11 College Essays That Worked

11 College Essays That Worked

Bonus Material: 30 College Essay Examples

In this regularly updated post, we share the admissions essays that helped students get into their dream schools.

But this isn't simply a collection of college application essays.

We also provide a link to in-depth profiles of the authors who wrote the essays, providing you with the most comprehensive picture available of the nation's most successful applicants.

While you should always craft the best essay you are capable of, please remember that the essay is but one component of the application process! The essays you'll read below are all of varying quality, but each one of these students gained admission to the most selective schools in the country.

You can also find 19 more college essays that worked below.

Here's what we cover in this post:

  1. College Essay #1 - It Takes More Than Wishing Upon a Star
  2. College Essay #2 - "I am an aspiring hot sauce sommelier"
  3. College Essay #3 - "You know nothing, Jon Snow"
  4. College Essay #4 - "I'm still questioning"
  5. College Essay #5 - "My place of inner peace"
  6. College Essay #6 - "So this is what compassion is all about"
  7. College Essay #7 - "I believe that every person is molded by their experiences"
  8. College Essay #8 - The California Cadet Corps
  9. College Essay #9 - "I never want to lose what we had in that corner"
  10. College Essay #10 - "It is the effort that counts, not the result"
  11. College Essay #11 - "The problem of social integration"
  12. Bonus: 30 College Essay Examples

COLLEGE ESSAY #1 - It Takes More Than Wishing Upon a Star

Author: Destiny
Class Year: Princeton University 2020
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement
School Acceptances: Princeton University, Harvard University, Williams College, Duke University, College of William & Mary, Davidson College, Boston College, Johns Hopkins University, Texas Christian University

At eleven years old, I wrote the New York Times best-selling novel, The Chosen, the first installation in a trilogy that would become the newest sensation of the fantasy genre, and grow to be even more popular than the Harry Potter series. At least, that what I originally imagined as I feverishly typed the opening words of my manuscript. I had just received a call from my parents, who were on a business trip in London. While touring the city, they heard about an amateur novel writing contest open to all ages, and thought that I, as an amateur writer, would be interested. All I had to do was compose an original manuscript of merely 80,000 words and submit it to an office in London, and I could win $20,000 in addition to a publishing deal.

I hung up the phone with a smile plastered on my face. Never mind that I was barely eleven, that my portfolio consisted of a few half-page poems from elementary school, or that the contest was taking place on another continent, I was determined to write the most extraordinary fantasy novel ever created. For months afterward the sight of me was accompanied by the tap, tap, tap of my fingers flying across the keyboard, and the sharp glint of obsession in my eyes. The contest in London closed, a winner was chosen. I didn’t care. I kept writing. After a year I had stretched my writing project into a three hundred page novel. I scraped together a few dollars of allowance money, slapped it in my mom’s hand, and asked her to have Staples print a bound copy of the manuscript.

She handed me my magnum opus when I got home from school that day. I ran my fingers across the shiny laminate over the cover page, caressed the paper as if it were some sacred tome. After more than fourteen months fleshing out characters and cultivating mythologies, I was ready to publish. With the copy in hand I ran to my dad. “Read it and tell me what you think!” I said, imagining the line of publishing companies that would soon be knocking down my door.

Within two weeks my father handed it back to me, the pages now scrawled over in bright red ink. “You’ve got a lot of work to do,” he told me, with his typical soul-wrenching brusque.

I stared at him for a moment, jaw locked tight, eyes nearly brimming with tears. He proceeded to list for me all the things I needed to revise for my next draft. Less colloquial dialogue, vivid descriptions, more complex subplots, the list went on and on.

“A serious author doesn’t get offended by constructive criticism,” he said, “whether you take my advice or not will prove whether or not you are one.”

My dreams fell like the Berlin wall. What was the point of slaving over a novel if I had to start from scratch again? My father’s advice would force me to rewrite the entire novel. What sort of writer was I, that my work warranted such substantial alteration?

As I soon learned—a normal one.

Today, six years, 10 drafts, and 450 pages later, I am finally close to finishing. Sometimes, when I’m feeling insecure about my ability as a novelist I open up my first draft again, turn to a random chapter, and read it aloud. Publishing that first draft would have been a horrible embarrassment that would have haunted me for the rest of my life. Over the past half-decade, I’ve been able to explore my own literary voice, and develop a truly original work that I will be proud to display. This experience taught me that “following your dreams” requires more than just wishing upon a star. It takes sacrifice, persistence, and grueling work to turn fantasy into reality.

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out Destiny's story here]


COLLEGE ESSAY #2 - I am an aspiring hot sauce sommelier

Author: Emma
Class Year: Princeton University 2021
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement
School Acceptances: Princeton University, Duke University, Northwestern University, Cornell University, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of California Berkeley, University of Michigan

I am an aspiring hot sauce sommelier. Ever since I was a child, I have been in search for all that is spicy. I began by dabbling in peppers of the jarred variety. Pepperoncini, giardiniera, sports peppers, and jalapeños became not only toppings, but appetizers, complete entrées, and desserts. As my palate matured, I delved into a more aggressive assortment of spicy fare. I'm not referring to Flamin' Hot Cheetos, the crunchy snack devoured by dilettantes. No, it was bottles of infernal magma that came next in my tasting curriculum.

Despite the current lack of certification offered for the profession which I am seeking, I am unquestionably qualified. I can tell you that a cayenne pepper sauce infused with hints of lime and passion fruit is the perfect pairing to bring out the subtle earthy undertones of your microwave ramen. I can also tell you that a drizzle of full-bodied Louisiana habanero on my homemade vanilla bean ice cream serves as an appetizing complement. For the truly brave connoisseur, I suggest sprinkling a few generous drops of Bhut Jolokia sauce atop a bowl of chili. Be warned, though; one drop too many and you might find yourself like I did, crying over a heaping bowl of kidney beans at the dining room table.

Although I consistently attempt to cultivate the rarest and most expertly crafted bottles of molten spice, like an oenophile who occasionally sips on five dollar bottles of wine, I am neither fussy nor finicky. I have no qualms about dousing my omelets with Cholula, dipping my tofu in pools of Sriracha, or soaking my vegetarian chicken nuggets in the Frank's Red Hot that my mom bought from the dollar store. No matter the quality or cost, when gently swirled, wafted, and swished; the sauces excite my senses. Each initial taste, both surprising yet subtly familiar, has taught me the joy of the unknown and the possibility contained within the unexpected.

My ceaseless quest for piquancy has inspired many journeys, both gustatory and otherwise. It has dragged me into the depths of the souks of Marrakech, where I purchased tin cans filled with Harissa. Although the chili sauce certainly augmented the robust aroma of my tagine, my food was not the only thing enriched by this excursion. My conquest has also brought me south, to the valleys of Chile, where I dined among the Mapuche and flavored my empanadas with a smoky seasoning of Merkén. Perhaps the ultimate test of my sensory strength occurred in Kolkata, India. After making the fatal mistake of revealing my penchant for spicy food to my friend's grandmother, I spent the night with a raw tongue and cold sweats. I have learned that spice isn't always easy to digest. It is the distilled essence of a culture, burning with rich history. It is a universal language that communicates passion, pain, and renewal. Like an artfully concocted hot sauce, my being contains alternating layers of sweetness and daring which surround a core that is constantly being molded by my experiences and adventures.

I'm not sure what it is about spiciness that intrigues me. Maybe my fungiform papillae are mapped out in a geography uniquely designed to appreciate bold seasonings. Maybe these taste buds are especially receptive to the intricacies of the savors and zests that they observe. Or maybe it's simply my burning sense of curiosity. My desire to challenge myself, to stimulate my mind, to experience the fullness of life in all of its varieties and flavors.

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out Emma's story here]


COLLEGE ESSAY #3 - "You know nothing, Jon Snow"

Author: Shanaz
Class Year: Princeton University 2021
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement
School Acceptances: Princeton University, Duke University, Williams College, Boston College, Brandeis University, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Stony Brook

"You know nothing, Jon Snow”

Being an avid Game of Thrones fanatic, I fancy every character, scene, and line. However,Ygritte’s famous line proves to be just slightly more relatable than the incest, corruption, and sorcery that characterizes Westeros.

Numerous theories explore the true meaning of these five words, but I prefer to think they criticize seventeen-year-old Jon’s lack of life experience. Growing up in a lord’s castle, he has seen little about the real world; thus, he struggles to see the bigger picture until he evaluates all angles.

Being in a relatively privileged community myself, I can affirm the lack of diverse perspectives —and even more, the scarcity of real-world problems. Instead, my life has been horrifically plagued by first world problems. I’ve written a eulogy and held a funeral for my phone charger.

I’ve thrown tantrums when my knitted sweaters shrunk in the dryer. And yes, I actually have cried over spilled (organic) milk.

Well, shouldn’t I be happy with the trivial “problems” I’ve faced? Shouldn’t I appreciate the opportunities and the people around me?

Past the “feminism v. menimism” and “memes” of the internet, are heartbreaking stories and photos of life outside my metaphorical “Bethpage Bubble.” How can I be content when I am utterly oblivious to the perspectives of others? Like Jon Snow, I’ve never lived a day in another person’s shoes.

Fewer than three meals a day. No extra blanket during record-breaking winter cold. No clean water. I may be parched after an intense practice, but I know nothing of poverty.

Losing a loved one overseas. Being forced to leave your home. Coups d'état and dictatorial governments. I battle with my peers during class discussions, but I know nothing of war.

Denial of education. Denial of religion. Denial of speech. I have an endless list of freedoms, and I know nothing of oppression.

Malaria. Cholera. Cancer. I watch how Alzheimer’s progresses in my grandmother, but I know nothing of disease.

Living under a strict caste system. Being stereotyped because of one’s race. Unwarranted prejudice. I may be in a minority group, yet I know nothing of discrimination.

Flappers, speakeasies, and jazz. Two world wars. Pagers, hippies, and disco. I’m barely a 90’s kid who relishes SpongeBob episodes, and I know nothing of prior generations.

Royal weddings, tribal ceremonies, and Chinese New Years. I fast during Ramadan, but I know nothing of other cultures.

Hostile political parties. Progressive versus retrospective. Right and wrong. I am seventeen, and I know nothing of politics.

Is ignorance really bliss?

Beyond my community and lifetime exists myriad events I'll never witness, people I'll never meet, and beliefs I'll never understand. Being unexposed to the culture and perspectives that comprise this world, I know I can never fully understand anyone or anything. Yet, irony is beautiful.

Embarking on any career requires making decisions on behalf of a community, whether that be a group of students, or a patient, or the solar system.

I am pleased to admit like Jon Snow, I know nothing, but that will change in college.

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out Shanaz's story here]


COLLEGE ESSAY #4 - "I'm still questioning"

Author: Aja
Class Year: Princeton University 2020
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement - Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
School Acceptances: Princeton University, MIT, University of Maryland, Stern College for Women, Queens College and City College

I walked down the pale pink stone pathway, up a ramp, past the library building, and towards the Student Activities Center of the college campus, carrying a large brown cardboard box. People might’ve taken note of the load I was carrying, and particularly the other high school students with whom I ate my dinner. Out of the box I grabbed my meal, which was wrapped in two separate plastic airplane meal style trays; one container for the side and one for the main. I tried not to call attention to myself as I unwrapped the tight double wrapping of plastic around both trays.

My actions and practices were the same, but for the first time I stood out. While I was eating my meals, in the lab, or during the lectures, I began to ask myself some questions.

Was it worth continuing to strictly observe my customs in such an environment? I thought.

Could I afford to take time away from the lab to walk to the kosher restaurant to pick up lunch? Was continuing to dress in a long skirt, on hot summer days and with additional lab dress codes, worth the discomfort? Was it worth standing out from most other people?

The science experiment that I performed that summer in a way mirrored the experiment that I “performed” to test my practices. My lab partner and I researched the current issue of antibiotic resistant bacteria strains, which left certain bacterial infections without an effective cure; this was our observation. We then hypothesized that an alternative mechanism of destruction, by physically slicing the bacterial membrane, would be more efficient. Similarly, I hypothesized that an alternative life path without my religious practices might be an “effective” life path for me, as it had been for the students that I met, with the added social benefits of fitting in. I hypothesized that perhaps my own life would be “effective” or fulfilling without these practices, as it was for the students whom I had met. Wearing our purple nitrite gloves, our safety goggles pressing against our faces, my partner and I began to prepare our tiny metal chips, containing a thin coating of polymer blends, which would prick the membranes of the bacteria cells.

In my personal experiment, the “testing” stage became tricky. I didn’t put on my lab coat, and start spin casting my solutions or pipetting liquids onto surfaces. I didn’t even try eating some food that was not kosher, or actively violate my practices. My experiment eventually went beyond the scientific approach, as I questioned in my thoughts. I had to determine what my beliefs meant to me, to find my own answer. I could not simply interpret results of an experiment, but needed to find my own interpretations.

I found from my experiment and questioning within my mind that my practices distinguished me from others, thereby allowing me to form relationships on the basis of common interest or personality, rather than cultural similarities, that summer. I valued the relationships more, and formed a deep connection with my lab partner, whom I had found was similar to me in many ways. We talked about our very different lives, genuinely interested in one another’s.

I’m still questioning, and I think the process does not end, which is part of what makes my religious practice important to me – it urges me to constantly reflect on my values and the moral quality of my actions. I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish that “experiment,” but by experiencing and valuing the practices and lifestyles of other people, I also got to reflect on my own. That summer showed me that the questions themselves proved my practices were valuable to me, and left me with a stronger commitment to my religious faith than I had before.

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out Aja's story here]


COLLEGE ESSAY #5 - My place of inner peace

Author: James
Class Year: Princeton University 2019
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement
School Acceptances: Princeton University

Simply put, my place of inner peace is the seat of that 50 foot sliver of carbon and kevlar called a rowing shell, cutting through the water in the middle of a race. This is the one situation in which I find myself to be completely comfortable; the one environment in which I feel most empowered, at home, and content, despite it being quite at odds with the conventional definition of the word "comfortable". There is something special about a rowing race; that 6 minute, 2000 meter tour de force that many who have truly experienced one (and all who have emerged victorious) will describe as the most painful, and yet the most thrilling activity they have ever been a part of.

The pain of rowing 2000 meters is like nothing else I have ever experienced. It is a short enough distance so that there is no pacing (it's all out, everything you've got, from start to finish), but at the same time it's long enough to require every ounce of strength and will power to reach the finish. By the end, the lungs scream out for oxygen, and the legs, chest, and arms all burn as if boiling water has been injected into every pore. The mental toughness required to drag oneself through this ordeal, from the moment it starts to hurt 30 seconds in to the moment you cross the finish line, is immense. The psychological state that is entered into during a race is one of unparalleled focus, drive, and will to win.

The race begins with six boats lined up side by side, tensed and ready to pounce. The umpire then makes the call, “Attention. Row” in a tone that seems entirely too casual for the occasion, and the bows spring forward. What was moments before an atmosphere of complete silence is transformed into a world of noise. Here is a short list of things one hears at the start of a rowing race: the authoritative yell of the coxswains, the rhythmic click of the oars, the fluid swish of the water under the boat, the roar of the officials’ launches falling in behind the boats. I always find it funny though, that while the tense silence of the pre-race moments dissolves so quickly into noise from every direction, a rower can only actually hear any of it for a surprisingly short period of time. This is because at about two minutes into a race, a rower begins to lose his senses. Scent disappears completely, touch is negligible, hearing dissolves into nothing but the calls of the cox, and sight reduces itself to a portrait of the back of the rower in front of you. It is in this bizzare state of mind and body that I am truly in my "comfort zone".

The pain is intense, yes, but I have felt it before. I feel it quite regularly, actually. The training a rower goes through to prepare for a race begins months in advance and consists of pushing oneself to the limit; repeatedly putting oneself in positions of pain and discomfort so that when crunch time comes, a rower is truly without fear of what lies ahead of him. This is how I feel when the going gets tough at around two minutes in: fearless. In these moments I feel invincible; I feel like I was born to do exactly what I am doing right then and there. In these moments I am completely and totally content.

