Admissions Secrets From Someone Who Has No Idea

Consider this, if you will, the second part of my intro post. The last one was basically the story of how I ended up at Stanford. This one is (hopefully) going to be more like why I got in: an elaboration on a few specific things I did or had that may have helped me along the way. But first, just so we’re all clear, I really have no idea. These are just my best guesses based on what I know about college admissions in general, and Stanford in particular.

I know everybody’s been saying it, but you really don’t need to be the perfect student. I certainly wasn’t. While a 2400 or a 4.0 can definitely help you get in, you need something else as well. Obviously, colleges want to know you as a student, but they also (especially Stanford) want to know you as a person. For that, you need something more than scores and grades. You need a personality.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/04/who-got-in-to-the-country-s-top-colleges.html

That link goes to an article my dad sent me. The basic point of the article is that, in addition to a good academic record, you need a “hook”: something that sets you apart and gets you noticed. For example, being a legacy student. Five relatives of mine went to Stanford, which is something an admissions officer will notice. It’s important to note that this does not mean you will have to meet a less rigorous set of academic expectations. There’s a careful balancing act at work between academics and everything else. Being a legacy kid, having a 2400, going to the Olympic trials, all those are things that can serve to get you noticed. You want to stand out. You want to be different. You want to be yourself at your best, but still yourself.

Moving on from that article, how do you show a university your personality? Hopefully you have a distinct personality to begin with, since senior year is a little late to start working on one. Even if you’re not involved in a dozen different clubs, sports, activities, whatever, chances are there are things you do frequently and enjoy doing. I’ve been a Girl Scout for 12 years. I read a lot. I took a trapeze class. Everyone has their own thing, and colleges want to see that. Diversity is big these days.

As far as the application itself goes, the essays are a big part of it. Admittedly, some college essay prompts are pretty lame, but Stanford generally has good ones, such as writing a letter to your future roommate. That essay in particular is a chance to show off who you are outside of school. My roommate essay began “Dear future roommate, Are you a cyborg?” and later included a quote from my sister about how I’m anything but a neat freak. Unlike many of the other essays I wrote that year, it was fun. It was different. It was relaxed.

You don’t need to fill your essays with stories about how you spend your entire summer reading Shakespeare and helping orphaned kids in Taiwan. You don’t need to try too hard to make yourself look good. The important part is to make yourself look like yourself. 500 words is not a lot, so use your space wisely.

In a way, the college process is like dating. If they don’t want you for exactly who you are, you’re better off somewhere else.

Okay, so I feel like this post doesn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense. Sorry about that. I knew what I was trying to say when I started writing this, and I sort of lost track in the middle. I guess I’ll go ahead and post it anyway, if only for that link. Basically, do your best in school and definitely try to get those good grades and SAT scores, but at the end of the day just be yourself. It’s a lot easier than trying to make yourself look perfect, and anyway, perfection is overrated.

Posted in Admission, advice, Applying, Applying and Admission, College, Diversity, Essays, Extracurriculars, Stanford, Vienna | Leave a comment

For International prospectives: What I "think" I did right

Hi, it’s Winnie again!
So here’s my post on how to approach the college process from an international’s perspective! I’ve actually saved this paragraph for last.

Scanning over what I’ve just wrote, it feels like the advice I’ve given is vague and somewhat obvious, but hey! The most obvious things are often the most important, because they’re so obvious people tend to overlook them. The application process was a hit and miss experience for me, but I got lucky and did alright.
Here are some of the things I felt I did correctly and made an difference with, hope they help!

START EARLY

If you are studying in an American system school, I guess it’s okay to start taking your SATs and APs well into junior year, and start on college applications after summer holidays.
But keep in mind that THE RESULTS OF PROCRASTINATING TOO MUCH ARE MORE CATASTROPHIC FOR INTERNATIONALS.
You already have less time for applications and such. Once you start leaving everything to the last minute and start entering you classroom like this every morning,

(Compliments to the awesome StanfordGirlProblems tumblr)

I ‘m pretty sure that it’ll have a bad impact on your school grades and test grades.

