accepted early decision on a full scholarship to Yale. We asked her if she thought her activism or going to YEA Camp helped with her admission and she said, “Yes, definitely!” She wrote:
“I wrote one of my supplements about YEA Camp, and how immersing myself in a community of understanding, kindness, and tolerance changed my perspective on the world and restored my faith in humanity. And it pushed me to start my own organizations at school to stand up for what I believed in.
YEA Camp inspired me to start my own animal rights club at school, and we organized an all-school assembly in association with the environmental club last year to discuss the ethical and environmental impacts of animal agriculture.
“Fighting for these causes, and the eloquence with which I was able to discuss my ventures thanks to YEA Camp, allowed me to make my college application stand out. In discussing these passions, I was able to show to the schools that I am passionate and driven. It worked, and it helped get me into my dream school, Yale University.”
Every summer at YEA Camp, we help campers like Madison build knowledge, skills, confidence, and community. “A life-changing camp for world-changing teens,” YEA Camp helps campers overcome shyness and limiting beliefs, as well as hone valuable skills such as public speaking, networking, learning how to run an effective school club, plan a campaign, and fundraise for whatever causes are important to them.
He hated politics before attending YEA Camp, but got inspired at camp. Soon after, he actually interned on a Congressional campaign. As a 16-year-old, he also spent a week at Standing Rock, and as a senior he spent time volunteering to rebuild in Puerto Rico. Jake told us:
“I applied to my dream school [Loyola University Chicago], which has a pretty selective admission process, but honestly I didn’t have very strong academic records to help me get in. However, I had a lot of activism that I wouldn’t have done without YEA Camp, and I am convinced that without that activism, I would never have been accepted.”
And Jake may be right. When students get involved in activism at a young age, it shows colleges that they are engaged in and willing to contribute to their community, have strong leadership skills, can effectively manage their time, are responsible and well-rounded individuals, are go-getters and are more likely to pursue the issues that are important to them, and can overcome challenges and adversity.
Employers take note too. Jake recently let us know that when he applied for a position doing grassroots canvassing, because of his experience attending and being on staff at YEA Camp and the campaign work he did as a result, he was offered a position not as an intro level canvasser but as a field manager — incredible for someone of his age!
“College essays came easy to me because I could remember all the important memories from YEA Camp like it happened yesterday!” Ethan wrote.
“You all changed my life a couple summers ago. YEA Camp changed my focus in life and opened my mind to compassion and love for everyone. I have gotten into amazing colleges because I learned so much from everyone that one week in July many months ago and I couldn’t have done it without YEA Camp.”
Ethan is now involved in student government, local politics, and journalism at his dream school, Haverford College. He’s already played a huge role there as an activist. As a freshman, he organized shuttles to help students without cars to get to the polls to be able to vote on Election Day. Last year, Ethan was a leader in the successful campaign to get a polling place on campus — a huge accomplishment to increase voter turnout in such an important swing state.
This is the type of impact activists can make on campus, and universities value it.
Of course, getting into a better college isn’t the reason to do activism. With so many problems in the world, making a difference in your community and changing the world around you is the reason to do activism.
However, if you are worried about your grades (like Jake was), know that your activism could actually play a bigger role in getting into your dream university — no bribes, Photoshopping photos and pretending to have played a sport, or cheating on your SATs necessary!
At YEA Camp, we strive to make our activist leadership training accessible for all — both for teens and for YEA Camp for Adults, regardless of socio-economic background. We believe everyone should receive an equitable chance to learn, grow, and succeed by their own merit, not their or their parents’ pocketbook.
Want to impress colleges or employers AND make a bigger difference in the world? Join YEA Camp this summer! If you’re a teen (or parent of a teen) take a look at our YEA Camp session dates and locations here. And if you’re over 18, you can’t be too old to attend YEA Camp for Adults!