Student Stories - Biology (Biotechnology)

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

Application Identity:

  • Gender and ethnicity? Female, Asian (Indian)

  • Any particular “hooks”? (student athlete, legacy, etc.) N/A

  • What did your application focus on? Any academic subjects, extracurriculars, etc. in particular? How I helped in the formation of a biotech startup and how that ties into my goals for the future.

  • What are your plans for next year? If you’re planning on attending a college, what’s your school and intended area of study? USC, biology (biotechnology)

What was the general composition of your college list? How many schools did you apply to? How many reaches, matches, and safeties were on your list? Did you feel like your list was balanced?

I applied to UCLA, UCSD, UCSB, UCD, UCB, UCI, USC, CMU, Brown, Cornell, UW, UofO, Stanford, ASU, Northwestern, Cal Poly, Columbia, and UPenn. So a total of 18 schools, but sometimes UCs are just counted as 1 so a total of 12 schools. My list wasn’t that balanced. I had a lot of reach and a couple of safeties.

What was your general application timeline? When did you start your applications? How did you manage your workload?

I started applications the summer before senior year. I worked on the Common App essay mainly. It was really tough to manage my workload with all the applications, but I started setting deadlines and making clear what my priorities were for everything (using a planner helped a lot). I put deadlines for when my essays should be done and set them way before the actual due date so that I could focus on other things and in case I need to make some changes to my essay it wouldn’t be so last minute. I set days for essay time and school time. The weekdays would be dedicated to schoolwork and if I had free time I’d work on my essays. The weekends were completely for essays. I even had to take the ACT in September so I lost valuable essay time studying for that exam, but I managed to work a bit harder afterwards to meet my deadlines.

Who helped you throughout the application process? Parents, school, private counselor? What resources did you find the most helpful?

My dad helped me a lot through the college process. We were both trying to figure it all out and we didn’t receive that much help from others so we were struggling a lot. I had the help of an essay coach, but all she was able to do was edit my essay for grammar and flow. It was really just up to me to decide what was good enough. I definitely think having an essay coach is important. Sometimes there are really good college counselors you just need to search really hard for them because we tried to find some and they were just too expensive and not helpful at all.

What are your top tips for college applicants? What advice do you wish you’d known while you were going through the application process?

College applications are extremely crazy and random. Throughout high school I felt bad for not taking all APs or honors and accomplishing so little compared to others, but I now realize that it helped me all along. I went into high school not understanding what colleges want and just doing things that I wanted to do. Everything I’ve done I’ve put my passion and heart into and colleges could see how much the little amount of activities I did meant to me. I took a manageable course load so that my GPA wouldn’t plummet. Of course it was a hard course load in my opinion, but compared to others who were taking several APs it seemed like the dumb path to go. Do things that you want to do, not what colleges want to see. What colleges really want are passionate students that will fit into their community best. The thing that really helped me was being super enthusiastic about USC and contacting faculty and students a lot. It gave me a deeper understanding of the school for my essays and helped me make sure that the faculty knew who I was when it came to essay reading time. Overall, the college that’s right for you will accept you. All you can do is be the best self you can be and please don’t force yourself into activities that you don’t like. Colleges detect everything!

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