“But procrastinating is human nature!”
That’s why you should start as early as you can. I definitely procrastinated more than I should’ve (who doesn’t) but I was still relatively safe in the end, sending in my application 2-3 days before the deadline. I started taking my SATs in sophomore year, a total of 2 SAT I’s and 2 SAT II’s spanning almost 3 years; the slow pacing allowed me to be unproductive now and then, and spared me a crazily intense double identity academic life.

Of course, not everyone decides that they want to study abroad as early as that, and don’t freak out if you’re only starting to prepare at the end of your junior year– it’s just that you have to be more unforgiving with yourself, that’s all.

BE RESOURCEFUL AND AGGRESSIVE

 

Pay attention to your school’s bulletin, and squeeze out everything you can get from the school

Maybe it’s just because of my specific Asian culture, but honestly, it still kind of awes me how many clubs and startups and leadership positions people have in the States. At first, it felt as if everyone but me had a ton of diverse experiences and impressive records.
But actually, I’ve found that my school’s bulletin was a great place to find stuff that interested me, and just by regularly scanning it and handing in forms now and then, I managed to go to a lot of unforgettable events.
Oftentimes important events or serious academic positions recruit via school connections, so look out for the latest school announcements! (Remember, how passionate you are about your experiences is still more important than the number of experiences you had. But that’s not exactly relevant to this international student post and should be left for another article.)

Here’s another example and advice specific to people who live in non-English speaking countries:

The Taiwanese high school system is typically very inflexible, but we have a special exemption system where you can take a test and be exempted from certain required course. I heard of this via our online announcement system; a small line of text admist all the other announcements.
The discovery helped me a LOT in the past 3 years;  taking out a 6 hour chunk of English classes per week out of an 9-hour day schedule, it definitely took a lot of pressure off my shoulders.

If your school offers something like this, do not let go of this opportunity.(If you’re considering studying abroad, I’m assuming your English is better than most of your school peers)
If you don’t know if your school offers something like this, ask and ask and ask and pester the school administration (in a polite way) or make deals with your English teacher or find other ways that might work. Try until you’re sure there isn’t any other way, and after that don’t let yourself dwell on it too much.

Google anything you don’t know

If you lack anything, search the almighty Internet. You’ve probably noticed that I’m not going to talk about how to prepare for the SAT, what the format is for the SAT, what in the world is an SAT.
The reason is that just by googling “American college applications” hundreds and thousands of websites pop up telling you the nuts and bolts of the system : ) ((I especially recommend Wikipedia and CollegeConfidential, though take the information in the latter with a grain of salt.))

 Do everything you have to do and more

We didn’t have a School Profile. I had to help my school’s counseling office write it. What’s more, my school’s English website was last updated in 2006 and actually has less information on it than the Wikipedia school page.
So I spent at least 20 hours with 2-3 classmates who were also planning on studying abroad, running around the school gathering statistics from different offices, searching the Ministry of Education’s website for education requirements then translating them, designing the profile format… If I may say so, I think the result looked pretty badass.

All the good universities in America definitely have a penchant for students who make the most of their environment; the lack of resources international students have can actually be used to our advantage. Show them that despite having to go out of your way to take standardized tests, to relearn courses for the tests aforementioned, and lacking stuff that every other American school apparently has, you found a way around it and still enjoyed yourself in high school.
Which brings me to the last thing I wanted to talk about:

REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN AND GO CRAZY NOW AND THEN

I guess it might be easy to forget, when you’re submerged in the doubleload of schoolwork, or when you have marching band competitions and SATs in the same week and 9 finals in the next (believe me, I feel your pain) ESPECIALLY if you grew up in a world similar to mine, where local schools simply look at your scores and admit you.