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out James' story here]


COLLEGE ESSAY #6 - So this is what compassion is all about

Author: Amanda
Class Year: Princeton University 2019
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement
School Acceptances: Princeton University, Rutgers University

So this is what compassion is all about? Piece of cake.

Joey was a sweet, ten-year-old boy who could derive pleasure even in the most prosaic of activities: catching a balloon, listening to music, watching other children run, jump, and play. But Joey himself was confined to a wheelchair – he would never be able to participate in the same way that his friends without physical disabilities could.

Joey was the first child assigned to me when I began volunteering for the Friendship Circle, an organization that pairs teenage volunteers with special-needs children. Right from the start, I was grateful for being matched up with this sweet, easy-going child; I felt immense relief at how effortless my volunteering commitment with Joey could be. Simply by wheeling my friend through tiled halls and breezy gardens, I simultaneously entertained him and inspired others with my acts of kindness.

Piece of cake.

Truthfully, though, during my time with Joey, I felt more than a little virtuous and pleased with myself. There I was, able to impress everyone with my dedication to Joey, with only minimal effort on my part. My experience with Joey led me to mistakenly believe that I had, by the age of thirteen, attained a complete understanding of what a word like “empathy” really meant. I was complacent in my comfort zone, confident that I understood what compassion was all about.

Then I met Robyn, and I realized how wrong I was.

Prone to anger, aggressive, sometimes violent (I have the scar to prove it). Every Sunday with Robyn was a challenge. Yoga, dancing, cooking, art, tennis – none of these activities held her interest for long before she would inevitably throw a tantrum or stalk over to a corner to sulk or fight with the other children. She alternated between wrapping her arms around my neck, declaring to anyone who passed by that she loved me, and clawing at my arms, screaming at me to leave her alone.

One day, after an unsuccessful attempt to break up a brawl between Robyn and another girl, I found myself taking dazed steps towards the administrator’s office. I was near my breaking point, ready to quit. In that moment, though, I vividly recall looking up and seeing Robyn’s parents walking down the hall coming to pick her up. Tired eyes. Weary, but appreciative smiles. A realization then struck me: I was only with Robyn for one day a week. During the rest of the week, Robyn was the sole responsibility of her parents. The same parents who once confided in me that Robyn behaved no differently at home than she did at the Friendship Circle with me.

Robyn’s parents undeniably loved her. There were even moments when Robyn transformed into one of the sweetest children I had ever met. But she was no Joey. Sweet, easygoing Joey. Joey who I thought had taught me true empathy. If I was such a saint, how could I give back to Joey’s parents, but not to Robyn’s? How could I not provide them a brief respite every week, from the labors of caring for her? Was I sincerely an empathetic person if I could only be so when it was easy? Was I truly compassionate because others thought I was? Complacency does not equate with compassion; true empathy is not an ephemeral trait that one possesses only when it suits him or her – when it doesn’t require him or her to try.

Progress exists in steps. The first steps were the ones I took with Joey, my earliest experience in volunteering. But the steps I took away from the administrator’s office, the steps I took back toward Robyn, were the steps of a different person, I like to think.

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out Amanda's story here]

You can read 19 additional college essays that earned students acceptance into top-tier colleges. Grab these essays below.


COLLEGE ESSAY #7 - I believe that every person is molded by their experiences

Author: Martin
Class Year: Princeton University 2021
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement
School Acceptances: Princeton University, University of California Berkeley, University of California Davis, University of California Santa Cruz, CSU Sonoma, CSU Long Beach, CSU San Jose, CSU Chico, New York University

I believe every person is molded by their experiences whether they be positive or negative. I have been impacted by many events and challenges, both personally and socially, that have made me who I am today.

I was born in Concepcion de Buenos Aires in Jalisco, Mexico. My dad did not always live with us and worked doing manual labor in the United States every three months to provide income for us transitioning between the United States and Mexico when he could. When I was six, my Spanish-speaking family immigrated to the United States. Once here in the United States, I found English difficult to learn at school since it was brand new to me. English-speaking students always had to translate for me which motivated me to become fluently proficient by third grade.

In addition to the language barrier at school, my family would constantly move due to apartment rent increase, so I never grew accustomed to a group of friends.  Because of this, I had social difficulties in elementary school.  I remember hardly speaking in class and not playing any recess games unless invited. I recall playing tetherball mostly by myself and observing the children with longing eyes. In the sixth grade, my social life began to change; I met my best friend, Luz. We fostered a tight-knit bond immediately, and my confidence developed little by little each day. As each year passed, I acquired more confidence to become more sociable, but my awkwardness did not completely go away.

My earlier language barrier, my soft-hearted and quiet personality, and my social self-consciousness found me drawn to playing with girls and not sports with the other boys. I soon began to feel excluded by boys asking me why I played with girls; it made me feel small and different from the rest. Looking back, I have never been the “masculine boy” as society says my role to be. I have always thought I do not fit the social definition of a male as one who is “manly” and “sporty” and this alienating feeling of being different still persists today at times. However, I also have become more comfortable with myself, and I see my growth firsthand throughout high school.

In my freshman year I began to come out of my shell and develop self-confidence, largely due to my participation in choir and drama class. In these classes I could be myself and found my real voice. Here I felt a connection to a family not connected by blood but by a unifying passion in the creative arts.  That connection allowed me to confide in my friend Luz my struggle with my personal identity. One day I messaged her: “I have something to tell you… I think I might be bisexual.” My heart pounded as I waited anxiously for her reply. She responded: “How long have you been thinking of this?”  In her response I felt reassured that the she would not reject me.  From that moment my best friend thanked me and said our friendship was now stronger as a result. I felt so relieved to get that secret off my chest; it was a cathartic moment in my life and a significant turning point!

Throughout high school, I have become more open about who I am, and my confidence and acceptance in myself has grown tremendously. Although I still have not told my parents about my sexuality, I will when I am ready.  I am who I am today as a result of these experiences and personal challenges. In my short life so far, I have developed my soft-hearted and quiet personality to become more open, creative, and self-assured while preserving my identity. I know more challenges lie ahead, but I am open to those opportunities.

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out Martin's story here]


COLLEGE ESSAY #8 - The California Cadet Corps

Author: Justin
Class Year: Princeton University 2021
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement
School Acceptances: Princeton University, Harvard University, Stanford University, UCLA, UCSD

During my freshman year at Cajon High School, I enlisted in the California Cadet Corps (CACC). The CACC is essentially a JROTC program based on a state level. Every summer, the CACC holds a summer encampment at Camp San Luis Obispo. A myriad of leadership schools are offered: Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) School, Officer-Candidate School (OCS), etc. I participated in OCS my freshman year, Survival my sophomore year, and Marksmanship last summer. Of those three, Survival was definitely my biggest challenge and marked my transition from childhood to adulthood.

Within the CACC, there’s an honor so admirable that those who receive it are inducted into an order of elites: the Red Beret. It signifies completion of survival training, the most rigorous and difficult training course within the CACC. With a heart mixed with excitement and fear, I stepped onto the bus headed for Camp San Luis Obispo in June of 2015.

After basic instruction, we were transported to arid Camp Roberts to begin field training. Upon arrival, we were separated into groups of four with one leader each (I was designated as team leader). We then emptied our canteens, received minimal tools, and set off. Our immediate priority was finding areas to build our shelter and latrine. Then, we needed to locate a clean source of water. After, we had to find food. It was truly a situation that required making everything from scratch. As the day drew to a close and night advanced, I felt seclusion and apprehension envelop me.

As the days drew on, constant stress and heat along with lack of food took a toll on my sanity and drove me almost to my breaking-point. At one moment, I remembered a handwritten phrase that had been on my desk: “Your biggest enemy is yourself.” At this moment, it hit me: I wasn’t going to quit. I was going to overcome this challenge and show myself that I have what it takes to survive for five days using nothing but my wits.

On the morning of the sixth day, my team and I reported to headquarters to complete training. With pride, I received the honor of wearing that glorious Red Beret on my head.

Through Survival, I learned many things about myself and the way I approach the world. I realized that I take for granted innumerable small privileges and conveniences and that I undervalue what I do have. Now that I had experienced true and sustained hunger, I felt regret for times when I threw away food and behaved with unconscious waste. Additionally, being isolated from mass civilization and relying heavily on my companions gave me an appreciation for my friends and for the absolute necessity of teamwork. Being the leader of my team meant that they all looked to me for motivation, inspiration, and a will to survive; I got first-hand experience on how important a leader can be in a situation of literal life and death. Most importantly, however, I gained priceless insight into the amount of effort and work my parents put in for me every day.

As demonstrated, survival training taught me essential lessons to survive successfully as an adult. Looking back, it’s absolutely unbelievable how one week affected me so profoundly. Even today, I remember the phrase that motivated me that day: “Your biggest enemy is yourself.” Thinking of that, I go to school and say to myself, “Justin, you truly are an amazing young man!”

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out Justin's story here]


COLLEGE ESSAY #9 - I never want to lose what we had in that corner

Author: Jonah
Class Year: Princeton University 2019
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement - Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
School Acceptances: Princeton University, Swarthmore College

The squeaks of whiteboard markers have now replaced the scritch-scratch of chalk, but the hubbub of voices is always the same. For millennia, the great thinkers of their day would gather and discuss. In ancient Greece, it was Socrates debating about philosophy; centuries later it was Newton lecturing at Cambridge on fluxions and physics. This summer Paul Steinhardt and his eminent colleagues sat down for a panel about inflationary theory at the World Science festival- though there was neither chalk nor markers there. Though we make no claim to be the greatest thinkers of our day and our school in no way resembles the hallowed edifices of science, my friends and I have staked out a corner of our AP Calculus room where we can have our own discussions. We even have a whiteboard.

It started small: just myself, Avery, and Sam and a problem set that didn’t take us long enough. Appropriately enough, we were working on one of Newton’s problems: differential equations describing cooling curves. His solution is fairly simple, perhaps overly simple, which prompted me to ask Avery what he thought. We had both taken Chemistry the year before, and Newton’s equation didn’t take into account thermal equilibrium; (to be fair to Newton, adding thermal equilibrium doesn’t appreciably change the solution at normal conditions). Since we were slightly bored and faced with an empty hour ahead of us, we started to modify the equation. We had learned in Chemistry that both the surroundings and the actual cooling object both change temperature, which Newton had ignored. We wrote up a first attempt on the infamous whiteboard, paused a second, and then started laughing as we realized that our inchoate equation meant a hot cup of coffee could plummet Earth into another Ice Age. This disturbance in an otherwise fairly quiet classroom drew the attention of Sam. He too was amused with our attempt and together we began to fix the poor thing. Huddled around the back of the classroom, we all pondered. It wasn’t an important problem, it wasn’t due the next day, it wasn’t even particularly interesting. But we loved it.

The three of us had been friends since middle school, which in many ways seems astounding. Avery, a track runner, Sam, a Morris dancer, and myself, a fencer. Our interests could not be more diverse. Avery was an avid programmer while Sam was fascinated by the evolution of language. I always had a soft spot for physics. Luckily for us, we had found each other early on in middle school and our discussions started soon after. As we learned more math, read more books, and culled more esoteric facts from our varied experiences, the quality of our rebuttals has dramatically improved. The laughter is immutable.

In the back of algebra class in eighth grade, Avery taught me how to program calculators in TIBasic while I traded theories with him about the Big Bang. From Sam I learned the phonetic alphabet and more recently the physics of bell ringing. Since then our dynamic has always stayed playful no matter how heated the discussion; only our arguments have changed. I may have learned as much in the back of classes with my friends as I learned from my teachers. Joseph Joubert wrote, “To teach is to learn twice,” and I could not agree more. In the myriad hours Avery, Sam, and I spent together, the neuron-firing was palpable, the exuberance impossible to miss.

But not only did I learn linguistics, Python, and philosophy with Avery and Sam, I learned a little more about myself. I never want to lose what we had in that corner. Our interplay of guessing and discovering and laughing seemed like paradise to me. I looked for other opportunities in my life to meet brilliant and vivacious people, to learn from them, and to teach them what I loved. I co-founded a tutoring program, participated in original research, and taught lessons in Physics and Chemistry as a substitute.

I expected to be nervous, I expected to embarrass myself. Yet on every occasion, whether I’m facing the board or with my back to it, whether I’m in the ranks of my peers or addressing my teachers, I feel the same elation. In my friends I see Socrates, Newton, and Steinhardt. There’s no place I would rather be than in their company.

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out Jonah's story here]


COLLEGE ESSAY #10 - It is the effort that counts, not the result

Author: John
Class Year: Princeton University 2021
Type of Essay: Common Application Personal Statement - The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
School Acceptances: Princeton University

For as long as I can remember, wrestling has been an important part of my life. I can recall playing dodgeball after wrestling practice, summer wrestling camps, hard practices with my older brother, and hundreds of wrestling tournaments as cornerstones of my childhood. From a young age I was determined to be the best; and quickly concluded that meant winning a PIAA state championship. When I entered Junior High, I discovered that only ten wrestlers in the history of Pennsylvania had won a state championship each year of their high school careers - and becoming the eleventh became my personal ambition.

Entering high school, I centered my life around the goal of winning a state title my freshman year. I became disciplined in every aspect of my life: from how many hours of sleep I got, to what exact foods I ate. I was obsessed with my intensive training regimen, and fell asleep each night to the dream of my hand being raised in the circle of the main mat on the Giant Center floor.

As the season progressed, I experienced success. My state ranking climbed steadily and by the time the state tournament began, I was projected to finish third. I wrestled well throughout the tournament, advancing to the semifinals where I defeated the favorite 11-0. At last: I was to wrestle in the final match for the state championship. I prepared for my opponent, whom I defeated the week before. However, when the match began, I wrestled nervously, was unable to fully recover, and ended up on the short end of a 3-1 decision.

In just a few short minutes, my dream was shattered. For me, it felt like the end of the world. I had based my whole identity and lifestyle on the dream of winning four state titles. It felt as though the sport I loved most had ripped out my heart,  and on live television, in front of thousands of people. I was upset after the match.  I was depressed and felt worthless, devoid of my passion for and love of wrestling.

After a month or perhaps more of introspection, and some in depth conversations with the people closest to me, I began to realize that one lost wrestling match, at age fifteen, was not the end of the world. The more I reflected on my wrestling journey, the more gratitude I developed for all of my opportunities.   I realized that wrestling had helped forge some of the most important relationships of my life, including an irreplaceable fraternity with my older brother, teammates, and coaches. My setback in the state finals also helped me to understand all of the lessons learned through wrestling, and that there was much more I could still accomplish. Wrestling helped me learn the value of hard work, discipline, and mental toughness. But most important, I learned that no matter how much we try, we cannot control everything, including the outcome of a wrestling match. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our reaction, attitude, actions, and effort. In the words of my father, “it is the effort that counts, not the result.”

Hence, through my experience of failure I learned an invaluable lesson applicable to every walk of life. In retrospect, I am grateful for the opportunity to compete, to represent myself and my school, and to lay all my hard work on the line. The process of striving to become a state champion taught me more than achieving this title ever could, and my failure in the state finals was a blessing in disguise.

[Want to learn more about the author of this essay? Check out John's story here]


COLLEGE ESSAY #11 - The problem of social integration

Author: Harry
Class Year: Princeton University 2020
Type of Essay: Universal Common Application Personal Statement - How do we establish common values to promote harmony in an increasingly diverse society?
School Acceptances: Princeton University

Establishing a cohesive society where common values are shared is increasingly difficult in multi-faith, globalised societies such as the one I’m part of in the UK. My studies in politics and philosophy have made me more sensitive to this problem and as I have a much larger number of friends from different ethnic backgrounds than my parents and the previous generation, I realise that the friction created by the presence of different ethnic and social groups is not going to disappear anytime soon.

