Updated: Jul 18
Gender and ethnicity? Female, Asian (Korean)
Any particular “hooks”? (student athlete, legacy, etc.) N/A
What did your application focus on? Any academic subjects, extracurriculars, etc. in particular? My application was pretty scattered in terms of interest, which I explained in my common essay. The main patterns of my extracurriculars were around engineering/business/international relations, so I made my common app essay about how I saw these interests as one coherent vision rather than being unsure about which career path to choose. For example, I talked in my essay about how the research I did for Model UN regarding the correlation between ship structure and ocean pollution inspired me to become an engineer focused on solving global problems. Another example I used was how my time as a member of a robotics team inspired me to write legislative proposals regarding STEM for female students to my local representative. My goal was to sound as “well-rounded” as possible. For some context, here are some of my extracurriculars: I started a student-run mental health podcast that was featured on ABC7 News among other local newspapers, gained funding from the City of Palo Alto, and partnered with the local YMCA. I also interned for TIBCO Software (Human Resources Department), was part of student council for 4 years, and attended COSMOS UC Santa Cruz (Robotics & Computer Networking cluster).
What are your plans for next year? If you’re planning on attending a college, what’s your school and intended area of study? Majoring in business & technology management (with minor in mechanical engineering) at NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
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?
Again, I think I was more of the general “well-rounded” applicant rather than the applicant who excels at one particular talent. I knew that I wanted to study engineering, business, and international relations all at some point in the future and as unrealistic as it sounded, I made that the focus of my Common App essay. It was really important to me that I would have the flexibility and opportunity to pursue all of these things in some form in college, and while I realized that this might be a “turn-off” for some colleges that preferred students with more “pointed” interests, I decided to be honest in what I really wanted in my college experience because in the end that was how I was going to find a college that fit me best.
I applied to an unreasonable amount of safeties because I was scared that I wouldn’t get into college, which was a waste of time. I would recommend applying to no more than 3 safeties an 4-5 “reach” schools max. I applied to about 25 schools in total, with too many safeties and reaches that I literally do not know how many I applied to.
Compared to most of my peers, I applied to very few UC’s and in-state schools. This is mainly because I wanted to go as far as possible and really missed living in the east coast (not that I dislike California.)
After the results were out, I ended up deciding between NYU for Business & Tech Management and the University of Michigan for Mechanical Engineering. UMich had been one of my dream schools for a long time, but I ultimately decided to attend NYU to study engineering/business because it offered me much more flexibility to pursue my interdisciplinary interests.
What was your general application timeline? When did you start your applications? How did you manage your workload?
I was crazy and started my applications two days after junior year ended. I started with my UC essays first, which I found helpful later because most of the UC prompts are very similar to prompts that other colleges ask for.
It was really difficult for me because throughout the entire summer I was working full-time, studying for SAT subject tests, and trying to balance college apps at the same time. On weekdays, I would get off work at 4pm, go to Peet’s immediately afterwards, and grind on essays until 8 or 9pm. On weekends, I would spend my entire day at coffee shops trying to spit out essays.
Although I wouldn’t recommend that students start working on college apps as early as I did, it did help a lot during the fall semester when I was loaded with AP’s. One thing that most people don’t tell you is how long it takes to apply to colleges other than the time it takes to manage essays; punching in your extracurricular list, uploading citizenship documents, making sure your rec letters got uploaded, and setting up meetings with your counselor will take much longer than you will expect.
Who helped you throughout the application process? Parents, school, private counselor? What resources did you find the most helpful?
I didn’t have a college counselor but I did hire someone online to help me edit my essays. I chose someone who made it clear that they were only looking to make my essays clear, sensible, and grammatically correct rather than someone who wanted to take control of the content of my essays. Personally, I found that having an essay editor was very helpful because my essays sounded much more professional after the editing was done.
What are your top tips for college applicants? What advice do you wish you’d known while you were going through the application process?
Do not look at College Confidential before results come out. It’s toxic and stressful to look at, and also usually contains wrong information. Also be very careful when talking about college with people in the same grade as you because it is a super stressful time and people can be more on edge than normal.