Like I said before, American universities like to admit students who flourished in their high school environment, and that extends beyond academics. By simply enjoying your high school life and naturally incorporating the fact into your essays, you’re adding to your application’s appeal.

It’s also interesting to note that amongst the other good US unis, I think Stanford gives off a more vibrant, happy, fun-loving vibe.

 Maybe, just maybe, the school intentionally chose students who gave them this happy impression …. and maybe it’s just a result of having better weather than the East coast Ivies. But it won’t hurt you either way!
Remember that you only experience high school once ; ) try doing something stupid and fun and whimsical (in a harmless way) when you feel tired and depressed and demotivated. I’m sure that most of you won’t have problems finding something fun to do, but I’ll be more than happy to share with you a few crazy things I did in high school.

Such as cutting my raincoat into pieces in the pouring rain, and making makeshift rainboots with it just because I thought it would be nicer to have dry feet than dry everything-except-feet.

And having a year-long debate with my friends on what would be more edible, excrement that tasted like curry, or curry that tasted like poop.

Posted in Admission, Applying, College, International, My Story, Stanford | Leave a comment

I Got Into Stanford and All I Got Was This Blog Post

Okay so I guess I should just say a couple of things about myself. My name is Ashley, I’m from Chicago and I went to a public school with about 2000 students.
Quick Stats: ACT: 33 GPA: 4.98/4.0 weighted Top 10%
6 AP classes total.
Race: African-American/Black
Activities: NHS, Student Council Vice President, Freshman Mentor, Culinary Apprentice for two summers and a school year
Admitted RD

APPLYING
I am not a varsity athelete, nor legacy, nor are my parents insanely rich donors or whatever is supposed to get you in.  I didn’t overload myself with APs or science courses and I’m not validictorian of my class or even in the top 10. I don’t do calculus in my spare time, nor have I cured cancer or saved anyone from a burning building. I didn’t send the Illinois admissions counselor flowers (Hey Sonya is a really swell woman though!), nor did I perform any ritual sacrifices or sell my soul to the devil.

So how did I get into Stanford? I can’t really tell you. My guess is that I didn’t spend my application talking about any of these above stats. I guess what I’m trying to say here is the admissions counselors know all these things about you from the Common App and your recommendations. So don’t tell them something they’ve already read. Earlier in this blog a guy wrote that you are telling Stanford whether or not you fit there. So by all means tell your admissions counselor about yourself. I wrote my essays about my attempts at making a pastry cream, a box of toys in my basement, and how heavy of a sleeper I can be. By the end of it I’m pretty sure it was an accurate a portrayal of who I was and my beliefs and was probably what got me in. So when you write your essays don’t bore them or write what you think they want to hear or will make you seem smart. I’m not saying that you can’t write about Einstein’s theory of relativity, Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, The Iliad or what ever else has you really super pumped in school (Although The Iliad is pretty boring so if that has you pumped…thats another conversation entirely). What you have to make sure you do is be yourself and relate who you are in what you write and not a wikipedia article. Remember admissions counselors are normal people just like you and me, if you’re bored writing it, they will be bored reading it.

ANTICIPATION
I was actually the thirstiest being for all things Stanford after the decisions from Early Action came out. My biggest regret was not applying early because I literally stressed myself out daily leading up to March 30th. Here’s my advice on how to handle the wait to decisions.

  • Try not to annoy your parents and or friends with it. Trust me. They get that you want to go to [insert dream school here]. Eventually they will stop listening.
  • DO NOT READ COLLEGE CONFIDENTIAL. It will psych you out. Especially those chance me posts. The things that website did to me… *shivers*
  • Take a deep breath and think about other college options. Don’t be so caught up in the idea of Stanford that you can’t realize it’s not a good fit after all. The weekend decisions came out I was actually at another school’s admit weekend. (Which is another awkward story all together)
  • Check your decision privately. You may want a moment to yourself. Chances are you’ll be making some awkward unattractive facial or be filled with an urge to hug a stranger. I know from experience.
  • Other people do not know why you will or won’t get in so just relax and try to stay humble.