Admittedly, the problem of social integration is one I feel can be widely overstated – for example, when I was looking into some research for a similar topic a couple of years ago, I found numerous surveys indicating that ethnic minorities (especially Islam) identify much more closely with Britain than do the population at large. Still though, I, like many others, find myself constantly troubled by the prospect of the war from within that seems to be developing. This fear is fuelled by events such as the brutal killing of the soldier Lee Rigby at the hands of two British Muslims a couple of years ago.

This cold blooded murder provides a clear example of what can happen when people lose their human connection to the society that they’re a part of and instead pursue hate and violence on a pretence to a higher purpose (killing in the name of religion). I think suggestible minds are undoubtedly most prone to this, and the two British men who killed Rigby, previously Christians, are examples of how minds devoid of any instilled social values are fertile ground for the fomentation of harmful ideas.

What I find particularly worrying is the distinct danger of allowing a largely atomised society to develop, where conflicts such as this one begin to characterise the interaction between the different parts. It’s imperative that we avoid this situation and work towards social unity, and so I think a long-term and complex solution to social integration must be found. Given the upward trends in multiculturalism and globalisation, it is going to be paramount that my generation takes on the problems of integration and cultural diversity to create a harmonious society.

The solution will no doubt be an ongoing process, involving years of detailed and thoroughly considered legislation, but I think that in working towards it, we should focus on certain things.

With regard to the role of religion, I think its relationship with the state needs to be clarified and communicated to everyone. As the case of Lee Rigby quite bluntly reveals, where religion triumphs over civic duty, there’s a potentially dangerous situation, especially when put into the context of radical fundamentalism. By the same token however, it’s neither desirable nor feasible to have a society where politics trumps religion, so I think that when addressing the issue of social cohesion there must be an overarching commitment to other people within society that’s established – humanity must transcend any form of politics or ideology, and bind the two camps so their incompatibility does not become entrenched.

I think that this has to be done primarily through education: both within the formal curriculum which all citizens of a democratic nation state should be compelled to follow until at least the age of 16, and in the wider sense through more promotion of cultural programmes nationally that encourage the nation’s population to participate in the continuing discussion and examination of our core, shared values. We have to work at this constantly since identity is itself always in a state of flux and accept that this continuing ‘conversation’ will always require us to confront some very difficult questions about freedom and responsibility. People need to understand these ideas not simply as abstract questions, but also as issues of practical, pragmatic relevance, deconstructing them into how we actually treat each other, the true test of how civilised and tolerant we are.


Download 30 College Essay Examples

You can check out even more college essay examples by successful applicants! For 19 additional essays, download PrepMaven's 30 College Essays That Worked.

With this document, you'll get:

  • The essays included in this post
  • 19 additional full personal statements of applicants admitted to top-tier institutions

Need some additional help? Check out our college essay service and work with one of our Master Consultants.

At PrepMaven, our mission is not only to help your child increase their test scores and get into a great college but also to put them on the right track for long-term personal and professional success.


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg Wong and Kevin Wong

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


Summer Options for High School Students

20 Online Summer Options for High School Students

20 Online Summer Options for High School Students

Bonus Material: PrepMaven's Summer 2020 Calendar

Summertime is an ideal time for high school students to participate in meaningful activities.

These include:

  • Exciting internships
  • Pre-college programs
  • Academic programs
  • Research
  • Volunteering
  • Employment
  • Writing college application essays
  • And much more.

But this summer (2020), many summer camps and pre-college programs have been canceled or postponed. 

This doesn’t mean the summer has to be devoid of academic or personal enrichment! 

In this post, we’ve rounded up 20 online options for how high school students can spend their summers. This is hardly a comprehensive list but can be used as a good starting point.

Plus, you can use our free Summer 2020 Calendar below to choose programs of interest and organize your summertime effectively.

Here's what we cover:

    1. Online Summer Programs
    2. Online Courses
    3. Virtual Volunteering Opportunities
    4. Professional Development
    5. Writing Enrichment
    6. Tutoring & Test Prep
    7. Bonus: PrepMaven's Summer 2020 Calendar

Online Summer Programs

We reference many of these programs in our Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students post.

The good news? Most are offering some sort of virtual learning experience in lieu of on-campus activities.

1. Summer Institute for the Gifted

SIG offers unique programming for gifted and talented students ages 5-17 during the summer and school year. The SIG STEAM+ curriculum focuses on applying creative thinking across multiple disciplines to solve real-world problems. Through an innovative curriculum that spans all facets of 

Best Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students

STEAM, plus humanities and fitness, SIG challenges students to utilize knowledge of different disciplines to discover creative solutions.

While it remains unclear whether their three-week sessions on college campuses, including that of Princeton University, will be held, SIG also runs online programming, including: 

  • SIG Online Learning: Six-week virtual learning experience for ages 5-17 focusing on SIG’s renowned STEAM+ curriculum. Courses are led online by professional teachers.
  • SIG Summer Online Intensive: 
Three-week virtual learning intensive, which offers an accelerated version of SIG’s signature STEAM+ courses coupled with virtual social-emotional development and engagement experiences. Courses are led online by professional teachers.

The first application deadline for these online programs is June 12; several other deadlines follow in July.

2. John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) 

CTY has long been lauded for its rigorous summer programs, hosted at a variety of college campuses in the U.S. and overseas. High-achieving students experience intensive academics, team-building activities, and much more at CTY.

Best Princeton Summer Programs for High School Students

CTY, in coordination with Johns Hopkins University leadership, has decided to cancel Session 1 of their 2020 Summer Programs, along with all courses at their Hong Kong sites. Session 2 programs are still cautiously being planned for, but could also be canceled.

Either way, however, CTY’s course catalog of Online Programs are worth checking out. 

The website also notes that they’re exploring new, virtual ways to support families coping with this unprecedented situation. Check back in at their website for more information as those offerings are developed.

3. Program in Algorithmic and Combinational Thinking (PACT)

Aspiring computer scientists and mathematicians won’t want to overlook PACT, a unique five-week summer program that gives students a chance to dive deep into the world of theoretical computer science. It’s funded in part by Rutgers University and the National Science Foundation.

The only requirements for this program? “High school algebra, the willingness to work hard and be challenged, and, above all, the desire to learn.”

PACT’20 will run virtually during Summer 2020. They’re still hammering out the fee, times and logistics so as to accommodate students from different parts of the US, as well as across the world.

If interested, however, you should apply soon. The deadline to guarantee full consideration (March 20) has already passed. However, the website says that “We will continue to accept applications until all seats are taken.”

4. Berklee Summer Programs

Berklee has a variety of summer programs in music, dance, and theater that will be held online this summer.

Their Aspire: Five-Week Music Performance Intensive is just one of their offerings, which is a comprehensive summer music performance program that "will enhance your instrumental or vocal performance mastery" and counts Meghan Trainor, Charlie Puth, and Betty Who as notable program alumni.

5. Pre-College Programs

Pre-college summer programs are designed to give high school students a taste of what it's like to live on a college campus while also learning something. Many of these programs are selective and expensive.

Some schools, like Duke, have fully canceled their programs. Others, like Harvard, are offering online synchronous versions of their courses and programs.

Without the on-campus experience and camaraderie, it's hard to justify the costs of some of these programs. If your student is self-motivated, you might want to consider one of the free online summer course alternatives below.


Online Summer Courses

Students can always incorporate some independent learning in their summertime schedules with some online coursework. There are many platforms out there that offer virtual courses, many free and some in conjunction with colleges (Berklee School of Music, Carnegie Mellon, MIT) and businesses (IBM, Disney, Goldman Sachs).

Here are some options for online learning opportunities.

6. Outlier.org

This platform enables students to take Calculus 1 or Intro to Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, for transferable credit! Both of the classes are common general education requirements at colleges, so this is a great way to fulfill those requirements early.

7. Coursera

Coursera partners with leading companies like Google, and leading universities like Yale, to offer free skills-based or college classes. It also offers degree or certificate programs for a fee. Sample courses include Dynamic Public Speaking and Control of Mobile Robots.

8. edX

edX offers anyone an opportunity to dive into all kinds of subjects in partnership with leading universities like UC Berkeley and NYU. Most courses are free, with the option to purchase Verified Certificates and pursue fee-based degrees. Try the Science of Happiness (a positive psychology program in partnership with UC Berkeley) or the Basics of Computing and Programming (in partnership with NYU).

9. MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT's OpenCourseWare is a treasure trove of online learning opportunities, especially for students wanting to acquire skills in math, computing, programming, and technology.

Courses are taught at the undergraduate level and come with required readings, video lectures, and more.

10. Course Credit

Many colleges allow high school students to take courses for credit. Check out your local university of community college for options. Or research schools that have transitioned online.

Many of the more "prestigious" programs will require applications. For example, Stanford's High School Summer College has a rolling admission deadline of 6/20/2020.


Virtual Summer Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to give back to one's community and, potentially, find something worthwhile to write about in college application essays. Here are a few online volunteering options available to high school students.

11. UN Online Volunteering Service

The UN Online Volunteering Service is a great option for students interested in global relations, and also a first step toward deciding whether students might like to eventually study international relations or participate in study abroad opportunities in college.

12. Smithsonian Digital Volunteers

This nationally important museum needs online volunteers to transcribe historic documents and contribute to its WikiProject. This is a great introduction to the kind of archival and academic-based work that students will be doing in college.

13. Translators Without Borders

Translators Without Borders connects bilingual or multilingual volunteers with such important projects as translating medical texts or for crisis-response situations.

Want a way to organize the list of summer programs you’re researching? We’ve included all the summer programs mentioned here (as well as other useful info), into an easily editable and customizable document. Grab it below.


Online Professional/Personal Development

Summer is also a great time to develop professional skills, not just academic ones. Some students may still be able to participate virtually in summer internships, depending on the opportunity.

Otherwise, here are a few other useful options for professional development.

14. UDEMY

UDEMY offers online skills-based classes. Whether it’s learning how to use Photoshop, code Linux, or do professional-level photography, there are a wealth of ways to expand one’s skill set, in ways that will be helpful throughout both school and life.

15. Masterclass

Chances are, your student can take a class from a personal hero of theirs. This platform offers classes from top professionals in a wide range of fields, from fashion to photography to sports to writing.

Just a few names of these world-class instructors: Serena Williams, Anna Wintour, Annie Leibovitz, and Joyce Carol Oates.


Online Writing Enrichment

Writing ability can have a significant impact on your academics, standardized tests, and college essays. If you're not sure what to work on this summer, consider improving your writing skills!

16. Self-Directed Writing Courses

You can find a number of online courses covering all aspects of writing. Check out Coursera, Udemy, and edX to see if anything is interesting.

17. PrepMaven Live Writing Workshops

PrepMaven's writing workshops are led by Princeton and Harvard graduates who are professional screenwriters, journalists, MFA graduates, and former teachers.

Their curriculum is informed by over 40,000 hours of experience working with students in academic subjects, standardized tests like the SAT & ACT, and college essays.

Each workshop is specifically designed to be 100% practical and immediately applicable.

Workshop Description
"Stop, Grammar Time!" GRAMMAR Workshop Targeted grammar instruction to improve PSAT/SAT/ACT scores, grades, and…. –> LEARN MORE
"Think Then Write" ACADEMIC WRITING Workshop Level up your academic writing to improve English and History grades, enhance thinking skills, and… –> LEARN MORE
"More Than Just a Story" CREATIVE WRITING Workshop Work with a Harvard-educated screenwriter to build foundational storytelling skills to… –> LEARN MORE
COLLEGE ESSAY Workshop Work with an expert essay consultant to complete an amazing college essay in only 4 weeks… –> LEARN MORE

Online Private Tutoring

18. Academic Tutoring

You might want to consider supplementing summer programming with academic tutoring if your student:

  • has fallen behind during the academic year
  • is transitioning to 9th grade and wants to get ready for the rigors of high school
  • plans on taking a difficult class (e.g. Advanced Placement) next school year and wants to get a head start

If you don't already have a preferred tutor/organization, please feel free to reach out to Princeton Tutoring for additional information.

19. Test Prep

Students planning on taking the SSAT, PSAT/SAT, or ACT any time in the upcoming academic year are encouraged to take advantage of the summer for more intensive test prep.

Students generally have 3 options (or a combination of these three):

  1. Self-Study - This is a good option for those who are adept at learning on their own or those on a budget. Check out this resource on how to self study for the SAT.
  2. Classes - There are a lot of options out there for you to consider. PrepMaven's SAT MasterClass is personally taught by a co-founder.
  3. Private Tutoring - Private 1-1 tutoring is generally the most effective and efficient option but is also more expensive.

20. College Essays

If possible, rising seniors should complete their personal statements and supplemental essays during the summer. When looking for support, students can turn to their teachers, friends, or parents.

Not sure where to start? Sign up for a class or work 1:1 with a professional.


Download Our Free Plan-Your-Online-Summer Calendar 

Many students will likely choose to participate in several of these online experiences this summer. 

But how do you choose between these programs, workshops, and courses? And what can you do to plan out your summer in an organized and enriching fashion?

You can use our free Summer 2020 Calendar to:

  1. Identify your experiences of interest and start / end dates (if applicable)
  2. Narrow down this list of experiences to your top 3-5
  3. Block out these experiences on a digital calendar for an easy birds-eye view of your summer
  4. Find extra details and links to all of the summer programs mentioned in this list (we've done the work for you!)
  5. Document your time so you can feel confident filling out your college application resume down the road


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg & Kevin

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


How I Got Into Princeton - Martin (Story #17)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #17

Martin's Story

"I always strive to make people proud of me."

Meet Martin, a member of Princeton's class of 2021.

In high school, Martin pursued a robust schedule of academics, extracurricular activities, and community service. He graduated in the top five percent of his high school class, held the role of Vice President in his school's Lobo Unity service club, and became a California Scholarship Federation (CSF) lifetime member. Martin is also a Questbridge Match recipient.

However, Martin's achievements were not without challenge, as he describes in this post.

"Being a first-generation Latino low-income student was not easy," Martin reflects. "Going to an Ivy league school seemed like an unreachable dream, but with hard work and a good support system, I was able to achieve that."

Please read below to learn more about Martin and the personal qualities, values, and support system that have allowed him to succeed.

We recommend reading from beginning to end but feel free to skip around. Our favorite section is the "What Makes You You" section, where Martin describes his unique qualities and how they contributed to his personal and academic success.

About this Series

In our "How I got Into" series, we share the stories of successful applicants to Princeton and other great colleges.

Our profiles go beyond a simple list of academic and extracurricular achievements. We also delve into the “how” and the qualities that successful applicants exhibit.

We provide a rare look into what drives these students, how they've overcome their challenges, how they've been shaped by significant events in their lives, how they deal with the pressure to succeed, and much more.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

SECTION 1 - FAMILY
SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING
SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES
SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS
SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION
SECTION 6 - DAY IN THE LIFE
SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU
SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Disclaimer

Here's what we're NOT doing with this series:

  • We are NOT prescribing an over-engineered approach to college admissions
  • We are NOT presenting a blueprint for how you should get into college
  • We are NOT suggesting that you must gain admissions to a selective school to be successful (you most certainly do not)

Here's what we ARE doing:

  • We are presenting data and sharing stories
  • We are providing context that you usually don't see to highlight that we are more than just our grades and GPA
  • Our ultimate goal is to uncover the values and personal qualities that drive successful applicants

Whether you are considering selective colleges or not, it is our unwavering belief that our values and personal qualities (and luck) are the major contributors to success.


SECTION 1 - FAMILY

Geography

Birthplace: Mexico
Where did you grow up? Santa Rosa, CA

Siblings

# of older siblings:  2
# of younger siblings: 1
Sibling Education Levels:  Older sister: community college; older brother: high school; younger sister: elementary school
Where did your siblings go to college?  N/A

Parents

Parent's Marital Status: Married
With whom do you make your permanent home? Both
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Disabled but used to be a factory worker
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: Elementary School
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Factory Worker
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: Elementary School

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parents' parenting style(s)?

Laid back, but sometimes strict.

On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the most important), how important to your parents was:

Academics 4
Extracurriculars 3
Service 2
Family 5
Friends 4
Physical Health/ Fitness 2
Mental Health 3

Did your parents have specific philosophies regarding any of the areas above?