COLLEGE DECISION MAKING PROCESS & DIVERSITY

When your admitted to schools, even the ones that you are sure you won’t go to, give them a chance. I learned so much about what I did and didnt want. Plus you need to see if its a fit for you socially. I was pretty lucky and got invited to visit schools for their “Multicultural” or “Diversity” weekends. Here’s my blurb/diatribe on that as a minority student. The high school I attended was one of the most diverse in the city. So it was important to me to go to a diverse school or one making an effort to increase diversity. Don’t go to a place where you feel like your only contribution to their school is because of your race. Go to a school where you feel comfortable on campus and you will interact with others of all nationalities, perspectives, world views etc. I visited one school where I was so extremely cognizant of the lack of diversity that it made me uncomfortable. That being said know that where you get accepted or denied has less to do with your race, but more so about your personal accomplishments and what you add to the class. This is where you will be for the next 4 years. When I was on different campuses I searched for a definitive moment where I knew said school was for me. While I could have been happy a number of places, at Stanford I found one. And it wasn’t while watching the band play outside of MemChu, or fountain hopping. It was sitting on a couch in an all frosh dorm at two in the morning the day my flight left back to chicago from admit weekend. I was hanging out with other kids in the common room when it hit me. I knew then that these were my future classmates and felt comfortable enough to be myself. I had found my home.

-Ashley

Posted in Stanford, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do What You Love: Lessons from Indic Poetry

Greetings from India 😀

Hi! I’m Ishita, and like the other people on this blog, I’m a part of the Stanford class of 2016. If you’re reading this, you’re probably going to apply to college soon. To all of you already getting stressed out, I am extending a great big virtual hug to you, because I was like you this time last year – and to all of you as cool as a cucumber about the next few months, here’s a high five! 🙂

Before continuing, I guess I’ll introduce myself more fully. My name Ishita (for a long time I had to use anagrams of my name on online forms because it always got censored). I grew up between St. Paul, Minnesota and Mumbai, India although I did high school at a private school in Mumbai.

I’m also going to tell you that I’m Hindu (although I’m far from religious). Why is that even relevant? Well, I may have my qualms with religion, but there was one part of one Hindu text that really, really hit close to home during the last year – my last year in school, my last year at home, and my last year in India. It comes from the Bhagwad Gita, an epic poem that details the conversation between the god Krishna and a prince who is confronted, on the battlefield, with fighting his own cousins in a bloody war of succession. In one couplet, Krishna tells the prince Arjuna, “You are entitled to your actions, but not to the fruit. Don’t act for the fruit of the action, but for the action itself.” I think Krishna’s advice was the best advice anyone could have ever given me last year.

On the Battlefield of College Applications

In high school, especially senior year, it’s easy to let college hype consume you (or such was my experience). It’s easy to fall into the diction of SAT score, GPA, volunteering hours, and the number of debate medals or leadership positions you have. Activities that took hours of your life turn into nothing more than one-line trophies on your resume, and everyone’s proud of you for it.

For me, that kind of atmosphere was very frightening. I loved learning, which put me a little on the “nerd” spectrum, but I wasn’t in the top 10% of my class, let alone 5%. I had in the 600s on one of my SAT sections (I know, blasphemy!). I had a total of two Model UN awards, and no other non-academic awards. On paper, then, I felt like I was worth shit. It was disheartening, because I kept thinking I was fated to a life of mediocrity.

So back in October when I was trying to figure out what to put on my EC list on the CommonApp, I realized I didn’t exactly have a pageload of CollegeConfidential-worthy creds to my name. I remember this very clearly since I was so mad at myself. “What did you do this whole year, Ishita?” I asked myself. “What did you spend your time doing? What happened in your life in the last 8,760 hours? Where were you?” I wasn’t a vegetable. I had to have been doing something. As I thought about it, I realized I did a lot of things: I baked pies. I painted and drew – a lot. I made a stage decorations for a play. I always wrote my English homework twice so that the version I turned in was neat and pretty. I made a handbook for our Model UN Press team. I talked to my sister. I got pretty good at Photoshop. I meticulously edited my AP essays until it was 2 AM and I was sobbing, battling against the merciless blows of life and all it had to offer.

And guess what? I liked doing those things. I wouldn’t have given them up for anything. These were the things I did that followed Krishna’s advice: I did them not to win an award or a line on my resume, but because I wanted to do them. There was no success to be had – and even if there was, I didn’t care. I did them anyways. Every time I baked or painted, I felt so much more alive than I did when I studied for my chemistry exam or that one dreadful time I decided to debate. (Krishna might say that with my eyes off the prize, I could focus on the task at hand, like he said later to Arjuna.) So yeah, I put those things down in my resume. I was met with skeptical looks on more than one occasion (“What? You’re putting that poster you made on your resume? Next to the invitation to shadow the Times of India authors? What?” Truth is, shadowing journalists was a one day thing. That poster took a month of my life).

I guess it was a risky time to be deciding on a life philosophy, but I was just so tired. Tired of trying to get A pluses, tired of trying to win, and tired of looking for things to put on my resume. School and apps were killing me, and my mental exhaustion was turning to physical sickness. Thinking about, and acknowledging, the things I loved to do was refreshing, so I went the Gita way and never looked back (well I submitted my app 12 minutes before the EA deadline, so I couldn’t have anyway).

And Finally, Fending for Your Sanity

My point is, the adcoms could probably fill a class with kids with the perfect resume, but they don’t. So if that’s not you, why try? Do the things you want to do, and do them because you want to do them. Focus on the action, and not the prize, and you won’t be disappointed when you realize you haven’t won, or that the prize is fleeting. You won’t lose any of that oft-mentioned “passion”. And before you get lost in the storm of applications, take a step back and think about the times you tried – not won or lost, but really, really tried, with all your heart.

My advice, and Krishna’s, isn’t really about how to get into Stanford or wherever else I got in, and I’m sorry if you were looking for that. I’m just trying to help you survive the last year of high school and make something special out of it. If you don’t do crap you never wanted to do anyway, you’ll get a year of your life back! (And trust me, it’s worth it. I don’t look back in joy at the time I killed myself memorizing chemistry for a B, but the time I gave up at a reasonable point and did something more fun instead. I was only a few points for the worse!)

But in my opinion (and this is completely my opinion) schools like Stanford value creativity and intellectual vitality in your passions. The first step to showing them that you are like that too is to well, follow your passions – do what you love!

–Ishita ’16

Posted in Admission, advice, Applying and Admission, Challenges, College, Extracurriculars, My Story, Stress | 2 Comments

Trust me guys, there really is no foolproof formula.

Hey everyone! I’m Sarah, another incoming freshman at Stanford. A little about me: I’m from San Jose, California (yeeee, Bay Area!) and graduated from a large (~3500 students) public high school. It’s safe to say that I have spent more time on the softball field than in the classroom (or anywhere else for that matter), but I didn’t get into Stanford through athletics and won’t be playing any sports at the varsity level. I’m also a lover of volleyball, naps, pop-rock, and of course the San Francisco Giants! I am an engineering/science kind of person and have probably written more in bullet points than actual prose, so I’m gonna do the same for this post! Here are my thoughts/tips for applying to Stanford:

  • JUST DO IT. I honestly thought there was no fricken way that I would get in, but luckily my parents forced me to, hahah. Think of it this way: this is most likely the BEST chance you will ever have to get into Stanford/any other top-tier school, so go for it! The $90 application fee is nothing compared to the chance of a lifetime. 
  • Don’t worry if you’re not a 4.0 student who’s also the president 6 clubs, concert master, and founder of a successful business – I still find it difficult to believe people like this actually exist. Stanford (and pretty much every university) isn’t looking for the perfectly well-rounded student, but instead looking to build a well-rounded community. There really is no formula that can guarantee an acceptance – or rejection – so stick to who you are and just roll with it
  • Activities are more important than SAT scores or grades. Sure, the numbers do count, but that’s not what you should be worrying about. My SAT score was pretty below the average scores listed on collegeboard or whatever (my critical reading and writing scores didn’t even clear the 25th percentile, LOL) and I was really only involved in one club throughout my four years of high school, but I made it clear that I was extremely dedicated to sports and very interested in my intended field of study. 
  • For the essays/short answers: be yourself, and don’t try too hard. I personally hate cliche sayings like that, and I apologize for all the rolled eyes and annoyed sighs, but there really is no other way to say it. Since I didn’t think I would get in anyway, I really didn’t put a lot effort (sounds terrible, but it’s 100% true) into depicting myself as a brilliant, all-around kind of girl (ex: my entire roommate essay was about my obsession with the SF Giants. No lie.). It doesn’t matter what you are interested in – cancer research, sports, the sci-fi channel, yu-gi-oh cards, fruit pie – just find a way to relate how it has formed you and represents you as a person. And trust me, writing about something you have a passion for is SO much easier than writing about something you think will make you sound good.
Keep in mind that although Stanford’s one of the top schools in the world, it’s also an extremely wacky place (in a good way!) – so don’t hesitate one bit to let your application show the more odd/quirky side of you! Hope you find this helpful, and I wish you the best of luck!
Posted in Applying and Admissions, My Story | 1 Comment

Fishing versus Filtering

As a (newbie) guest contributor to Confessions from Stanford, I’m happy and honored to have the privilege of sharing my opinions and experiences throughout my Stanford years here. Some of my fellow contributors have already come forth to say hello, so I guess it’s about time I join the party.
The quick and the dirty
I am an international with a confusing name, so you guys can go ahead and call me Y. J. I completed my education in Singapore, and applied to Stanford via regular decision. I will be majoring in Bio, and am hoping to pursue some undergrad research while at Stanfy. Watch this space for updates on how that goes.
Passions include: Texas Hold’em, certain TV shows, enjoying the outdoors, and generally staring out of the window.
Just a dude, really.
Admissions
Seeing as how it’s almost college admissions season again, I thought I should give my take on the admissions process. I’m going to buck the trend a little here, and take the focus off me. I will not be listing my achievements or scores here, as you can probably get a representative view of admitted students from forums such as College Confidential. Instead I hope this will give you readers a better understanding of the application process. 
I’m also going to be expanding this out of Stanford, since the Stanford admissions process is fundamentally comparable to almost every UScollege. It does not matter which school you want to go to, or which schools you’re applying to. The advice below should be helpful regardless (that’s the plan anyway). Schools generally select candidates based on their stats (scores and achievements) and their essays (plus interviews in some cases).
We’re back to fishing vs filtering.
Filtering – that’s the scores. Every school basically has to set an entry standard. They need students to be of a certain caliber. A filter blocks the passage of items larger than its pore size, and lets everything else through. In terms of scores, you don’t really have to do better than the next candidate, you just have to do well enough to make the cut. Of course, there’s no harm doing the best you can.
The logical next question is, What’s good enough? And that’s also where it gets a little complicated. To make an accurate judgement of good enough, colleges are going to try to assign you to groups within the applicant pool. They want to know how well you did, given your education background and the like. As an international student, I’m pretty sure the colleges judged my performance by looking at indicators such as average SAT score for the Singapore cohort.
Now on to fishing. The college now has a pool of applicants who they deem of suitable caliber. This is probably going to be larger than they would like, and they have to cut down some more. Here is where your essays come in. Every essay topic is different, but they all serve the same purpose. The admissions officers want to see something that makes you more special than the next guy. They’re going to go fishing. The lucky applicant that most catches their eye gets to be plucked out of the applicant pool.
Trying to be more special than the next applicant is never easy. One way is to tug on heartstrings, perhaps by writing about the difficult conditions you had growing up, and about how you managed to circumvent these disadvantages by making the most out of the opportunities you came across. Or you could wrap your interests, passions, achievements and aspirations together in a neat little package with a pretty bow. More than anything, you have to find a unique part about yourself. DIG DEEP, and I am sure, even if you are the world’s most boring person (that honor belongs to me), you will be able to find something. For the record, I wrote about looking out of the window and I linked that to my personality. 
One thing is for sure though, don’t try to pretend to be someone you are not. That will not fool the AOs. Write from your heart. Be bold enough to recognize your passions and your idiosyncrasies, and have the guts to write about them. Be brave enough to make your essay stand out – use a different writing style, humor, anything. But don’t say things like WHAT’S UP DAWG to your AO. That’s standing out for the wrong reason.