They valued family above all else because you’ll always have family with you. Also, they valued academics for me so I can have a good career and “not be like them.”


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Middle School

Middle School: Lawrence Cook Middle School
Type of School: Public

High School

High School: Elsie Allen High School
High School City, State: Santa Rosa, CA
Type of School: Public
Class Size: 291

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Jobs

Did you work in high school?  No
What kind of job/s did you have? n/a
Average hours/week worked? n/a
Why did you work? n/a

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

Theatre, choir, and music.

How much time did you spend on these things?

I had both choir and theatre classes during the school year for 5 hours a week. It would be more if we had a performance or extra rehearsals.

When did these passions/interests first come about?

I first started singing freshman year of high school after I was in a choir class. I started theatre sophomore year of high school when I was in the class.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

I was dedicated to these passions and would sing solos during concerts. I was also motivated by performing in plays and scenes. I performed until senior year and continued to strive for improvement.

What level of achievement did you reach?

I sang solos in choir, the school produced my original play, and I performed a musical theatre solo at the Lenaea Theatre Festival.

Tell us a little bit about how you achieved these achievements?

I had a lot of support from my classmates and teachers. I enjoyed performing so improvement and stepping out of my comfort zone were something that satisfied me.

What kind of support did you have?

My main support for these passions were my classmates, friends, and teachers.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these extracurricular results?

I was taking very challenging classes and had to manage my time well in order to calibrate academics, theatre, choir, other extracurricular activities, and time with friends and family. Sometimes my family felt I wasn’t spending enough time with them and I had to reassure them that theatre, choir, and my activities were important to me.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

At school, I was in Rotary Interact Club and was also Vice President of Lobo Unity, a club dedicated to fostering unity and providing service within the community. I participated in various community service activities, from helping in community festivals to food drives and visiting elders at retirement homes.

How much time did you spend?

4-5 hours per week.

Why did you choose this activity?

At first I chose this activity to add to my college resume, but I discovered I really enjoyed helping people. It pleased me to do things to benefit the community and other people.

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

Summer after 9th grade, I went with my family to Mexico to visit family for a few weeks. I also worked out to feel more comfortable about my body image.

Summer after 10th grade, I participated in a 14-day Sierra Mountain alpine backpacking trip funded by Summer Search, a program to foster independence and college preparedness. I worked out beforehand to condition myself for that trip.

After 11th grade, I participated in the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program, where I interned at the Stanford Hospital and lived at Stanford University for 7 weeks. Additionally, I took an anatomy class, researched health disparities, and learned about applying for college. Afterward, I participated in a 2-week program in Moca, Dominican Republic, funded by Summer Search. I learned about the Dominican culture and worked on a community action project to better the community.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: 6/291
GPA - Weighted: 4.42
GPA - Unweighted 3.82

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 2
How many times did you take the ACT? 2
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? SAT: 1410, ACT: 28
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? No
How many hours did you study in total? 6
When did you start preparing for the test? A month before the test Junior year
When did you take the test? 11th grade

Do you know which test to take? Check out our recommendations here - Should I Take the SAT or the ACT?

Not sure WHEN to take the test? We created 9 Sample Testing Schedules to help get you started

SAT Subject Tests & AP/IBs

Which SAT Subject tests did you take? 

Biology (Molecular): 800; Math Level II: 620; Chemistry: 560

Which AP/IBs did you take?

AP Biology: 4
AP US History: 4
AP Statistics: 3
AP Language & Composition: 4
AP Calculus AB: 5
AP Macroeconomics: 3
AP Government: 3
AP Literature & Composition: 2
AP Physics 1: 2
AP Spanish Language: 5

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

I graduated in the top 5% of my class, became a California Scholarship Federation (CSF) life-time member, and am a Questbridge Match recipient.

What do you attribute your academic success to?

I always strive to make people proud of me. I worked hard and searched for help whenever needed in order to excel in my classes and with schoolwork. There was intrinsic motivation, but I also received motivation from my friends, teachers, and family.

What kind of support did you have?

My family encouraged me to do well in school because they always thought I was intelligent and teachers would give them feedback that I was a good student. I also received a lot of support from my friends, who would mostly take the same classes as me. We would help each other understand material, so I would comprehend by being both a student and a teacher. Also, most of my teachers were really supportive. They wished the best for me and  really cared.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

No.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these academic results?

I definitely had to learn how to set priorities for myself. Schoolwork was a high priority for me. A challenge was not having help from parents or a tutor; my parents were supportive but they did not complete high school and did not speak English. I had my friends to help me when needed and I helped them, too, which reinforced my knowledge. My school did not have the greatest academic reputation, mainly because it was in an area that was infamous for gangs and things like that. Additionally, being a first-generation Latino low-income student was not easy. Going to an ivy league school seemed like an unreachable dream, but with hard work and a good support system I was able to achieve that.

Any specific approaches/tips & tricks to studying that were particularly helpful for you?

Something that helped me study and reinforce my knowledge was teaching to a friend. My friends and I would help each other; if they were confused, I would teach to them and vice versa. Also, doing homework in a quiet place free of diversions would help me focus and retain what I was learning. Another thing was note-taking. I would take notes on the chapter in the book and then also take notes during class. Writing them helped me retain the information.


SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION

Applications & Acceptances

Did you apply as an international or domestic student? Domestic
Did you apply regular or early? Both
How many schools did you apply to? 14
Were you a legacy applicant at any of these schools? No
Were you recruited for athletics, arts, music, etc...? No
Did you declare a major? Did this end up being your actual major? For some of them, yes. I put down biology, which I am still considering as my major.

Which schools did you apply to (that you remember)?

UCLA, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Princeton University, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, CSU Sonoma, CSU Long Beach, CSU San Jose, CSU Chico, New York University.Read more


AP Exams and the Coronavirus: 10 Things You Need to Know

AP Exams and the Coronavirus: 10 Things You Need to Know

AP Exams will NOT be canceled this year due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Instead, they will be shortened to 45 minutes (from 3+ hrs), converted to all free-response questions (from both multiple-choice and free-response), and administered at home and online.

Additionally, the AP Exams will be OPEN BOOK

The College Board is the maker of the AP. Their decision is in contrast to its counterpart, the IB, which has canceled their exam. The decision also differs from the College Board and ACT’s decision to cancel/postpone several testing dates for the SAT and ACT.

The College Board states that their decision is based on a survey of 18,000 students, 91% of whom indicated they still wish to take the test.

We can only assume that the College Board also weighed the potential negative impacts on college credit (if canceling) and the increased burden on students during college application season (if postponing to the Fall or later).

Read on below for more info and tips to help students navigate through these changes.

Last updated: April 3rd, 2020 at 7 PM ET


10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1) Test Length - The AP exam will now be 45 minutes

Most AP Exams are between 2 and 3 hrs. Some clock in at 3 hrs and 15 minutes (e.g. AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP English Language, AP History).

How can a 45-minute test, which is typically shorter than a regular high school midterm, properly predict mastery of a college-level course? In an interview with the Washington Post, College Board psychometricians claim that a 45-minute test that covers only 75% of the coursework will still “show sufficient mastery for college credit”.

This might be true, but it really depends on how successfully the College Board is able to develop their test questions and adapt to an online format.

2) Question Format - The AP exam will now be 100% free-response.

AP exams typically have both a multiple-choice and free-response section. These sections are usually equally weighted.

However, the format varies slightly for certain tests:

  • The AP History exams (i.e. AP US History, AP European History, AP World History) also have a short answer component, which comprises 20% of the score
  • The AP language exams usually have a spoken component (25% of the score)
  • AP Computer Science Principles (not AP Computer Science A) requires submission of code and written responses by a certain deadline

The bad news - free-response questions are typically harder than multiple-choice questions. If you were relying on the multiple-choice portion to boost your grades, then you’re out of luck.

The good news - Most students struggle more with free-response questions, so everybody will be in the same boat.

The transition to 100% free-response will have an even more pronounced impact on those AP exams that typically weigh this section less. For example, the free-response section is only 33% of the total score for AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics, and AP Psychology.

Conversely, the transition will have slightly less impact for those AP exams that more heavily weight the free-response (e.g. AP English Literature and AP English Language free-response sections are weighted at 55%)

There are some AP exams which shouldn’t be impacted at all (e.g. AP Drawing and AP Studio art require portfolio submissions).

What will these free-response questions (FRQs) look like? There will be 1 to 2 FRQs per AP Exam, with time allocated for both answering the question and uploading the answers. For example:

AP English Literature:

    • 1 question
    • This question presents students with a passage of prose fiction of approximately 500–700 words, and assesses students’ ability to respond with a thesis, select and use evidence, explain the evidence and how it supports a line of reasoning, use appropriate grammar and punctuation
    • 45 minutes to read and respond + 5 minutes to upload their response
    • Covers Units 1 - 7 (excludes Units 8 - 9)

AP Calculus BC:

    • 2 questions ("multi-focus" free-response questions)
    • These questions will "assess student knowledge and skills developed in 2 or more of the eligible units and topics" and "will consist of similar components to traditional AP Calculus exam questions, with minor modifications to enable students to choose to submit either typed or handwritten responses."
    • 25 minutes to answer Question 1 + 5 minutes to upload response (60% weighting)
    • 15 minutes to answer Question 2 + 5 minutes to upload response (40% weighting)
    • Covers topics in Units 1–8 + 5 topics in Unit 10 (10.2, 10.5, 10.7, 10.8, and 10.11) 

Please click here to learn course-specific exam information for each AP Exam.

3) Location - The AP Exam will now be administered online.

The College Board is “investing in the development of a new at-home testing option.” This is obviously a huge change to the test. If your school re-opens, the exam will still be online, but might be administered at school.

Students will be able to take the test on a desktop, tablet, or phone. Students will also be able to submit pictures of their written work.

Unless you absolutely have no other choice, you should avoid taking the test on your phone. We can’t see how taking the test on a small phone would not put you at a disadvantage.

What if you don’t have access to the appropriate technology? This is a legitimate concern for our low-income and rural students. If this applies to you, please submit this form ASAP - https://collegeboard.tfaforms.net/74

4) Open Book - The AP Exams will now be Open Book/"Open Note".

Trevor Packer, Senior Vice President of Advanced Placement and Instruction at the College Board, revealed in a 3/27 tweet that "these exams will be open book/”open note.” and exam questions will be focused on "skills and thematic understandings" vs "thematic recall".

This is surely an attempt to reduce the impact of cheating. Free-response questions are difficult enough. Let's hope that making them open book as well won't increase the difficulty.

Also, there's the question of social inequity - what about those students who don't have access to reliable internet or other books? 

5) Content - This year's AP Exam will only include topics and skills that most AP teachers and students will have covered by early March.

The College Board provides detailed guidance to AP teachers about the specific topics that will be covered on the AP Exam. This upcoming test will cover only ~75% of this material.

The specific “units” tested can be found on this page in the table titled “Course-Specific Exam Information”.

For example, AP Physics 1 will cover the topics in Units 1 - 7 only, which includes:

  • Kinematics
  • Dynamics
  • Circular Motion and Gravitation
  • Energy
  • Momentum
  • Simple Harmonic Motion
  • Torque and Rotational Momentum

AP Physics 1 will NOT cover the topics in Units 8 - 10:

  • Electric Charge and Electric Force
  • DC Circuits
  • Mechanical Waves and Sound

You can find the specific topics and units for each AP exam here.

If you’re like most students, covering less information is better. However, because each AP teacher decides the order in which they teach the course topics, there’s a chance you haven’t yet covered the material.

6) Testing Dates - There will now be 2 testing dates.

The College Board will provide 2 testing dates for each exam:

  • Exams will be given from May 11 through May 22 - These are earlier dates that will allow students to take the exams sooner “while material is fresh”
  • Make-up test dates will be available for each subject from June 1 through June 5 - these later dates will allow students more time to prepare

If you’ve been diligently studying and already feel comfortable with the material, especially the free-response questions, then you might want to consider the earlier testing date.

However, most students would probably benefit from the 2nd later testing date to not only provide additional study time, but also to give the College Board some time to work out the kinks of transitioning online.

Dates for each AP exam can be found here - AP Exams Schedule 2020

Make-up dates can be found here - AP Exams Schedule 2020 Makeup Dates

7) Cheating - “Test security is a concern.”

Here’s what College Board says about how they will combat cheating:

“The exam questions are designed and administered in ways that prevent cheating; we use a range of digital security tools and techniques, including plagiarism detection software, to protect the integrity of the exams.

Scoring at-home work for an AP Exam is not new to the AP Program. For years the AP Program has received and scored at-home student work as part of the exams for the AP Computer Science Principles and AP Capstone courses.”

While the College Board is researching and implementing several tools, they do acknowledge that testing security is a concern. And rightly so. The legitimacy of the exam and whether colleges can trust the scores is largely a function of how well the College Board is able to mitigate cheating.

The good news is that a shorter test, a move to free-response open book, and additional tools, will all inhibit cheating. Furthermore, the vast majority of students are honest.

However, cheating is going to happen. Especially considering that these are high stakes tests.

If you're thinking about cheating, don’t do it. The ethical implications and the risk of getting caught isn’t worth it. The College Board is purposefully not publicizing all of their tactics to make it more difficult to game the system. 

The College Board might have experience with administering at-home work, but scaling it out to all of their exams and to all of their students while also updating the format of the test questions under a compressed timeline will not be an easy task.

Learn more about the College Board's take on AP Exam Security

9) Canceling - Students can cancel at no charge

Students who have registered for an exam can cancel at no charge for a full refund.

It seems like most students are going to move forward with the new exam. However, if you're considering canceling, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with all aspects of the new test before making your decision.

9) Free Resources - The College Board will be releasing some free resources.

To help students prepare for the upcoming changes, the College Board is releasing 2 kinds of free resources.

Free AP Review Videos

AP teachers from across the country will be releasing live and recorded classes. You can access the course schedule here

You can also find all videos on the “Advanced Placement” YouTube Channel

Please note that the majority of these videos will be focused on the 75% of the course that will be tested on the exam.

However, they will also cover some supplementary lessons related to the final 25% of the course. Skip these videos if you’re focused purely on preparing for the upcoming test.

Additional Free Response Practice

Free-response questions that were previously only available for in-classroom use by teachers will now be unlocked so students can access more practice questions.

Log into your AP Classroom to access these questions.

10) College/Admissions Impact - Many colleges will honor AP scores.

The College Board states that “colleges support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked to earn”.

They reason that colleges historically have accepted shortened exams for credit when students have experienced emergencies.

COVID-19 would certainly constitute an emergency, but it’s unclear exactly which colleges will or will not accept these scores for credit.

Some schools have already officially confirmed that their current policies for AP credit will remain in effect (e.g. Vanderbilt University). Other schools are still deciding what to do and were taken by surprise when the College Board made their announcement.

If you believe that even 1 school on your college list will accept your scores, you’re better off taking the test vs canceling it.

College credit is one thing, but what about the impact of AP scores on improving chances of college admissions? 

If the College Board is able to convert to a shorter online format without a hitch (e.g. acceptable limits on cheating, seamless online experience, accurate scoring and curving), then college admissions teams should evaluate your AP scores with the same weighting as before the Coronavirus.

If there are significant issues with the test, though, admissions offices will treat your AP scores within this context. At the very worst, they will not consider your scores at all.


TIPS & NEXT STEPS

As students prepare for the new exam, consider these tips:

  • Focus all of your practice on free-response questions. Make good use of any free-response questions you can get your hands on and make sure to check the additional free-response questions that will be unlocked in your AP Classroom.
  • Confirm which topics/units will be covered for your test. If your teacher taught things out of order and you haven’t learned certain topics yet, then get caught up on these topics ASAP. If you fall into this category, your AP teacher will most likely have already come up with a plan to get you up to speed.
  • We would probably recommend the later "makeup" testing date for most students. However, if you know that you won’t be able to commit to extended studying on a regular basis, you might be better off signing up for the 1st testing date despite the risk of being the guinea pigs.
  • If you’re not a senior, one extreme option is to consider putting off the test until next May (2021). While it might be tempting to simply deal with things next year, we probably wouldn’t recommend this option. Each year gets progressively more challenging with busier schedules, and next year will be even more challenging as you catch up on lost time due to COVID-19.
  • Ideally, you would combine a deep understanding of the material with tailored prep based on test format. Given the uncertainties of the test format, you’ll want to focus on understanding the material to the best of your abilities. This is probably a painfully obvious statement, but we’re going to make it anyway. The good news is that you can focus your studying on only the 75% of the course that will be tested. Put more focus on topics that are foundational or more heavily weighted.
  • Don’t despair. Free-response questions are generally more difficult but everybody is in the same boat, which should be reassuring. You’ve been preparing all year long and the test is not going to be THAT different. There’s only so much that the College Board can change in such a short amount of time.
  • Expect some hiccups. We're rooting for the College Board to get this right, but we would not be surprised if students run into unexpected challenges.

Also, check out this post - Coronavirus Updates for SAT and ACT Test-Takers - if you plan on taking these tests this year.

Lastly, if you have any additional questions or if you’d like a tutor to help you prepare, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


How I Got Into Princeton - Maya (Story #16)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #16

Maya's Story

"I wanted mostly to do my best. My parents instilled in me this desire to give 110%. If I wasn’t trying my best, I was being apathetic and wasting their hard work, my opportunities, and my abilities."

Meet Maya, a member of Princeton's class of 2020.

In high school, Maya completed A.P. English as a freshman so she could take regular college courses, served as Varsity track captain, and participated frequently in community service efforts.

"I really love learning, and my passion for classroom material led me to participate and seek out other opportunities," Maya states. "I also do well under pressure."

However, Maya's achievements were not without challenge, as she describes in this post. She attributes her success to her core values, especially her passion for service, and her capacity to work towards goals even when up against daunting odds.

Please read below to learn more about Maya and the personal qualities, values, and support system that have allowed her to succeed.

We recommend reading from beginning to end but feel free to skip around. Our favorite section is the "What Makes You You" section, where Jasmine describes her unique qualities and how they contributed to her personal and academic success.

About this Series

In our "How I got Into" series, we share the stories of successful applicants to Princeton and other great colleges.

Our profiles go beyond a simple list of academic and extracurricular achievements. We also delve into the “how” and the qualities that successful applicants exhibit.

We provide a rare look into what drives these students, how they've overcome their challenges, how they've been shaped by significant events in their lives, how they deal with the pressure to succeed, and much more.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

SECTION 1 - FAMILY
SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING
SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES
SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS
SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION
SECTION 6 - DAY IN THE LIFE
SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU
SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Disclaimer

Here's what we're NOT doing with this series:

  • We are NOT prescribing an over-engineered approach to college admissions
  • We are NOT presenting a blueprint for how you should get into college
  • We are NOT suggesting that you must gain admissions to a selective school to be successful (you most certainly do not)

Here's what we ARE doing:

  • We are presenting data and sharing stories
  • We are providing context that you usually don't see to highlight that we are more than just our grades and GPA
  • Our ultimate goal is to uncover the values and personal qualities that drive successful applicants

Whether you are considering selective colleges or not, it is our unwavering belief that our values and personal qualities (and luck) are the major contributors to success.


SECTION 1 - FAMILY

Geography

Birthplace: NYC, NY
Where did you grow up? MI

Siblings

# of older siblings:  0
# of younger siblings: 1
Sibling Education Levels:  High School Senior
Where did your siblings go to college?  N/A

Parents

Parent's Marital Status: Married
With whom do you make your permanent home? Both
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Professor
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: PhD
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Professor
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: PhD

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parents' parenting style(s)?

Their rule was that I worked hard and did my best. I had to give 110% in whatever I did. Laziness wasn’t an option, but I wasn’t pushed to do a particular activity and they didn’t mind if I didn’t achieve academic perfection. It was about the effort.

On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the most important), how important to your parents was:

Academics 4
Extracurriculars 3
Service 4
Family 5
Friends 3
Physical Health/ Fitness 3
Mental Health 5

Did your parents have specific philosophies regarding any of the areas above?

Family is the most important thing in the world. Academics come before extracurricular activities, a social life, etc. I was encouraged to pursue my love of athletics, but doing well in school was a prerequisite.


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Middle School

Middle School: Chippewa Middle School
Type of School: Public

High School

High School: Okemos High School
High School City, State: Okemos, MI
Type of School: Public
Class Size: 400

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Jobs

Did you work in high school?  Yes
What kind of job/s did you have? I taught Taekwondo
Average hours/week worked? 2-3
Why did you work? I worked to pay for my taekwondo classes

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

I loved social studies, English, track, and service. I cared a lot about promoting an appreciation of equality and diversity at my school.

How much time did you spend on these things?

I spent the most time on homework, 2-3 hours a day on track, and 1-20 hours a week on service.

When did these passions/interests first come about?

Politics and literature have always been a part of my family’s meal-time conversations.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

My family is very political, so we’re always encouraged to learn, debate, and stand up for what we believe is right.

What level of achievement did you reach?

I was a varsity track captain, and I achieved my goals of finishing high school English freshman year so I could attend the local university classes.

Tell us a little bit about how you achieved these achievements?

I worked really hard. I was lucky to have the opportunity to do so and to devote time to these pursuits.

What kind of support did you have?

I had the support of my family emotionally, academically, and financially. We had enough money where I didn’t have to work outside of my taekwondo job, and I have a whole family network devoted to education. My success is possible because of my parents’ hard work and good fortune, even down to little details, such as the fact that we had a car to drive me to college classes.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these extracurricular results?

I overcame challenging material in class, institutions that did not push students to challenge themselves and resisted my trying to do so, and the physical challenges of injuries. I was lucky never to have to overcome any greater challenges than these.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

I was in the National Honors Society, student government, and a community service organization called ACTION, in addition to a group in my high school that promotes conversations around diversity.

How much time did you spend?

It depended on the time of year. Sometimes up to 20 hours, sometimes as little as one.

Why did you choose this activity?

I think it’s important to help the community. It’s just self-evidently the right thing to do.

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

Summer after 9th grade, I followed my parents as they taught their study abroad classes in Israel. This was both convenient and by design for my family to be together and my brother and me to learn about our heritage and my mother’s academic passion. 

Summer after 10th grade, I took my parents’ Michigan State University study abroad classes in Israel. I did this because I would be with them anyway and I wanted to learn more about the history and culture of the country and challenge myself academically.

After 11th grade, I studied abroad with MSU again, this time in Turkey. The classes were on gender & power and state & society. I wanted to pursue my passion for learning about politics and gender in a new country and, at the time, another Middle Eastern democracy.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: N/A
GPA - Weighted: N/A
GPA - Unweighted 3.97

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 1
How many times did you take the ACT? 2
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? ACT - 34
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? No
How many hours did you study in total? 5
When did you start preparing for the test? I considered the math classes I was taking to be preparation.
When did you take the test? 11th grade

Do you know which test to take? Check out our recommendations here - Should I Take the SAT or the ACT?

Not sure WHEN to take the test? We created 9 Sample Testing Schedules to help get you started

SAT Subject Tests & AP/IBs

Which SAT Subject tests did you take? 

US History and Literature. I scored 700 and 780, respectively.

Which AP/IBs did you take?

AP Literature: 5
AP World History: 5
AP US History: 5
AP Government: 5
AP Calc AB: 5
AP Calc BC: 5
AP Spanish: 5
AP Biology: 4

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

I was the first person in my high school to finish English classes before freshman year. Freshman year, I took AP English, and, from that point, I dual-enrolled at Michigan State University in various courses (namely psychology, politics, and literature). I also consider how hard I worked to do well in math a big achievement because it didn’t come naturally to me at all.

What do you attribute your academic success to?

It’s a combination of luck and hard work. I mean, since I was little, I had the luck of parents with jobs that allowed them to read to me, which probably contributed to my skill in English. I also read a lot as a kid and that helped. I love literature so that helped me to improve my writing and analytical skills over time. My parents helped me find opportunities to push myself because the high school curriculum wasn’t going to challenge me the way I wanted to be challenged. It was hard to make it happen because it had never been done at my high school. I’m so lucky that they had the chutzpah and knowledge to navigate and challenge the system to pave the way for me.  

What kind of support did you have?

My parents paved the way for me to do something that had never been done in the humanities (a few kids had taken a math course at MSU, but never so young). Without their navigating the system for me, I wouldn’t have even known these were possibilities that existed.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

No.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these academic results?

I remember there being some resistance from school to me going to MSU but I don’t remember how much. I guess in retrospect, I could have seen being in college so young as a challenge, but I felt like I was mature and I didn’t mind. Being 13 in a class with 22-year-olds was tough sometimes, however. I wasn’t ready for the content in my first MSU class (in terms of graphic content).

Any specific approaches/tips & tricks to studying that were particularly helpful for you?

I study in big chunks of time. I’d come home from track practice at 6 pm and study all evening. If I had an MSU class I’d come home at 11 and do the same thing. I find rewriting notes and restructuring the order in which the information is presented is very helpful.


SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION

Applications & Acceptances

Did you apply as an international or domestic student? Domestic
Did you apply regular or early? Early
How many schools did you apply to? 2
Were you a legacy applicant at any of these schools? Yes. Princeton (both parents)
Were you recruited for athletics, arts, music, etc...? No
Did you declare a major? Did this end up being your actual major? I indicated I was interested in Psychology on my application. It is not my major.

Which schools did you apply to (that you remember)?

Princeton University and University of Michigan.

Which schools did you get into?

Princeton University and the University of Michigan.

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

My college professors and one or two high school teachers.

Why did you ask these specific people?

They knew what I was capable of in the classroom, and how passionate and hard-working I was (more importantly).

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

My family! I wrote about how my family was proud of our varied heritage; the women especially taught me to be proud of who I am and to stand up for myself.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

It was the school I wanted to go to since I was 4. It was #1. I didn’t want it because of the prestige of being #1—I wanted it because I figured it had to be a really good school, and if I aimed for #1, I was sure to fall somewhere good. My parents having gone there probably gave it a warm feel, but I don’t think really influenced my wanting to go there specifically beyond knowing it existed.

Gap Year

Did you take a gap year?

No.

Curious about what happens after you submit your college application? Check out our in-depth guide - How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process


SECTION 6 - DAY IN THE LIFE

Typical Day

What was a typical weekday like in your junior year of high school?

School from 8 am - 4:30 pm; Track or XC practice from 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm; MSU class once a week (7pm - 10:30 pm), homework the rest of the night.

On average, how many hours of HW and studying did you do every night?

4.5 hours - 8 hours

What time did you usually go to sleep?

It depended on the day. Midnight, on average.

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

Homework all day every day, unless I had a cross-country or track tournament. I had taekwondo Saturday mornings. Usually we’d take a walk in nature as a family or see a movie, then eat meals together. 


SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU

Drive/Motivation

What drove you to succeed in high school? Where did this drive come from?

I wanted mostly to do my best. My parents instilled in me this desire to give 110%. If I wasn’t trying my best, I was being apathetic and wasting their hard work, my opportunities, and my abilities. I also wanted to go to Princeton because that goal seemed like doing my best.

Pressure/Stress/Expectations

What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

They expected me to give 110% and work hard. This was never tied to a result, although they always half-joked that my “best” was also an A. But if I didn’t get an A, and I did my best, then they were proud of me.

What kind of pressure did you feel to succeed? Where did this pressure come from?

I felt pressure to work hard. And, I felt like my best would result in almost all As, being on the varsity team, etc., because I had seen it produce that result in the past, and because I had so many resources available to me. I was also really bored if I did not do my best and learn. I really love learning, so it was never a question of not trying in class. I was genuinely really interested in a lot of the topics, but unsatisfied by the way they were taught or how little in-depth analysis we got to do in my high school classes. In class, my passion for the material led me to participate and seek out other opportunities.

How did you deal with this pressure?

I liked having that pressure. I do well under pressure.

Balance

How did you balance everything going on in high school?

I honestly have no idea.

Any strategies, tips, tools, types of support that helped you?

I liked the structure of my routine. I set aside big chunks of time to focus on one thing.

Significant Events

Any major events growing up that helped shape your high school self?

Yes. I had a very hard time in elementary and early middle school, and I feel that really shaped my desire to make others feel included and stand up when I see something wrong. I think my current academic interest in human rights work stems from my desire never to be a bystander to harm.

Other Challenges/Struggles

Any other struggles/challenges (that we didn't discuss so far) that you faced in high school? While growing up?

I did have a really tough time socially until high school. Once, as a result of another kid, I got a concussion that put me in bed for 4 months (I was 11). I used the bedridden time to write a 400-page book. I was lucky that my struggles gave me opportunities to focus more on academics, rather than preventing me from doing so.

Culture/Identity

How do you identify yourself? White (Jewish)
Which languages does your family speak at home? English with Hebrew/Dutch sprinkled around
How many languages are you proficient in? English. I know basic Spanish.
Do you identify with multiple cultures? Yes.

How has your culture or identity influenced you during your middle school or high school years?

It has given me an unshakable sense of self and of pride in where I come from. I think it has given me an appreciation for diversity and for the struggle of the immigrant experience. I think it has motivated me to work harder every step of the way. My parents and grandparents went through so much more than me and have given me every opportunity, so it’s a waste of their love not to try my best in everything I do.

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

Love, family, God, honesty, standing up for what’s right, passionate curiosity.

What was your #1 core value?

They are all interconnected so I won’t choose one.

How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

I think I demonstrated them in service, but more importantly, the way I treated the people around me. I like to think that as a leader, as a friend, and as a student, I made others feel welcome—and I spoke up when I didn’t see that happening.

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

I am loving, honest, curious, and I am not afraid of things—I have never let nervousness stop me from going after something I wanted, or not said what I thought was right because I feared the consequences or the situation.

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

I was always really happy, enthusiastic, friendly, and creative. I always loved reading, being in nature, and staying active. I loved winning physical competitions and climbing trees. Not much has changed.

Uniqueness

Was there anything special or different about your family when you were growing up that helped shape who you were in high school?

My family is exceptionally loving. I think this baseline of a happy home with two parents who are madly in love, and an affectionate little brother, is unusual. And I think it gave me a baseline to weather storms that came my way. Everything is easier when you can count on that safe home.

What do you think makes you unique?

Everyone is unique! So I don’t really know how to answer that. I think I have a great combination of loyalty, curiosity, adventurousness, and empathy.

Influences/Mentors/Support

Did you have any major influences growing up? If so, who/what were your they?

My family (parents, brother, grandparents), books (The Book Thief, Harry Potter, Series of Unfortunate Events, some political books), and heroes (Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King).

If you had a question or needed some advice, who would you go to?

My parents.


SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Important Lessons

Most important lessons that you learned or were taught while growing up?

I learned pretty early on that most of the time most people won’t stand up and speak when something morally wrong is happening and somebody is getting hurt. If you see something wrong happening, you can never count on someone else to be the one to stand up and stop it. You have to be that person, every single time.

Advice

Any advice you would give to your high school self?

High school me, you did good, kid. Help your parents more often around the house. Don’t worry that you feel lonely sometimes—it’s better to be lonely than surrounded by people who don’t contribute to your life in a positive way.

When you get to university, set a goal to go to the #1 law school in the country. You need goals to stay focused, even if they change over time, because otherwise you get so curious about so many different things you scatter all over the place.

Also, don’t waste time dating people you know aren’t great guys!


NEXT STEPS

Check out our first profile and learn about Destiny's journey.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our mailing list, and we’ll let you know when we release similar articles and other in-depth guides. Please also share using the buttons on the side.

At PrepMaven, our mission is not only to help your child increase their test scores and get into a great college but also to put them on the right track for long-term personal and professional success.


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg & Kevin

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


Coronavirus Updates for SAT and ACT Test-Takers

Coronavirus Updates for SAT and ACT Test-Takers

The global spread of COVID-19 has deeply impacted the education world. Most students have been partaking in remote learning as schools remain closed across the country.

What's more, the coronavirus pandemic has also impacted standardized testing schedules.

If you're an SAT or ACT test-taker, you're likely wondering whether or not you'll be able to even sit for the exam this summer and/or fall!

In this post, we provide ongoing coronavirus updates for 2020 SAT and ACT test-takers. We will keep this article regularly updated so that you can be confident you're getting the latest information.

Here's what we cover in this post:

Last updated: June 4, 2020 at 12:00 PM EST

Coronavirus Updates for SAT Test-Takers

The College Board, the organization that produces and administers the SAT, officially canceled its March, May, and June administrations of the SAT and all SAT Subject Tests.

Canceled SAT Testing Dates 
March 14, 2020
May 2, 2020
June 6, 2020

The College Board was unable to reschedule the March 25th SAT School Day administration. Schools will be able to offer two SAT School Days on September 23 and October 14 if they remain open.

What is the CollegeBoard going to do about future SAT testing dates?

Right now, it intends to provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of 2020, starting on August 29th. This will add one new SAT administration on September 26th. It will retain the previously scheduled tests on October 3, November 7, and December 5. The CollegeBoard might also add an administration in January 2021 "if there is demand for it."

International students will be able to take SAT subject tests on November 7th.

Here's what the remaining anticipated national SAT testing dates for 2020 look like now:

Anticipated SAT Testing Dates 2020 
August 29, 2020
September 26, 2020
October 3, 2020
November 7, 2020
December 5, 2020

Registration is OPEN for all of these tests, but seats at testing centers may be extra limited due to social distancing guidelines.

Note: Many students are trying to register for fall SATs right now. Expect delays and interruptions when registering online. As of now, the CollegeBoard is temporarily suspending registration for students outside of North America. 

Refunds and Makeup Exams for the SAT

You can expect a refund of all registration fees if any of these situations apply to you as an SAT test-taker:

  • Your test center for the March 14th SAT was closed
  • You were scheduled to take the March 28th makeup SAT exam
  • You were registered for the May 2nd SAT and/or SAT Subject Tests
  • You haven't or will not receive your March scores for any reason
  • You don't want to transfer your June SAT registration to a future date

Refunds should be issued soon, if they haven't already.

International Students

If you are an international student taking the SAT, the next available international SAT testing date is August 29, 2020 (pending further coronavirus updates). You will also be eligible for the new September administration, fall and winter 2020 testing dates, and/or remote testing options (should the CollegeBoard institute this).

International students can take subject tests on November 7th.

Testing Accommodations

We recommend students with approved accommodations contact the College Board directly (see contact details below) for further information.

College Admissions

What about the college application process?

The College Board has asked member colleges to extend their score submission deadlines for the coming application season and give equal consideration to applicants who are not able to test due to COVID-19. It's also encouraging colleges to recognize "that students who do submit scores may not have been able to take the test more than once."

Additional Resources

All of these cancelations don't have to derail your SAT prep! Students still have access to a variety of free resources online through the College Board and Khan Academy.

Families and students are welcome to reach out to the College Board for more information, too (although call wait times may be long!). Here are all the relevant contact details:

Email: [email protected]
Phone (domestic): 866-756-7346*
Phone (international): +1-212-713-7789*

*Phone support hours are 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday. Expect long wait times.


Coronavirus Updates for ACT Test-Takers

The ACT canceled its April 4, 2020 administration of the ACT test and rescheduled it for June 13th.

However, some test centers have already cancelled their June 13th administrations. Students can expect emails from the ACT regarding whether or not their test center will be able to offer the test on June 13th.

We encourage all students registered for the June exam to check the ACT's test center cancellations page.

If you were registered to take the ACT on April 4th, you should have received an email and/or mail notice with specific instructions for a free rescheduling for the June 13th exam (or another national test date).

Here are the next anticipated ACT national test dates for 2020:

Next Anticipated ACT Testing Dates 
June 13, 2020 (tentative)
July 18, 2020
September 12, 2020*
October 24, 2020*
December 12, 2020*

*Registration for these exams is not yet open.

ACT has also announced an online version of the test to be administered this fall or early winter. They'll release more details about this soon, but in the meantime, only paper testing is available.

Refunds

If you don't wish to reschedule your ACT exam, you'll receive a full refund of registration fees for the April 4th exam, if you haven't already. You'll also be able to receive a refund if your June 13th test is cancelled.

International Students

Students scheduled for the April 4, 2020 ACT exam at an international testing center will have their exam rescheduled for June 13, 2020. International ACT test-takers can also register for the July 18, 2020 ACT exam at international testing centers.

Special Testing and Non-Saturday Exams

If you receive ACT testing accommodations or were registered to test on a non-Saturday, you'll still be able to have Special and/or Non-Saturday Testing for the June exam (and future exams). This also applies to international students taking the ACT.

We recommend that students with Special Testing approval contact an ACT representative to ensure they receive these accommodations for the June exam if needed.

College Admissions

The ACT recognizes that some college applicants might now miss test score submission deadlines for the schools on their list. Here's what it says specifically about this on its website:

ACT is committed to making every effort to help students impacted by this test date change, particularly seniors facing college application deadlines for this fall. More information will be released as it becomes available in the days ahead. 

For now, we recommend that high school seniors contact the admissions departments of their schools of choice to see what their guidelines are for score submission.

Keep in mind that most deadlines for traditional undergraduate applications have passed, so most students who took the ACT in the fall and/or winter of 2019 and submitted these scores to colleges will not be impacted.

Contact Information

If you'd like to talk directly to an ACT representative about rescheduling, etc., reach out by phone, email, or live chat. Expect long wait times.

ACT Customer Care

Phone: 319-337-1270, available Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM CT 

ACT Testing Accommodations

Phone: 319-337-1332, available Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM CT

*Email and live chat are available via ACT.org.


Our Recommendations

We understand that this time can be challenging in multiple respects, especially for students and families well along the path of college admissions.

Here's what we recommend SAT and ACT test-takers keep in mind in the coming weeks and months:

1. Anticipate the possibility of additional rescheduled or canceled ACT and SAT testing dates

Given the scale and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, our guess is that things likely won't go back to "normal" for quite some time.

At the very least, in the middle of all of this uncertainty, it's wise to mentally prepare yourself for additional rescheduled or canceled testing dates, for both the SAT and the ACT. 

Remember that you can still maintain your test prep during this time, even with these hiccups in testing schedules. What's more, this can be a valuable time for high school juniors to take a deep dive into writing and preparing their college application essays. Get a head start now!

2. If your test was canceled, sign up ASAP for the next testing date

Why is it important to act fast in this regard? Testing "seats" are limited at all testing centers, so it's vital to sign up as soon as possible for the next testing date to ensure you'll have a spot. If you have the resources, sign up for an additional backup date to ensure another seat.

This applies to both the SAT and the ACT.

3. Sign up ASAP even if you're planning on a testing date later in the year

Even if your testing dates weren't impacted but you're planning on a testing date in the fall or the winter, you'll want to sign up ASAP.

Testing center seats are limited and there is a good chance there will still be "spillover" from the earlier testing dates that were canceled.

The ACT usually opens up registrations every July for testing dates through the next testing year (September - July). You should be able to sign up for email or text alerts here, but you'll also want to check the website in mid-July yourself as well.

For the SAT, you can check here for SAT registration deadlines. You will be able to register if there is a "Register" button next to your desired date.

4. Keep on studying

It might feel impossible to pick up your SAT or ACT prep books right now, especially in the middle of so much uncertainty. However, effective prep for standardized tests involves consistent practice and review of content and strategies.

Furthermore, some colleges will consider going test-optional for this upcoming application season. Even if they don't, we're confident that college admissions officers will consider your scores in the context of COVID-19.

These developments should relieve some of the stress around testing. For some students, they'll take these announcements as a reason to place less emphasis on the test or even stop studying altogether.

However, we urge students to continue studying consistently and diligently. In a situation that will tempt many students to slow things down, maximizing your test scores will set you apart even more so.

It's okay to take a brief break from your prep right now, but when possible, return to your studies to ensure you don't lose the traction you've gained.


Other Relevant Information

Families and students may also wish to regularly check with the World Health Organization and CDC for general updates about the pandemic's spread in the U.S.

We'll include other relevant details here as more coronavirus updates arise. For now, rest assured that we at PrepMaven are committed to all of our students' success, regardless of what happens next. This means that all of our current clients and tutors will be moving their work online to ensure the safety of all involved.

We are also here to provide academic tutoring support to students who are participating in remote learning through their home institutions.

Please feel free to drop us a line if you have additional questions!


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


Coronavirus Updates for SSAT Test-Takers

Coronavirus Updates for SSAT Test-Takers

The recent coronavirus pandemic has launched a ripple effect in the world of standardized testing, from closed test centers to canceled testing administrations.

If your student is preparing to take the SSAT, you likely have questions about what comes next!

In addition to our usual test prep support, we're here to provide ongoing coronavirus updates for SSAT test-takers. We will keep this post regularly updated to ensure that all of our students and families are in the know.

Here's what we cover in this post:

Last update: June 4, 2020 at 1:00 PM EST

Which SSAT Test Dates Are Canceled?

The Enrollment Management Association (EMA), the organization that produces and administers the SSAT, canceled all SSAT Flex and Benchmark administrations from March 14, 2020 through May 31, 2020.

It also canceled the April 25/26, 2020 SSAT Standard administration and June 13/14 SSAT Standard administration in the U.S., Canada, and most other global locations.

The EMA is allowing Flex and Benchmark SSAT testing only to begin starting June 1st.

As local, state, and federal guidelines related to the pandemic change, the EMA may end up canceling additional future Standard SSAT administrations.

So, what's the difference between Flex, Benchmark, and Standard SSAT test administrations? We've outlined the distinctions in the table below:

Flex Test Benchmark Test Standard Test
  • Administered on any non-Standard SSAT test date
  • Available to individuals or groups (Middle or Upper)
  • Taken through member schools or educational consultants
  • Requires advance registration with member school or educational consultant
  • Administered on any non-Standard SSAT test date by member schools
  • Used to assess currently enrolled students
  • Elementary, Middle, and Upper SSATs
  • Administered 8 times per academic year on designated Saturdays
  • Requires advance registration at SSAT.org
  • Available to private school applicants (Elementary, Middle, or Upper)

We strongly encourage parents to check this post regularly in the coming weeks, as well as the EMA Alerts page, for further coronavirus updates with respect to the Standard SSAT testing timeline.

Here are the next scheduled Standard SSAT testing dates for 2020 (so far, still scheduled):

Standard SSAT Testing Dates 2020 
April 25, 2020
June 13, 2020
September 12, 2020
October 17, 2020
November 14, 2020
December 12, 2020

If you are anticipating taking a Standard SSAT, your next available testing date (at this time) will be September 12, 2020.

Note: As of now, registration for fall SSAT exams (September - onwards) opens on August 1, 2020.


What About International Students?

A few international SSAT test centers are currently operating. Testing on June 13/14 will continue for test-takers in China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Vietnam.

If you are an international SSAT test-taker, we still recommend contacting the test center in question to confirm its operationality.


What About Application Deadlines?

Students who took the SSAT in the fall or winter of 2019 for a fall 2020 enrollment don't have to worry about these SSAT cancellations, as they won't have any bearing on admissions deadlines.

The EMA hasn't yet canceled any fall or winter 2020 test dates. But students planning to take the SSAT this coming fall or winter for a Fall 2021 enrollment should still be aware of the possibility of further cancellations.

However, the EMA is ultimately not responsible for application deadlines--your schools of choice are. For this reason, we urge concerned families to contact relevant admissions departments directly to see what options are available.

Private schools are likely to be monitoring the situation very closely, so rest assured that they will be able to advise families accordingly! They will also likely have information about campus closures, if applicable, and admission decision timelines.


Rescheduling Your SSAT

If for any reason your student is not able to sit for the next available SSAT administration date (as of now, September 2020), there are still options! The EMA states that it is "happy to accommodate those who want to change their test date and location."

Parents can make changes to their student's test dates using their online account. You can also email [email protected] to inquire about a test change.

SSAT test changes between now and July 31, 2020 are completely free.


Coronavirus Updates: Other Relevant Information

We'll keep this section of this post regularly updated.

For now, keep in mind that your student may be turned away from a testing center if they have a simple cold. If they display cold or flu-like symptoms during an SSAT administration, they will likely be sent home immediately.

Parents will also have to sign a declaration form prior to testing at any center. Test-takers may be required to wear masks, participate in social distancing, and follow other regulations when testing.

Furthermore, all SSAT test administrators will follow disinfecting/cleaning protocol issued by the CDC at testing centers. They won't be allowed to proctor an SSAT if they themselves show cold or flu-like symptoms, or have been exposed to contagions.

General coronavirus updates are available via the World Health Organization's website.

EMA Contact Information

The Enrollment Management Association
862 Route 518
Skillman, New Jersey, 08558 USA

Telephone:
Member Hotline: 609-683-5558
Students and Families: 609-683-4440

Email:
Members: [email protected]
Students / Families: [email protected]
Test Centers: [email protected]

At PrepMaven, we're here to keep you informed and prepared for all steps of the standardized testing journey. If you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate to drop us a line.


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


12 Strategies to Prepare Students for Remote Learning

12 Strategies to Prepare Students for Remote Learning

As COVID-19 spreads, more schools will be closing and transitioning to remote learning (a.k.a. distance learning, virtual learning, cyber learning, flexible learning).

This will bring an unprecedented level of uncertainty and present a number of challenges for our teachers, students, parents, and school administration.

In this post, we provide some initial thoughts, 12 tips to help students manage the transition to remote instruction, and discuss how the coronavirus will impact college admissions chances.

We have extensive experience with remote learning. One of our co-founders has been working exclusively from home since 2010. From an instructional standpoint, we have over 10 years of experience tutoring students remotely. Furthermore, several of our part-time and full-time tutors work exclusively online.

Here's what we cover in this guide:


Some Initial Thoughts

1) The transition to remote instruction will initially be rough for many students. As teachers and students become more familiar with online tools, we believe that instructional quality will be sufficient in the short-term, if only because we MUST make it work. However, it will take time and for many, additional training, before teachers will be able to fully leverage the capabilities of their online tools. 

Under normal circumstances, a transition to distance learning would take months, if not years, to properly roll out and might include:

  • Hiring consultants experienced with online instruction
  • Identifying the tools to be used
  • Training teachers
  • Collaborating with instructional designers to re-work existing curriculum
  • Making sure all students have access to the technology and tools
  • Training students

Instead, for many school districts, this process will now be happening in a matter of days.

This is an enormous task and much of the burden falls disproportionately onto the shoulders of our teachers.

Teachers are scrambling to familiarize themselves with state guidelines, identify the tools that will be most useful for their subjects and grade levels, redesign their curriculum to be delivered online, and meet any other requirements mandated by their school administration.

Even colleges like Princeton University, who have access to instructional designers and more resources than the typical secondary school district, will struggle to get their professors up to speed in such a compressed time period.

Understandably, the transition to remote instruction might not be the smoothest in the beginning, especially for younger students, those with learning differences, and those who don’t have reliable access to internet and technology. Some students and teachers will thrive under this new model. Many others will struggle.

We expect that the end result will produce serviceable results in the short-term, which we consider a huge win, and will be the result of the herculean efforts of individual teachers.

2) Schools that are closing first will be the guinea pigs but will provide a template for others to get up to speed more quickly. 

In order for public school districts to have remote instruction days count towards official school days, they must first receive approval from the appropriate state and governmental agencies.

In New Jersey and many other states, this approval process requires school districts to submit written plans that outline specific steps the district will take to support students during an emergency health-related closure.

These contingency plans require school districts to address:

  1. Access to instruction for all learners (e.g. those who don’t have access to wifi and computers)
  2. Provisions for special education
  3. Students who are eligible for free or reduced breakfast/lunch

We’re seeing that most schools are doing a good job of keeping parents in the loop through website announcements, social media, and direct emails. Guidance might seem vague or confusing at first but should clear up over time.

Private schools and smaller school districts will be more nimble, while larger school districts (e.g. Chicago Public Schools, NYC Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District) will understandably take a little bit longer to organize.

We are fortunate from a timing perspective that Spring Break has started or will start relatively soon for many schools. Those schools that have earlier Spring Breaks will have more time to flush out the details and specifics. For others, Spring Break will be a time for evaluation and process improvement.

3) Most schools have initially closed for a couple of weeks and plan to re-evaluate later, but be prepared for remote instruction to continue through the rest of the academic year. 

Many schools are taking a wait-and-see approach, closing for several weeks, and then re-evaluating:

  • Princeton Public Schools will be closed until 3/27
  • Hillsborough Township Public Schools will be closed until 3/27
  • Monroe Township School District will be closed from 3/18 until further notice
  • West Windsor-Plainsboro School District will be closed until 3/27
  • South Brunswick Schools will be closed through 3/20
  • Tenafly Public Schools will be closed through 3/27
  • Randolph Township Schools will be closed through 3/26
  • Chicago Public Schools will be closed from 3/17 through 3/30
  • Los Angeles Unified School District will be closed through 3/27
  • Boston Public Schools will be closed from 3/17 through 4/27
  • The Pennington School will be closed from 3/24 through 4/13
  • Princeton Day School will be closed through 4/17
  • Hun School of Princeton will be closed through 4/14
  • The Lawrenceville School will be extending Spring Break by one week to give their faculty time to adapt courses for remote learning and campus will be closed “until further notice”

Perhaps things might get better as we learn more about the coronavirus or as the weather starts to get warmer, but we should be prepared for the possibility that school will be closed until the rest of the academic year.

We can look to universities as a potential predictor. For example, Princeton University has evacuated its campus and will transition to virtual learning for the rest of the semester. We expect other colleges to follow suit.


What Remote Learning Might Look Like

The quality of remote instruction can vary significantly.

SCENARIO A - Professional

Let’s look at how some universities have successfully created their online Master's programs.

These universities might hire a 3rd party company that specializes in creating online courses.

These 3rd party companies will provide the video equipment needed to create high-quality live and recorded sessions, work with faculty to redesign their curriculum to leverage the new online platform, and create interactive and personalized classroom experiences using their platform and proprietary technologies.

These types of online learning experiences work extremely well.

They’re designed from the ground up and leverage the insights of consultants whose only job is to make the online experience as engaging and effective as possible.

SCENARIO B - Advanced

In this scenario, the teacher might not have all the fancy video production hardware (e.g. expensive digital SLR camera, microphones, professional lighting) or access to expensive consultants, but they will have many hours of hands-on experience providing online tutoring through widely available technologies.

They might use Zoom and other online applications to provide a live/online classroom experience with online whiteboards, private and public chat, breakout rooms, etc… They’ll have Wacom or similar tablets with styluses that allow them to clearly annotate the screen.

Because these instructors have worked with so many students online, they understand the strengths and limitations of each of the tools they use. They know what works well and doesn’t work well for different grade levels and subjects.

Just as importantly, these instructors have intelligently re-worked their curriculum so that it translates well to online delivery.

SCENARIO C - Intermediate

This scenario includes instructors who have less experience with online teaching tools. These teachers might be technologically savvy and already use iPads/Chromebooks in their classroom or communicate with parents through their school's Learning Management System.

However, they might be unfamiliar with online teaching methods and tools. They will either receive training from their school or will take it upon themselves to get up to speed.

It will take a while for these instructors to truly understand the nuances of the tools they’re working with and how to adapt their existing curriculum. Some instructors will struggle while others will do quite well.

SCENARIO D - Basic

The "Basic" scenario is one where there is no online component whatsoever.

In this scenario, teachers will prepare a bunch of handouts and assignments.

They will provide your student with physical copies before the break with the expectation that the student will bring all completed assignments back to school after the break.

What Will Remote Instruction Look Like At My School?

Due to the rapid rollout of remote instruction, limited training/familiarity with online tools, and adherence to state requirements for offline access, the remote instruction that your student will experience will most likely span Scenarios C and D, with a lucky few who will have teachers who are more advanced (Scenario B).

You student’s experience will most likely be a combination of:

  1. Offline (e.g. work packets) and Online (e.g. Learning Management Systems, Zoom, email)
  2. Asynchronous (Work on your own time) and Synchronous (Live)

Your teacher will most likely schedule regular “Office Hours” and be available for support throughout the day.

Teachers will have a decent amount of flexibility in how they design their curriculum, so your own experience will largely be determined by your teacher and will vary from subject to subject.

Schools with more resources, more time to prepare, or prior familiarity with online platforms will probably have more online and live sessions.

Schools with fewer resources, that have a larger percentage of low-income students, or that have yet to be approved for remote days to count as instructional days, will likely have more offline assignments and work packets.

We expect that much of the work assigned to students across the board will be asynchronous, which means that students will be responsible for completing their assignments on their own time.

Younger students in elementary and middle school will probably have more offline work. We expect that teachers will design these assignments to be done with as little help from parents as possible, but how successful that works is to be seen.


Some of Our Concerns

1) Many students are not prepared for self-learning

Many elementary, middle, and high school students lack the discipline, time management, and organizational skills to work on their own. These issues will be more pronounced in younger students.

The physical classroom environment provided this necessary structure. This has been replaced with take-home assignments and a flexible schedule.

Furthermore, many students will have even more time on their hands due to the cancellation of athletics, school plays, concerts, and other extracurricular activities, which exacerbates the situation.

2) Some students will thrive but many will fall behind

Independent students who find that traditional classes move at too slow a pace might thrive in this new environment.

Everyone else, though, will likely fall behind, even those students who are self-disciplined and organized.

Teachers will need some time to figure out the best way to use new tools and transition their curriculum into an online format. Until then, the quality, breadth, and depth of material covered will take a hit.

Elementary school students will fall further behind, as many teachers understandably will be designing lesson plans under the guidance of NOT covering any new content. Instead, they will be creating assignments to reinforce and enhance previously learned content.

3) Equitable access will pose challenges

Remote instruction is great if done well. But what do you do if you can’t access the internet?

Many schools will have to grapple with providing equitable access to all learners (e.g. students who don’t have wifi or technology) and ensuring that their diverse learning/special education student needs are being met.

In addition to the herculean task of transitioning physical lessons to remote lessons, teachers will have to figure out how to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.

For special education students, teachers should easily be able to modify their lesson plans and hold conference calls between stakeholders to ensure IEP compliance.

On the technology front, it’s encouraging to learn that many schools are loaning out Chromebooks and that some companies are temporarily offering free internet access.

However, what happens when school districts with large populations of low-income students (e.g. Chicago Public Schools, Boston Public Schools, New York City Public Schools, Los Angeles Public Schools) make the transition to remote instruction?

These schools simply won’t have the resources to provide every student with an iPad or Chromebook.

What about libraries? They have computers. Even if they’re still open, they won’t have the necessary capacity.

Some schools are getting creative. For example, Los Angeles Unified School District is teaming up with public television stations to broadcast educational content.

But even then, it won’t be enough. Which is why many teachers will have to create remote instruction curricula relying primarily on offline materials (Scenario D) and using online only to supplement. This is a solution, but these lessons will be less engaging and less effective and further highlights social inequities.


12 Tips to Help with the Transition to Remote Learning

There are two major aspects to effectively learning from home:

  • Technological - effectively leverage technology
  • Behavioral - managing your time effectively

Please read below for 12 strategies your student should consider implementing to make the most out of learning from home.

1) Understand That This Isn’t a Vacation

When working from home, it’s way too easy to wake up a little later, take a longer lunch break, put things off, take breaks that progressively get longer and longer, etc...

This time period is also not an excuse to binge-watch Netflix/Hulu/Disney+/Youtube/Pick Your Poison.

The first thing you need to do is realize that you’re NOT on vacation. Otherwise, things are gonna catch up to you real fast.

2) Establish a Routine and Stick to It

Amidst all of this uncertainty, you need to create your own certainty.

Your school day was very structured. That’s now gone, so you’ll have to create that structure yourself.

Create a daily schedule. For example:

Time Activity
7:00 am Wake up
8:00 am Check email + Plan my day
8:30 am Math
9:30 am English
10:30 am Chemistry
11:30 am History
12:30 pm Lunch
1:30 pm Break (e.g. video chat with friends)
2:30 pm Exercise, Meditate, Go outside for fresh air
3:30 pm Learn something new
4:30 pm Homework + Check Email
6:30 pm Relax before dinner

Plan on sticking to your schedule but feel free to adjust as necessary depending on your household and other obligations.

To create accountability, share this with your parents or even your friends.

3) Create a Daily Checklist

One of the best ways to increase productivity is to create a checklist. Also, It’s pretty satisfying to cross things off lists.

Every morning, spend 30 minutes creating a daily To-Do list identifying the major activities you plan on completing in order for you to consider that day to be a productive and successful day.

For example:

My To-Do List
ACADEMIC
  - Math: Finish worksheet
  - English: Draft outline for essay
  - History: Read chapter 3 and 4
  - Spanish: Complete lesson on Por vs Para, memorize 10 new vocab words
  - SAT Prep: Complete a practice reading section in Practice Test 7
  - Check emails (x2)
EXTRACURRICULAR
  - Complete Python lesson on Partial Functions
HEALTH
  - Take a 30 minute walk outside
  - Complete 50 pushups
  - Complete 10 pullups
  - Meditate for 10 minutes using my Headspace app

PRO TIP: Be specific! It also helps to mentally commit to getting your checklist done by a certain time.

4) Incorporate Pomodoros to Improve Your Efficiency

“Pomodoro” means tomato in Italian. 

But it’s also a technique to help with focus and time management.

Each Pomodoro consists of 25 minutes of uninterrupted studying/working followed by a 5-minute break. There is no cell phone usage allowed during the 25-minute study sessions.

How to incorporate the Pomodoro technique:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished.
  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes (this is one Pomodoro)
  3. Work on the task until time is up
  4. Make a checkmark in a notebook for each Pomodoro completed 
  5. Take a 5-minute break
  6. For every 4 Pomodoros completed, take a longer 15-minute break
  7. Try to complete as many Pomodoros per day as possible!

If you are able to consistently incorporate Pomodoros into your daily routine, you’ll find that you can be insanely productive.

5) Check Your Email AT LEAST Twice a Day

Whether your school is using Google Classroom, Schoology, Blackboard, Canvas or another Learning Management System, your teacher will primarily be communicating with you through email.

We know that high school students aren’t the greatest at checking emails, but it’s your responsibility to check your email MULTIPLE times per day.

Incorporate these check-ins into your daily schedule and To-Do lists if necessary.

6) If You Feel Like You’re Getting Behind, Reach Out Sooner Rather Than Later

If you feel like you’re falling behind in your assignments, or if you’re really struggling with understanding concepts, please do not hesitate to reach out to your teachers for support and advice.

Many teachers will have office hours and will be available throughout the day via school-approved messaging platforms.

Additionally, consider putting together virtual study groups with others in your class.

If you feel like additional help is necessary, please reach out to PrepMaven/Princeton Tutoring or other education companies to learn about private tutoring options.

7) Be Flexible

There’s a lot of uncertainty on many fronts.

Schools are making unprecedented changes in uncharted territory with little notice.

Realize that things will change. Maybe even on a daily basis. Grading policies might change. Assignments might change. Recommended tools might change.

Just roll with it.

If a lesson or assignment doesn’t make sense or is taking way longer than usual, don’t dwell on it. Move on to something else and reach out to your teacher for clarification. Chances are other students are having the same issues.

This is an opportunity to learn the important character trait of being flexible.

8) Use Social Media to Stay in Touch With Friends

Human beings are social creatures. Schedule regular times to meet up with your friends through video chat or other tools.

9) Limit Social Media

At the same time, you’ll want to limit your social media usage to avoid losing yourself into the bottomless pit of scrolling through news feeds.

Remember to be careful about what you put out there. 

10) Take Care of Yourself Physically

Eat as healthy as you can, go outside and get some fresh air, make sure to exercise, etc…

Stay safe and maintain social distancing to the extent possible.

Even if you feel that the coronavirus is of little concern to your own health, you don’t want to pass it along to more vulnerable populations (e.g. elderly, immune-compromised).

11) Take Care of Yourself Emotionally

Social distancing and physical isolation can take a toll. Worrying about the health and safety of loved ones can take a toll. And dwelling on how all of this might negatively impact college admissions can take a toll.

Try your best to keep a positive attitude. Consider meditating using an app like Headspace.

If you’re feeling especially anxious, reach out to your friends, parents, or guidance counselors for support. Realize that you’re not alone in how you feel and many students will probably feel similarly.

12) Don’t Have Access To the Internet or Equipment?

Some internet providers are providing temporary free access. Check your school website or do a Google search.

Your school might have extra Chromebooks, laptops, or iPads that they can loan to you. Reach out directly to your school contacts to check. Or perhaps you might have friends or family members that have hardware they can lend you.


How Will COVID-19 Impact Student’s Chances of College Admissions?

High school students might be worried about getting behind in their coursework, how grades will be impacted (will schools keep traditional grading, move to Pass/D/Fail, get rid of grades altogether?), whether finals might be canceled, how their athletic season will end, and dealing with SAT and ACT test center closures.

These are certainly viable concerns. However, students should understand that many others across the country are also being similarly impacted.

Rest assured that student grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities will all be considered by college admissions officers within the context of these very special circumstances.

Here’s the silver lining. Significant challenges present a HUGE opportunity for those impacted - that’s YOU.

At the end of the day, the college essay/personal statement is all about expressing personal growth and values. This is best shown through challenges, beliefs, interests, or identity.

While I would highly recommend against using COVID-19 as a future essay topic because everybody else will be doing it, this is an opportunity for you to step up.

Most students will squander this opportunity, but you have the chance to do something differently. Tackle this new challenge, try something new, and do something creative that sets you apart.


Conclusion & Next Steps

School districts, parents, and students across the country are grappling with enormous disruption and venturing into new territory, which for the time being will yield less than stellar student results. But we’ll get there eventually.

Unfortunately, much of the burden and pressure will fall on the shoulders of our teachers. Let’s try to be supportive and understanding of our educators.

Because of all the uncertainty, there will be lower expectations of our students. Many students will take advantage and opt to just get by. 

However, this is an unprecedented opportunity for students to learn at their own pace, become more independent, and to push themselves beyond what they’re comfortable with. 

At the same time, it’s incredibly important that we’re making sure students are taking care of themselves, both physically and emotionally.

At the end of the day, I believe our students will prove to be more resilient than we expected.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or if we can help in any way.


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


4 Social Media Tips for College Applicants

4 Essential Social Media Tips for College Applicants

4 Essential Social Media Tips for College Applicants

Are you on Tik-Tok or Instagram? Facebook or Snapchat?

Most students will respond to these questions with a resounding "yes."

In 2020, social media platforms continue to be all the rage, especially amongst young people. In 2019, 90% of American adults aged 18-29 used at least one social media site.

These days, sharing our activities and opinions online is simply an everyday part of life.

However, it can be easy to forget that the content you put out into the world can potentially be viewed by anyone — including college admissions officers!

It's also easy to overlook the fact that some social media posts can compromise parts of your college application, including that stellar essay that you've crafted.

We encourage all college applicants to keep these social media tips in mind as they go about preparing their applications.


Social Media Posts and College Admissions

Can a college rescind an admissions offer because of questionable social media content?

Yes!

Over the past few years, there have been several instances of students having their acceptance at various colleges rescinded due to content they posted online.

With the benefit of hindsight, the mistakes those students made might seem obvious. Some of them posted racist jokes. Another lied on her college application and then posted details on social media that exposed these lies.

However, in the moment, it may not always be clear to students that they’re doing something wrong. Some students may not think that the things they say privately with friends can make their way to a faraway admissions office. The thing is--they actually can.

What College Admissions Officers Look For

Yet do college admissions officers scrutinize Instagram profiles of applicants?

The answer is a bit hazy.

In fact, a decreasing number of colleges say that they look at applicants’ social media platforms and activity. A 2018 Kaplan Test Prep survey, for example, found that roughly 25% of college admissions officers review social media profiles, down from 40% in 2015.

However, that still leaves plenty of people who could potentially stumble across a questionable post you wrote, even if it was posted years ago!

After all, college admissions officers aren't just on the hunt for good test scores and standout essays, as we've discussed in the past.

They're also looking for signs of strong character, qualities a school may feel will set a student up for success at their institution and beyond. Social media feeds are a great way to get a sense of those extra little qualities that help officers understand a person, like what they do in their spare time, or what kind of interests they have. 

It can be helpful to think of social media content as a supplementary essay (or two) to a college application. This is how some colleges might actually view this content.

For example, Marilyn Hesser, executive director of admissions at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told Josh Moody of US News and World Report that if something in a college application is unclear, admissions staff will look to social media for clarity on a matter.

This can sound rather intimidating, especially if you are very active on social media.

That's why we've compiled 4 essential social media tips for keeping your platforms spotless as you navigate college admissions.

1. Check out schools’ social media policies for current students

Unsure how to approach social media?

You could review the social media policy for current students that your dream university adheres to.

Marilyn Hesser told US News that the University of Richmond considers its code of conduct for enrolled students when weighing social media posts. The University of Richmond expelled a student who had lied on her application about being homeschooled, after her private school noticed her social media posts talking about enrolling at the university even though they had never been asked to send the university her transcripts.

"The (social media) review that happens at Richmond is similar to the review that would happen if a current student did the same thing," Hesser says.

In its social media guidelines, Brown University advises that students be confidential, authentic, and thoughtful when utilizing social media for personal use. "Remember that what you post on your personal page could haunt you professionally," the university cautions its students and staff.

2. Watch out for humor and slang

News flash: Things you find funny may not be viewed the same way outside your friend circle!

For example, perhaps you and your friends frequently insult each other as a friendly form of joking. However, if a parent walking by were to overhear you, they might think you’re genuinely bullying each other. 

That’s the way you should think of speech on social media. The number of ways someone outside your bubble could misinterpret an in-joke or slang-filled comment is endless.

When posting something, you should consider how your grandmother, or a friend’s grandmother, would react if she were to see it. Could it come off sounding rude or offensive? Then reconsider your language.

3. Remember that nothing is truly private

Right now, some of you may be thinking, No problem, I’ll keep my edgier humor and off-color comments limited to private accounts and closed chats with friends.

However, even within your friend circle, it’s not always safe to assume you’re not offending anyone.

Kyle Kashuv, the Parkland shooting survivor who had his acceptance to Harvard University rescinded, was chatting in a Google Doc among friends at school when someone screenshotted his offensive and racist language. Those screenshots eventually made their way to Harvard and media organizations. 

Even a close friend who laughs at your comments when you’re hanging out could be secretly upset or disturbed by something you wrote. And, these days, exposing a person’s comments to the world is as easy as taking a screenshot.

4. Make social media work for you

Amid all this talk of the pitfalls of social media, don’t forget that it can also be a net positive for your application.

Alan Katzman, CEO and founder of Social Assurity, which trains students on how to use social media to their advantage, told US News he advises students to use social media to emphasize skills and interests that might be of value to higher education institutions.

For example, LinkedIn can be used as a digital resume of sorts, displaying extracurricular activities, early work experience, internships, and more. Students who are artistically inclined can use Instagram as a way to present a digital portfolio of their work, which can be essential for college admissions officers.

Don't forget Facebook! This platform is a great way to highlight relevant community service experiences, or even trips abroad. The trick is, naturally, choosing what you want to emphasize on these platforms, which can require a fair bit of self-awareness and social savvy. 


Social Media Tips: Next Steps

We love helping our students identify the components of a successful college application. Part of this process involves learning how college admissions officers actually read your application, which we discuss in this post.

It also can be valuable to hear from students who've made it into top colleges, like Princeton University. We encourage all prospective college applicants to spend time reading our How I Got Into Princeton series to learn more about the character traits, experiences, and aspirations that earned these students that coveted acceptance.

And, of course, if you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to contact us!


Greg & Kevin

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


How I Got Into Princeton - Emma (Story #15)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #15

Emma's Story

Emma"I genuinely like learning because I was raised to value intelligence and hard work. I also thrive in competitive learning environments."

Meet Emma, a member of Princeton's class of 2020.

In high school, Emma furthered her passions for art and field hockey, volunteered for Relay For Life, and became an Illinois State Scholar and National Merit Semifinalist. She also traveled widely before and during high school.

"Most of my pressure to succeed came from myself," says Emma. "I enjoyed seeing my efforts pay off, regardless of whether it pleased my parents and teachers."

Emma additionally attributes her success to her time management skills, commitment to mental well-being, and academic independence.

Please read below to learn more about Emma and the personal qualities, values, and support system that have allowed her to succeed.

We recommend reading from beginning to end but feel free to skip around. Our favorite section is the "What Makes You You" section, where Emma discusses the impact of family and travel.

About this Series

In our "How I got Into" series, we share the stories of successful applicants to Princeton and other great colleges.

Our profiles go beyond a simple list of academic and extracurricular achievements. We also delve into the “how” and the qualities that successful applicants exhibit.

We provide a rare look into what drives these students, how they've overcome their challenges, how they've been shaped by significant events in their lives, how they deal with the pressure to succeed, and much more.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

SECTION 1 - FAMILY
SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING
SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES
SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS
SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION
SECTION 6 - DAY IN THE LIFE
SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU
SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Disclaimer

Here's what we're NOT doing with this series:

  • We are NOT prescribing an over-engineered approach to college admissions
  • We are NOT presenting a blueprint for how you should get into college
  • We are NOT suggesting that you must gain admissions to a selective school to be successful (you most certainly do not)

Here's what we ARE doing:

  • We are presenting data and sharing stories
  • We are providing context that you usually don't see to highlight that we are more than just our grades and GPA
  • Our ultimate goal is to uncover the values and personal qualities that drive successful applicants

Whether you are considering selective colleges or not, it is our unwavering belief that our values and personal qualities (and luck) are the major contributors to success.


SECTION 1 - FAMILY

Geography

Birthplace: Evanston, IL
Where did you grow up? Lincolnshire, IL

Siblings

# of older siblings:  1
# of younger siblings: 0
Sibling Education Levels:  Undergraduate
Where did your siblings go to college?  University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

Parents

Parent's Marital Status: Widowed
With whom do you make your permanent home? Parent 1
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Hospice Social Worker
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: Masters
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Business Systems Analyst
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: Bachelor’s Degree

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parents' parenting style(s)?

Strict

On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the most important), how important to your parents was:

Academics 4
Extracurriculars 3
Service 4
Family 5
Friends 4
Physical Health/ Fitness 3
Mental Health 4

Did your parents have specific philosophies regarding any of the areas above?

My parents cared mostly that I worked hard and was happy and thoughtful. They encouraged me to succeed academically but they didn’t pressure me or get involved in my academics.


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Middle School

Middle School: Woodlawn Middle School
Type of School: Public

High School

High School: Adlai E. Stevenson High School
High School City, State: Lincolnshire, IL
Type of School: Public
Class Size: 1200

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Jobs

Did you work in high school?  Yes
What kind of job/s did you have? Tutor
Average hours/week worked? 10
Why did you work? To save money and for my resume

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

Art, Field Hockey

How much time did you spend on these things?

10 hours/week on art, 20 hours/week on field hockey

When did these passions/interests first come about?

I started doing art when I was very young. I started field hockey the summer before high school.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

My dad was an artist so he encouraged this hobby and gave me supplies when I was young.

What level of achievement did you reach?

I took AP Art. I had my artwork featured in my school's literary magazine and school art shows. This gave me experience in showcasing my work, with which I have continued to have success in college. I also created a large art portfolio that I submitted as a supplement to my Princeton application.

I was captain of the JV field hockey team.

Tell us a little bit about how you achieved these achievements?

I put in a lot of time and demonstrated strong leadership skills. By choosing activities I genuinely enjoyed, my passion showed through to others. Because of my passion for field hockey, I consistently dedicated my time and energy to each practice and game. This dedication was expressed through my enthusiasm and leadership, and I was voted by my peers to be captain of the field hockey team. Likewise, the enjoyment I got from art pushed me to create a large breadth of artwork from which I could assemble a portfolio of pieces that showcased my skills and personality.

What kind of support did you have?

My parents bought me equipment/supplies and drove me to practices, games, and other events before I got my license.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these extracurricular results?

It was challenging to balance sports and art with work, homework, and many responsibilities at home.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

Relay For Life and National Honor Society

How much time did you spend?

5 hours/week on service

Why did you choose this activity?

I have had close family members affected by cancer so it was a personal cause to me. It was a rewarding way to spend my time because I could see my efforts pay off in a tangible way (i.e., through fundraising and event planning).

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

I traveled to Morocco and played field hockey in the summer league after 9th grade. After 10th grade, I was involved with Save-A-Pet as a volunteer, participated in Field Hockey League and a STEM Careers Summer School course, and worked as a tutor. During the summer after 11th grade, I had a Northwestern University Applied Physics Internship and a tutoring job.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: n/a
GPA - Weighted: 4.0
GPA - Unweighted 4.79

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 1
How many times did you take the ACT? 2
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? 2330, 36
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? No
How many hours did you study in total? 5
When did you start preparing for the test? End of sophomore year
When did you take the test? Summer after sophomore year

Do you know which test to take? Check out our recommendations here - Should I Take the SAT or the ACT?

Not sure WHEN to take the test? We created 9 Sample Testing Schedules to help get you started

SAT Subject Tests & AP/IBs

Which SAT Subject tests did you take? 

Physics: 800, Math II: 760

Which AP/IBs did you take?

Euro 5, Physics 5, Physics C Mechanics 5, Physics C E&M 5, Calculus BC 5, US History 5, Macroeconomics 5, Spanish Language and Culture 5, Junior English 5, Biology 3, Chemistry 3, Themes 5, Statistics 5, US Government 5, Microeconomics 4, Art 5

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

Illinois State Scholar, National Merit Semifinalist, Presidential Scholar Candidate

What do you attribute your academic success to?

I attribute it to having a lot of practice in test-taking from an early age. Reading was also helpful with respect to developing academic success and focus.

What kind of support did you have?

My school had peer tutors available and teachers had office hours before class for assistance.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

No.

What kind of sacrifices/challenges did you overcome to achieve these academic results?

In my junior and senior years, I struggled with stress and lack of sleep. I overcame this by lessening the pressure I put on myself and seeking help from academic resources.

Any specific approaches/tips & tricks to studying that were particularly helpful for you?

I found that having a busy schedule improved my time management. I also did all my studying at a reasonable hour and slept early.


SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION

Applications & Acceptances

Did you apply as an international or domestic student? Domestic
Did you apply regular or early? Early
How many schools did you apply to? ~16
Were you a legacy applicant at any of these schools? No
Were you recruited for athletics, arts, music, etc...? No
Did you declare a major? Did this end up being your actual major? Yes / No

Which schools did you apply to (that you remember)?

Princeton, Duke, Northwestern, Cornell, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, Harvard, UPenn, MIT, University of Pennsylvania (Engineering School), Columbia, Yale, Stanford, Berkeley.

Which schools did you get into?

Princeton, MIT, University of Maryland, Stern College for Women, Queens College, and City College

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

Math teacher, Physics teacher, English teacher

Why did you ask these specific people?

They knew me the best and I got along well with them. I only asked my English teacher because MIT asked for a breadth of subjects.

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

I wrote about hot sauce and connected it to my personality/experiences.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

I have family in the area, and Princeton is known for its financial aid program, sciences, and liberal arts.

Gap Year

Did you take a gap year?

No.

Curious about what happens after you submit your college application? Check out our in-depth guide - How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process


SECTION 6 - DAY IN THE LIFE

Typical Day

What was a typical weekday like in your junior year of high school?

I went to school, attended field hockey practice, ate dinner, worked on homework until 8, watched TV with my family, finished my homework, then went to bed.

On average, how many hours of HW and studying did you do every night?

3 hours max.

What time did you usually go to sleep?

10-11pm

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

I worked for three hours Saturday mornings, did most of my homework in the afternoon, and spent time with family/friends. Sundays: I helped with chores, finished homework, did art, and relaxed.


SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU

Drive/Motivation

What drove you to succeed in high school? Where did this drive come from?

I was very motivated to go to an elite college because I knew it would provide me with the best financial aid and I didn’t want my parents to struggle to pay for my education. I also genuinely liked learning because I was raised to value intelligence and hard work. I also thrived in competitive learning environments.

Pressure/Stress/Expectations

What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

They expected me to work hard and also to have fun and spend time with family and friends. They expected me to have a good balance.

What kind of pressure did you feel to succeed? Where did this pressure come from?

Most of my pressure to succeed came from myself. My parents didn't pressure me but they gave me positive feedback when I succeeded academically and they encouraged me to be intellectual. I internalized this positive reinforcement and found that I enjoyed seeing my efforts pay off, regardless of whether it pleased my parents and teachers. I think because a lot of my identity revolved around my academic success, I felt pressure to maintain these standards and not let myself down.

How did you deal with this pressure?

I tried to not be too hard on myself and not get let down when I failed, so the pressure was never harmful.

Balance

How did you balance everything going on in high school?

Time management and organization.

Any strategies, tips, tools, types of support that helped you?

Keep an organized calendar/to do list. Seek help from tutors and teachers. Schedule time to relax and decompress. I would sleep by midnight even if my homework wasn’t completed so I could be well-rested at school.

Significant Events

Any major events growing up that helped shape your high school self?

I had opportunities to travel with my uncle to many continents by the time I left high school. Through having the opportunity to travel to places like India, Morocco, and Europe before reaching high school, I entered high school with a broad worldview and a greater appreciation for subjects like world history and European history. I also learned a lot about myself and that I wanted to pursue a future career that involves travel and working abroad. These were very formative and educational experiences.

Other Challenges/Struggles

Any other struggles/challenges (that we didn't discuss so far) that you faced in high school? While growing up?

No

Culture/Identity

How do you identify yourself? White
Which languages does your family speak at home? English
How many languages are you proficient in? 2: English and Spanish
Do you identify with multiple cultures? Yes, Irish and American

How has your culture or identity influenced you during your middle school or high school years?

It has shaped my values, religion, outlook, etc.

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

Independence, family, integrity, organization.

What was your #1 core value?

Independence.

How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

By taking control of my own activities and academics, not depending on my parents for help with managing my life.

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

I am thoughtful, independent, resilient, and caring.

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

I was reserved, studious, focused, kind, mature, and creative.

Uniqueness

Was there anything special or different about your family when you were growing up that helped shape who you were in high school?

My dad was physically disabled and my mom worked full-time so I was forced to be very independent from a young age. I think this independence translated into my being very academically independent. My parents were also quite old fashioned. I never had video games and I didn’t get a cell phone until high school. I think this made me more well-read, social, and active than I would have been otherwise.

What do you think makes you unique?

My maturity and life experiences.

Influences/Mentors/Support

Did you have any major influences growing up? If so, who/what were your they?

My parents were very influential. We ate dinner together every night and discussed academics/books/world events.

If you had a question or needed some advice, who would you go to?

My parents or my older sister.


SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Important Lessons

Most important lessons that you learned or were taught while growing up?

I was taught to be independent, responsible, and generous.

Advice

Any advice you would give to your high school self?

Take some more time to think about what you genuinely enjoy, not just what you’re good at. Pursue your hobbies earlier so they have more time to develop. Figure out how you can turn these interests into a course of study/career.


NEXT STEPS

Check out our first profile and learn about Destiny's journey.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our mailing list, and we’ll let you know when we release similar articles and other in-depth guides. Please also share using the buttons on the side.

At PrepMaven, our mission is not only to help your child increase their test scores and get into a great college but also to put them on the right track for long-term personal and professional success.


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg & Kevin

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem-solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.