The application process is a very complicated one, and the above is merely a generalization. Still, I hope it gives you guys at least a little insight on what is important in framing your application. 
That’s really all I’ve got for you. I’d love very much to hear from you, in the comments section below. Tell me if you liked my writing, or if you thought it sucked. Ask me anything and I will be happy to help.
And to those of you applying to college this year, all the very best.  
Posted in Admission, Applying, International | Leave a comment

Getting into a top school like Stanford: MAKING YOURSELF STAND OUT

Hi everybody!
So there seems to be a lot of hype about how everyone needs to have a certain SAT score, and a perfect 4.0, or at least close to it.
But the fact is, it’s just not all about those standardized numbers. Top schools like Stanford (and, arguably, especially Stanford) are looking for something that makes an individual just that- an individual. They are looking for that special something that sets a prospective student apart from all the other masses. Remember, admissions counselors have to read thousands upon thousands of applications from perfectly qualified students, who all have amazing grades and test scores.
My advice?
MAKE YOURSELF UNIQUE.
If there is one thing that is the most important overall the other factors, it is probably the essay. In that short 500 words, you have to make yourself stand out from the masses of other students. Make it so you as an individual person can be heard through that essay. What is it you do that makes you stand out from everyone else? Because remember, not only do nearly all applicants have very grades and test scores, they also have volunteered x number of hours, done y number of clubs, and participated in z number of activities.
So what is it that makes you you?
Well, that is a question only you can answer. For me, it was personal obstacles in my life (family-related, financial, and living situation difficulties) and how I overcame them and how they did not hinder my academic success, while for most it would’ve.
So your homework, current underclassmen, is to think of a character-defining moment or event or activity. Then you can write about that whatever it is, and show your true character by demonstrating how it relates to that thing. My past does not hinder nor obstruct me; it has simply shaped me into who I am. I have a friend who got in who wrote about how she wore a certain hair braid for a long time in her life, and then when she had to get it cut out she was worried no one would recognize her, because she wouldn’t be her. (She went on to say how this showed how she viewed herself, and how she thought the world viewed her, and what she learned about self identity.)
For the record, my SAT was 2040. My ACT was a lot better, at 32, but I was not a valedictorian, and did not have a perfect 4.0.
And please just remember, top schools receive so many applications, that sometimes someone who seems to be the perfect all-around student may not get in. If that is you, don’t be discouraged. If you don’t think that’s you, if you think you won’t make the cut, APPLY ANYWAY. I did. And I got in. This time last year, I thought I would be going to a local community college because of a number of reasons. Stanford was not even in my wildest dreams. Then I went through a lot of changes, and long story short, I went for it. I encourage everyone to as well.
Make yourself stand out. The sky is not the limit, either, as the sky is so limiting. Get out of the atmosphere, and see where you land when you shoot for the stars.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment