How I Got Into Princeton - Amanda (Story #5)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #5

Amanda's Story

"They always had the news on, and we watched The Daily Show together -- daily, of course. I think I just absorbed [my parent's] clear interest in politics."

Unsurprisingly, Amanda is now a politics major at Princeton. However, during high school, her major extracurricular activities were actually in science. She competed at the highest levels in Science Olympiad and Science League and also enrolled in a 3-year research course during high school.

Amazingly, despite a heavy extracurricular load, Amanda was somehow able to limit herself to only 1 hour of homework per night!

As is usually the case, her "intrinsic drive to do well" was also accompanied by unhealthy amounts of stress due to high expectations from parents, siblings (both Princeton graduates), high-performing peers, and of course herself.

She also struggled with coming to grips with her sexuality and was initially resentful of having to observe the Sabbath on Saturdays when she could have been out with friends or participating in other activities.

Please read below to learn more about Amanda 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.

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: Clifton, New Jersey
Where did you grow up? Livingston, New Jersey

Siblings

# of older siblings:  2
# of younger siblings: 0
Sibling Education Levels: Sibling 1: BA, Sibling 2: MD
Where did your siblings go to college?  Both went to Princeton (Classes of 2016 and 2012, respectively)

Parents

Parent's Marital Status: Married
With whom do you make your permanent home? Both
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Tax Lawyer at Thomson Reuters
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: JD
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Small Business Owner
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: BA

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parent's parenting style?

Not quite helicopter level, but very involved in my academic life, and my mother in my personal life

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

Academics 5
Extracurriculars 5
Service 4
Family 4
Friends 3
Physical Health/ Fitness 1
Mental Health 2

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

They wanted me to have the best chances possible in life and they felt that education was the key, so they valued my academic and extracurricular performance. They saw these areas as central to me getting accepted into a good school and therefore starting on a good path in life.


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Middle School

Middle School: Heritage Middle School
Type of School: Public

High School

High School: Livingston High School
High School City, State: Livingston, NJ
Type of School: Public
Class Size: 451

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Jobs

Did you work in high school? Yes
What kind of job/s did you have? Tutoring
Avg # hrs/week worked: 2

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

Politics and science

How much time did you spend on these things?

I spent around 2 hours a day reading and watching the news, focusing on political news, and I spent 6 hours a week on Science Olympiad (as well as 1 or 2 hours a day in science class, depending on my exact academic schedule)

When did these passions/interests first come about?

My passion in politics came about at a very young age, mainly from my parents. They always had the news on, and we watched The Daily Show together -- daily, of course. I think I just absorbed their clear interest in politics. Now as a Politics major, I continue to pursue this interest as my own. My interest in science came from my father, who minored in geology in college. Although he is not a scientist, he has so much knowledge and curiosity for it -- he would often take me outside during the day to look at rocks and out at night to discuss astronomy. So it felt natural to participate in the “Rocks and Minerals” and “Astronomy” events when I competed in Science Olympiad in both middle and high school.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

I did not really nurture my interest in politics in high school other than by continuing to read the news and watch The Daily Show with my parents every day. It would not be until college that it became my primary passion -- I decided to major in Politics and joined the College Democrats, eventually becoming president. I also interned for Phil Murphy for Governor of NJ campaign the summer after my sophomore year at Princeton, a very personal experience as a resident of New Jersey myself. From all these experiences I learned more and more about politics, both as an interest and as a science in and of itself, and I have only become more passionate about it.

On the other hand, I really nurtured my interest in science in high school, participating in the Science League and Science Olympiad competitions and trying to take as many science courses as I could. I enrolled in a 3-year science research course that threw me into the world of research; I worked for two summers in a neuroscience lab and wrote up a final research report presenting the results of a study I conducted at this lab. I developed a very close relationship with one of my science research teachers, who also taught me in AP Environmental Science and coached our Science Olympiad team. All of these experiences developed my interest in science and neuroscience in particular to the point that I even applied to Princeton thinking I would major in neuroscience! Once at Princeton, I took a diverse range of science courses because my interest never faded, even as I majored in politics.

What level of achievement did you reach?

I am currently majoring in politics as a rising senior at Princeton. With science, I medaled gold several times in the Science Olympiad competition and reached the top 10% level in the Science League Biology competitions. I also placed in the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, where I presented the work from the neuro lab that I had done as part of my science research course.

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

By working hard and putting in the time. 2-3 times a week I would stay after school for at least 2 hours to work on Science Olympiad, and I spent 2 summers working in a lab for science research.

What kind of support did you have?

My parents and sister, who herself had taken the science research course at Livingston High before me, strongly encouraged me to take it, emphasizing how much I would learn as well as how impressive it would look to colleges on my transcript that I committed myself to a 3-year program and independent research. I know that they were absolutely right. They also supported me through my extracurricular work, picking me up from late nights at school and letting me work with friends at the house on the weekends on competition preparation.

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

I sacrificed free time and time spent hanging out with friends and family to participate in Science Olympiad and Science League -- yet I also gained many friends from both of these activities.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

I was a volunteer for 3 years at the Friendship Circle, an organization dedicated to working with special needs children.

How much time did you spend?

3 hrs/wk

Why did you choose this activity?

My siblings had both volunteered and enjoyed their experiences, and I supported the group’s mission. I spent most weekends volunteering and formed many memorable connections with the children with whom I worked.

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

In the summer after 9th grade, I went to summer camp because I had done so for the past 6 or so summers. 

In the summer after 10th grade, I worked in a neuroscience lab near my home for around 6 weeks to do research for my science research course, which ran from 10th through 12th grade.

In the summer after 11th grade, I did the same thing I did after 10th grade, but my research was with a different researcher.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: My school did not provide exact rankings, but I was one of the top 10 students in my class.
GPA - Weighted: 4.86
GPA - Unweighted 4.98

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 2
How many times did you take the ACT? 0
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? 2340
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? No
How many hours did you study in total? 30
When did you start preparing for the test? 3 months before
When did you take the test? October and December of 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? 

  • Chemistry - 760
  • Spanish - 780
  • Biology M - 800
  • US History - 800

Which AP/IBs did you take?

Environmental Science - 5; Biology - 5; US History - 5; Psychology - 5; English Language and Composition - 5; Calculus AB - 5

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

AP Scholar with Distinction in 2015, National Merit Scholarship Commended in 2014/2015, Bronze medalist in NJCTE writing competition in 2014, Gold medalist twice in National Spanish Examination and third in NJ in 2014; medaled multiple times (gold and bronze) in Science Olympiad; top 10 percent in Science League Biology; placed fourth in Junior Science and Humanities Symposium; National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, National Science Honor Society

What do you attribute your academic success to?

I attribute these achievements to working hard and challenging myself to go the extra mile even when I didn’t want to or felt I didn’t know enough to compete.

What kind of support did you have?

My parents supported me every step of the way, pushing me to do my best but also emphasizing that none of these achievements defined my worth, which took some pressure off.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

No.

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

I had to spend a lot of time that could have otherwise been spent hanging out or taking personal time to watch TV, for example, but it was all worth it because I proved to myself I could accomplish certain things, boosting my confidence for the future.

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

I don’t think any one approach or set of approaches was particularly helpful. I think just the overall time spent, even at the cost of free time and some fun, was what helped me.


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? No
Were you recruited for athletics, arts, music, etc...? No
Did you declare a major? Did this end up being your actual major? I communicated that I was interested in majoring in Neuroscience, but I ultimately majored in Politics.

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

Princeton University, Rutgers University

Which schools did you get into?

Princeton University, Rutgers University

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

My AP English Language and Composition teacher and my AP Environmental Science/Science Research teacher / Science Olympiad coach

Why did you ask these specific people?

I felt I had formed the closest connections with them from all my teachers/mentors in my life, so I knew they could speak the best about me and my qualifications.

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

I wrote about some lessons learned from my time volunteering with the Friendship Circle.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

My brother got accepted into Princeton in 2008, when I didn’t really know anything about college, and so Princeton stuck in my head as the only college I really knew. When I visited him at campus, I fell in love, and when my sister got accepted in 2011, I knew it was my first choice, both because I had already liked it for a few years and because I wanted to share the special experience with my siblings of having attended the same college. I also knew it was one of the top schools in the country, and I wanted to benefit from the unique opportunities that attending such a university entailed. The day I got accepted still counts as the best day of my life.

Gap Year

Did you take a gap year?

No

If so, why?

N/A

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 junior year of high school?

I got up at 6:30, took the bus to school, and class started at 7:50. My school was on a rotating block schedule, so I had 3 classes before lunch at 10:50 - 11:40 (still consider this way too early for lunch!). I then had 3 classes after lunch until 2:40 at which point I usually stayed after school, either to tutor for an hour or work on Science Olympiad or Mock Trial for 2 hours. I then went home, did around an hour of work, had dinner, and watched TV or read a book before bed.

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

1

What time did you usually go to sleep?

10:30 PM

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

My parents are observant Jews, so on Saturday we would observe the Sabbath, which entailed not using any electricity. So, while most of my peers were off doing sports or extracurriculars, I spent the day reading books and the news at home. Truthfully, I was resentful at the time, wishing I could be out and able to participate in more activities or hang out more with friends, but looking back I know that having that dedicated time to just read for hours on end was invaluable for me.


SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU

Drive/Motivation

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

Expectations -- my parents had expectations for my success and I had expectations for my own performance. I also felt pressure to succeed and get into Princeton since both my siblings did and attended. Mostly, though, I wanted to succeed; I have always had an intrinsic drive to do well, even when the stakes are non-existent, whether it’s a trivia game or an ungraded test. I think this drive comes from the expectations my parents have of me, and at times it can lead to unhealthy amounts of stress, but I definitely think this drive got me into Princeton.

Pressure/Stress/Expectations

What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

As noted, they expected me to do well, and I did feel a decent amount of stress and pressure from this. To their credit, though, they never placed on me the expectation that I should attend Princeton or get accepted, and it was clear they would have been happy for me to attend any college -- they just wanted me to not slack and to fulfill the potential they thought I had.

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

I felt a lot of pressure to succeed, and it came from my parents and from my siblings both having attended Princeton. I also felt a lot of pressure from my peers/friends, most of whom were ranked comparably to me at Princeton. At times they felt like my competition, particularly during college application season, and I know now how unhealthy that feeling was.

How did you deal with this pressure?

I watched a lot of TV and spent a lot of time with family and friends not doing work. I tried to not work more than 1 or 2 hours a day during the week.

Balance

How did you balance everything going on in high school?

By keeping a list every day of what I needed to get done and planning the order of how I would get them done before I started working. Also, I planned to have free time in my schedule every day -- time to relax. I have always been a firm believer that having time to not work makes you more productive overall when you are working.

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

What I just noted -- always scheduling personal time that involves not working.

Significant Events

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

None that I can think of.

Other Challenges/Struggles

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

I struggled to come to grips with my sexuality (I came out as bisexual in college). Although Livingston is a fairly liberal town, high school is still a rough place for people who are different, and there were no support structures at school, really. I know now that many of my peers were not straight, but I had no clue at the time, so it was an isolating experience to discover a new part of my identity and deal with crushes on other girls. I didn’t know how to process it for a while.

Culture/Identity

How do you identify yourself? White
Which languages does your family speak at home? English
How many languages are you proficient in? Just English
Do you identify with multiple cultures? No

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

N/A

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

Focus, dedication, humor, compassion

What was your #1 core value?

Focus

How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

By working hard both in class and outside of class and by trying to be a good friend and family member, one who listened and demonstrated kindness

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

My assertiveness, focus, and quirkiness

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

It was very much in flux, particularly as I struggled with parts of my identity. I didn’t really know who I was, and middle school and high school are very tough places when you don’t have a fully formed and confident sense of self. I would say I was similar to who I am now, but more immature and insecure.

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 parents’ Judaism, which as I noted forced me to spend more time reading on the weekends, which I think shaped my love of learning.

What do you think makes you unique?

My sense of humor

Influences/Mentors/Support

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

My mom, The Daily Show, and books by Michio Kaku

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

My mom.  


SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Important Lessons

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

Hard work pays off to some extent, but sometimes extenuating circumstances mean that no matter what you won’t achieve your goal. The most important lesson I learned, though, was that it’s ok to not achieve all of your goals, that the trying is what counts and what will instill in you lessons and skills you’ll carry with you moving forward. The goal itself is transient.

Advice

Any advice you would give to your high school self?

Take a deep breath and appreciate the present -- the future will always be waiting for you, but the present moment is just that -- a moment. Spend less time stressing about things because there will always be something to stress about and you’ll do yourself a favor by worrying less. Everything works itself out.


NEXT STEPS

Haven't read our 1st profile yet? Check out Destiny's journey here. Alternatively, you can also view a summary of all our other stories here - How I Got Into Series.

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 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.


Should I Take the SAT/ACT Essay? 5 Things You Need to Know

More Colleges are Dropping the SAT/ACT Essay Requirement: 5 Things You Need to Know

You may have heard that an increasing number of schools have dropped the requirement to submit SAT or ACT essay scores with college applications. This can naturally leave room for confusion, so we thought we'd summarize the main points to know:

1) The essay portion of the SAT and ACT is optional.

Most colleges do NOT require students to submit scores from this portion of the test. However, a small handful of schools do require it.

2) The number of schools that *DO* require essay scores is shrinking.

Over the past year or so, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Dartmouth, the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, CalTech, the University of San Diego, Duke, and Brown have dropped the requirement.

Reasons cited include admissions offices saying the scores do not help them with assessing applicants, to the likelihood that requiring the scores disadvantages lower-income students, since it often costs students extra to take the test, outside of school.

3) It *can* still be beneficial to take the essay portion of the SAT or ACT.

After all, you may want to leave the option open to apply to colleges that still require it. Moreover, some schools that no longer require the scores will still look at them if students submit them, and if you think you will do well on the test, that could certainly add a small boost to your application.

4) As of early 2019, the main schools that still require the SAT and ACT essay are the United States Military Academy (West Point) and the University of California school system (e.g. UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz).

5) Make sure to check the individual policy of each school you apply to, since they can vary. Each school's individual policy should be findable on their website.

For example:

 


NEXT STEPS

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.

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.


SAT Grammar: 3 Uncommon Types of Punctuation (that commonly appear on the SAT)

SAT Grammar: 3 Uncommon Types of Punctuation (that commonly appear on the SAT)

Brace yourselves for a thrilling post about… punctuation!

Many students, even strong writers with broad grammar/punctuation knowledge, miss a handful of questions on each SAT Writing test because they are unfamiliar with rules surrounding uncommonly used punctuation.  

Taking 15 minutes to familiarize yourself with these uncommonly understood rules could possibly boost your SAT scores by 20 or more points.  

On some Official SAT tests, more than 5 questions appear that test the rules covered in this post. Depending on your current score, each missed question can be worth up to 10 points.

SAT Writing questions are broken into two main categories:

  1. Grammar / Punctuation
  2. Expression of Ideas

Grammar/Punctuation questions test the rules of language and sentence construction, while Expression of Ideas questions test ability to express thoughts clearly and logically

We tell our students that preparing for the SAT is like playing a game.  The authors of each test writers receive training to write the test a very specific way, and students can expect to see similar questions on every single test.  

If students learn all the main rules about the questions that appear repeatedly on the test, they can score very well.   

In this post, we examine 3 common types of SAT Writing test questions that test uncommonly used punctuation.  Many strong writers rarely use these types of punctuation, but questions testing the following rules often appear several times on a single test.  

 

1. The Semicolon [ ; ]

A semicolon serves as a period between two closely related sentences.   

For proper usage of a semicolon, there must exist:

  • A complete sentence before the semicolon.
  • A complete sentence after the semicolon.

If either of these rules is broken, then the semicolon is not being properly used.  

Proper Usage

  • I like tennis; you like golf.  
  • The SAT is a long test; it bores me.
  • I am training for a marathon; I’m almost ready.

Improper Usage

  • Although I like tennis; you like golf.  (incomplete sentence before the semicolon)
  • The SAT is a long test; which is very boring. (incomplete sentence after the semicolon)
  • I am training for a marathon; It will take place soon.  (do not capitalize the word after the semicolon)

 

2. The Colon [ : ]

Most high school students rarely, if ever, use colons in their writing.  Colons are used in a very specific way, which we’ll cover below.

Note: colons and semicolons cannot be used interchangeably.

The SAT Writing section tests 2 main colon rules:

  • A colon comes before a list
  • A colon comes before an explanation

Proper usage of colon before a list:

  • At my job I do the following things: answer the phone, schedule appointments, and organize files.
  • I like tropical fruits: mango, guava, and passionfruit.  
  • There’s only one food I can’t resist: bacon.  (list of one)

Improper usage of a colon before a list:

  • At my job, I: answer the phone, schedule appointments, and organize files.  
  • I like tropical fruits such as: mango, guava, and passionfruit.  
  • I want to eat: mango, guava, and passionfruit.

In all of the list examples above, no colons are necessary to introduce the list.

Proper usage of a colon before an explanation  

  • The new secretary was a poor fit for the job: she couldn’t stay awake at work.
  • If I don’t exercise every single day, I won’t exercise at all: I’m a creature of habit.  
  • This chef is like a magician: he can turn the simplest ingredients into complex culinary creations.     

What comes after the colon can explain, clarify, or illustrate the idea before the colon.  

In these scenarios, the idea before the colon is often a full sentence.   

 

3. The Dash [ - ]

The dash is extremely versatile.  Students often use dashes informally in writing, but the SAT tests students’ formal understanding of proper dash usage.

The SAT Writing section often tests the following rules:

  • Dashes surround non-essential phrases/clauses
  • Dashes before emphasis, explanation or list (much like a colon)

Proper usage of a dash to surround a non-essential phrase/clause:

  • The man — a scary looking fellow with bloodshot eyes smiled and waved.
  • The packages arrived — nearly 3 weeks after the estimated delivery date — and we no longer had any use for their contents.  

Note that pairs of commas or parentheses can often be substituted for dash pairs.  

Proper usage of a dash before emphasis or explanation, or a list:

  • The little girl finally got what she wanted — a puppy.
  • This year I would like to accomplish some important goals — getting healthy, reading more books, and spending more time with family.   
  • I realized that she was going to be the best athlete I had ever trained — her work ethic was unmatched.  

In the above examples, a colon could be substituted for the dash.  

That’s it!  We hope we found this quick lesson helpful.

Good luck with your studying!

 

Kevin and Greg

 


NEXT STEPS

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 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.


How I Got Into Princeton - Justin (Story #4)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #4

Justin's Story

"What was originally just me wanting to wear a military uniform for fun became an intense hands-on leadership experience."

Leadership, courage, respect. Justin learned all these the hard way.

In his first year of high school, Justin joined the California Cadet Corps, a paramilitary youth organization for students from elementary to college. This training became his defining experience throughout high school, within which he ascended to become the highest-ranking officer in his school and county. Meanwhile, he stayed grounded in volunteering for his church and making it through his intense schoolwork.

Please read below to learn more about Justin 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 "Your Activities" section.

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: Busan, South Korea
Where did you grow up? San Bernardino County, California

Siblings

# of older siblings:  0
# of younger siblings: 0
Sibling Education Levels: N/A
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: International Trader 
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: PhD
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Homemaker
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: PhD

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parent's parenting style?

Somewhere between helicopter and laid back. They were caring enough about my education that they kept track of my grades and how my studies/classes were in general, but they also didn’t completely cut off social contact for me either.

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

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

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

My parents always said that success inherently depends on how much effort I put into whatever I’m doing. Thus, I personally always strive to go above and beyond the call of duty, giving 110%.


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Middle School

Middle School: Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School
Type of School: Private

High School

High School: Cajon High School
High School City, State: San Bernardino, CA
Type of School: Public
Class Size: 750

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Jobs

Did you work in high school? No
What kind of job/s did you have? N/A
Avg # hrs/week worked: N/A

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

My main extracurricular was the California Cadet Corps; this was where I spent almost all of my free time outside of school related subjects.

How much time did you spend on these things?

I was a part of this program for all 4 years of high school, and as I gradually gained higher ranks in the program, I would spend at least 10-15 hours a week after school writing reports, practicing for drill competitions, and training cadets in various activities.

When did these passions/interests first come about?

I’ve always been interested in the military ever since elementary school (most likely because of my utter and complete fascination with Star Wars). So when I got the chance to be a part of the California Cadet Corps, it was the closest shot I had to the real thing. Believe it or not, that was my initial reason to join. I later realized it was a very smart decision because of the various things I took away from my experiences there.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

As I slowly went from the rank of Recruit to Lieutenant Colonel, I gained more responsibility within my Battalion and Brigade. What was originally just me wanting to wear a military uniform for fun became an intense hands-on leadership experience. I was initially made a Squad Leader who was responsible for around 3-4 cadets. Then I became a Company Commander, who was tasked with roughly 25-30 cadets in terms of their weekly schedule and their instruction/training. By my senior year, I was the Battalion Commander (the highest-ranking officer at my high school) and simultaneously the Brigade Commander (the highest-ranking officer in San Bernardino County). Throughout this time, I gained people skills and the know-how to manage large groups of people to accomplish a given set of tasks via delegation and thorough planning.

What level of achievement did you reach?

As I sort of explained above, by the end of it all I held the second-highest achievable rank of Lieutenant Colonel and held the positions of Brigade and Battalion Commander.

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

A lot of my achievements in the California Cadet Corps came from trial and error. I would sometimes have no precedent to work with, so I’d have to try something completely new just to see it crash and burn immediately. After a stern talk with my Commandants about my performance, I’d revise my plan, try again, and repeat this process until I successfully completed the mission.

What kind of support did you have?

I had the support of my parents throughout my time in the Corps, as well as the support of my fellow friends and staff in the Corps itself. The friends I made in the California Cadet Corps are still close friends of mine today, and I’m so glad I was able to go through this experience with them.

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

I lost so much sleep in High School; it was not a fun time in that regard. One mess-up meant critical failure of the operation and it was always my full responsibility if something went wrong. Because of these tough conditions, I learned (the hard way) to better schedule my day and plans in general. I’m glad to say that I’m on a normal sleeping schedule now.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

I volunteered a lot at my church, Our Lady of the Assumption. From Altar Serving to helping to distribute food to the local needy and less-fortunate.

How much time did you spend?

Around 3-5 hours a week.

Why did you choose this activity?

It felt like a good way to give back to both my middle and elementary school as well as gain experience in service. I’m a firm believer that one can never be too humble, and this helped me give back to my local community in a direct way.

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

In the summer after 9th grade, I completed Officer Candidacy School and gained the rank of Cadet 2nd Lieutenant. This felt like the first logical step for me as I wanted to get more leadership experience, and the fastest way to do that was gain rank.

In the summer after 10th grade, I completed Survival Training and earned my beloved Red Beret. Basically, this was considered the hardest level of training a cadet could undergo in the corps. You were dropped off in the desert in teams of four with minimal supplies and expected to survive for a week (find shelter, water, food, etc.). If you did so, you would earn the Red Beret, which is one of the highest awards possible in the Corps. I primarily wanted to do this just for the experience as well as to prove to myself that I had the mettle to do something like this.

In the summer after 11th grade, I completed Marksmanship Training and earned my Expert Marksman Badge, the highest qualification possible in this field. This program was taught by United States Marines and Local Sheriffs. It covered the importance of firearm safety as well as training us in the use of firearms of competitive target shooting. This was the same exact program given by the US Army to its soldiers, so it was quite the experience in that we were basically doing actual Army training. Furthermore, besides my Expert Marksman badge, I also earned the designation of “Top Shot” within my company. This meant I consistently scored the highest on any given test on the live-fire range. I wanted to do this program primarily because I found it very interesting and thought that now was a good time for me to learn how to handle a firearm safely, especially in light of the then-recent tragedies in San Bernardino.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: 2
GPA - Weighted: 4.90
GPA - Unweighted 4.00

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 1
How many times did you take the ACT? 1
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? SAT: 1510, ACT: 35
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? No
How many hours did you study in total? Around 36 hours for both
When did you start preparing for the test? As soon as 10th grade was over
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? 

  • 750 Math Level 2
  • 710 Chemistry
  • 660 US History

Which AP/IBs did you take?

5 AP tests, 6 IB tests

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

Honor Guard for 4 years, Valedictorian, 1st place for State Individual Major Awards in category of Outstanding First Year Cadet Senior Division, 1st place for State Individual Major Awards in Outstanding Warrant/Junior Officer Senior Division, 1st place for State Individual Major Awards in Outstanding Senior Officer Senior Division, total of 48 ribbons, 3 medals, and 5 shoulder cords during service in California Cadet Corps, Certificate of Scholarship No. 14091715 from The Korean Real Estate, Brokers Association of Southern California, Certificate of Appreciation from Olympic Division of Los Angeles Police

What do you attribute your academic success to?

Most of these achievements came with brute determination and my will to just get things done. For the most part, I had this drive in high school which kept pushing me to go above and beyond. My parents had a huge role in this, they had my back every step of the way and I seriously doubt I would have gotten this far without them. So in a sense, they are who I attribute my academic success to.

What kind of support did you have?

(See above) In a main sense, my parents were my greatest support. That plus the wonderful teachers I met as well as the great friends I had in high school made this support net I could always fall back on.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

No.

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

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I lost so much friggin’ sleep in high school that I practically lived off Monster energy drinks and boxes of 5-Hour Energy. What got me through is the constant thought that me working hard right now and right here would pay off in huge dividends in the future. As cliched as it sounds, hard work does indeed pay off.

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

Personally, writing down a to-do list along with a weekly schedule helped immensely. That way, I could set up a daily schedule to divide and conquer the amount of work I had to do every month. Speaking of which, having a yearly calendar for those large, end of the semester assignments helped with planning my thoughts out as well.


SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION

Applications & Acceptances

Did you apply as an international or domestic student? Sort of… Since I was born in Korea but lived in CA with permanent
residency, I was treated as a domestic student even though I’m technically
international.
Did you apply regular or early? I applied to one school: Stanford
How many schools did you apply to? 10
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? Computer Science; I’m a rising sophomore now and I’m confident this is my major. 

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

Princeton, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, CalTech, Columbia, and Cornell

Which schools did you get into?

Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UCSD

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

Specifically, I asked my Calc teacher, Mr. Srikrishna Udupa, and my English teacher, Mr. Jerry Tivey.

Why did you ask these specific people?

Mr. Udupa was just a wonderful teacher overall. He was funny, quirky, and knew the class material like the back of his hand. He taught a high school senior class like a tenured college professor. In fact, I have a cup on my desk that he signed saying, “Dear Justin, you are indeed the smartest student in the class. Keep up the good work! Best, Skr. Udupa.” Needless to say, we were very close and I couldn’t think of a better person to ask.

Mr. Tivey, we weren’t as close. But, he and I still got along as much as a Computer Geek and a Literary could. We had similar tastes in music, and the same favorite book (The Great Gatsby). I particularly enjoyed how he taught his class as a mostly self-driven curriculum. I was able to excel at my pace comfortably while not “going ahead” or “falling behind.”

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

My common app essay was primarily centered around my experiences in Survival Training and how I grew as a person from it.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

Oof, this is a hard question. From the schools that I got accepted to, all of them had great departments centered around Computer Science so I didn’t have to nitpick education-wise. I knew I would get a quality education. Personally, the appeal of going to school in a completely different state interested me extremely, and I also loved the locale of Princeton. Harvard and Stanford are great sure, but they’re too close to large cities for my taste. From my research, I also knew that Princeton gave a lot of attention to their undergrads, and while I’m not pointing fingers, this is what put me over the fence. Knowing I would get an Ivy League education from the best university in the country in a major that I love, how could I ever say no?

Gap Year

Did you take a gap year?

No, I wanted to start undergrad at Princeton asap!

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 junior year of high school?

0700 – Wakeup, usually have no time to eat breakfast, quickly wash up and get in the car

0745 – Arrive to my 1st period fashionably late (but not tardy)

1430 – End of classes, but now I would go to the Cadet Corps room

1600 – Let my parents know I’m done with school and to come pick me up

1700 – After a shower and putting my bookbag down etc., I eat dinner

1800 – Start homework

0100 – Finish homework and go to sleep

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

5-7 hours

What time did you usually go to sleep?

On an early day, probably 1 or 2 am.

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

Weekends were homework time. I completed essays, wrapped up projects, finished assignments, etc. This was quite unfortunate as many of my classes had homework due Monday.


SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU

Drive/Motivation

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

My primary drive was to have a successful future. I know that’s a bit of a ways off for a high school student, but that was my goal at the end of the day. I was always raised on the principle that you reap what you sow, so it only made sense that I should sow as much as I could when I can so it pays off in the future. Also by “successful” I don’t mean “rich.” Rather, success means stability and health to me.

Pressure/Stress/Expectations

What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

Given that my parents both had PhD’s it wasn’t a surprise that they wished academic success for me.

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

Surprisingly, almost all of my pressure to succeed came from myself. As I said, my personal drive was enough to push me to the academic successes which I was fortunate enough to receive.

How did you deal with this pressure?

The most important thing about pressure is to never let it get to your head. Think of it as a friendly reminder, a way to remember what all this struggle and hardship is for.

Balance

How did you balance everything going on in high school?

It wasn’t particularly hard for me because I had everything planned out to the hour in my phone or in my planner.

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

I will keep saying this: get a planner or a calendar and religiously update it and follow it. Not only will this give you physical evidence of your progress, it will serve as a personal secretary/assistant. Furthermore, don’t try to do too much at a time. Pick up a new club, sport, or hobby one at a time. I have seen kids in high school who are part of a billion clubs but can’t dedicate time to a single one since they need to always be at a different club. On a similar note, it’s okay to say no. In fact if you cannot do something for someone, it’s better to say no immediately rather than get their hopes up and cancel.

Significant Events

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

For sure, the number one event would be Survival Training. But I go into much better detail about that in my essay, so I won’t put that here.

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? Asian
Which languages does your family speak at home? Korean
How many languages are you proficient in? English and Korean
Do you identify with multiple cultures? To an extent, I would say I’m Korean by blood but heavily Americanized.

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

Well, as a Korean I was taught that respect is of utter importance. Thus, I had a habit of being too polite by American standards before I learned that I don’t need to bow to my teachers every day and just a jaunty wave or informal greeting is fine.

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

Leadership, respect, courage, patience, tenacity

What was your #1 core value?

By far, respect. The first page of The Great Gatsby holds a great quote on this, “‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’”

How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

Leadership through the California Cadet Corps, respect in how I treated myself and others, courage in how I took on challenges and ventures out of my comfort zone, patience within my social skills, and tenacity in how I got through the sleep deprivation and stress of high school.

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

My most important personal quality is respect. No matter who you are, I do my best not to assume anything about your past because as far as I know, you’re just another human being walking through life one step at a time like me.

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

Growing up, I was shy and introverted. I mostly kept to myself. However, high school changed that. I gained more friends, and also managed to work on putting myself “out there.” Overall it was a good experience in that it helped me move across the country to Princeton.

Uniqueness

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

Besides what I mentioned earlier about being Korean, nothing really comes to mind.

What do you think makes you unique?

I would say my drive to always be the best person I can be at any time is what got me here and what hopefully keeps me going. Also, my music taste is all over the place; I’ve listened to Gershwin and Eminem one right after the other. I think that’s something which is pretty rare.

Influences/Mentors/Support

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

My mom. She taught and raised me into who I am today. Don’t get me wrong, my dad played a huge role too, but the fact is I spent the vast majority of my childhood with my mom, so it only makes sense that she rubs off on me.

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

My mom for the reasons above.


SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Important Lessons

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

-Always give 110%

-If you have a choice between doing an easy thing or a hard thing, pick the hard one

-Hold yourself to a higher standard than which you hold others

Advice

Any advice you would give to your high school self?

Don’t worry about getting accepted to x, y, or z. Just know that trying your best is never the wrong thing to do.

 


NEXT STEPS

Check out our next profile and read about Amanda's story. Haven't read our 1st profile yet? Check out Destiny's journey here. Alternatively, you can also view a summary of all our other stories here - How I Got Into Series.

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 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.


How I Got Into Princeton - Alonso (Story #3)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #3

Alonso's Story

Profile Photo Alonso"Coming from a unique background with two very different parents (my American mother is an Harvard graduate, while my Costa Rican father never graduated High School), allowed me to see both of their worlds, while not fitting completely in either."

Alonso entered a private boarding school in Massachusetts as a "scrawny, terrified freshman".

He succeeded due to the support of his fellow students, teammates, coaches and teachers. The lessons he learned from his parents allowed him to develop a healthy attitude toward academics and failure. He eventually became a dorm leader and wrestling team captain whose writing was the best his creative writing teacher had seen.

Please read below to learn more about Alonso 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.

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

Be an interesting person

Geography

Birthplace: Costa Rica
Where did you grow up? Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Siblings

# of older siblings:  2
# of younger siblings: 1
Sibling Education Levels: Both older siblings have undergraduate degrees
Where did your siblings go to college?  Swarthmore and Haverford

Parents

Parent's Marital Status: Divorced
With whom do you make your permanent home? Mother
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Professor
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: PhD from the University of Michigan
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Taxi Driver
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: Did not complete high school

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parent's parenting style?

Laid back

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

Academics 4
Extracurriculars 4
Service 1
Family 2
Friends 3
Physical Health/ Fitness 3
Mental Health 1

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

My mom always told me she wants me to be an interesting person more than anything, so if that means doing new things in academics, or travelling, or trying new sports, or rapping, all of that was fair game. My father values hard work more than anything, be it academic or on the playing field. But both were patient and supportive.


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Concord Academy

Middle School

Middle School: Colfax Accelerated Learning Academy
Type of School: Public

High School

High School: Concord Academy
High School City, State: Concord, MA
Type of School: Private Boarding
Class Size: 100

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Focus on the things you love

Jobs

Did you work in high school? No
What kind of job/s did you have? N/A
Avg # hrs/week worked: N/A

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

Wrestling, Boarding Community Leadership, Cross Country, Track, Creative Writing

How much time did you spend on these things?

Sports - 2 hours every day of the year; Head of House (prefect) - an hour every day

When did these passions/interests first come about?

At boarding school sports were mandatory so I was able to dedicate myself to them there.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

At our school, wrestling was structured so that every younger student could learn from a more experienced wrestler on the same team. I joined as a scrawny, terrified freshman (the only one on the team), but my teammates embraced me and taught me both moves and the confidence of experienced wrestlers. This was a major breakthrough in my life. I continued wrestling all four years, eventually becoming team captain and helping freshmen gain the strength and confidence that I had.

What level of achievement did you reach?

I was league runner-up at my weight class in wrestling several times and qualified for regionals at my event in track during my only season.

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

I loved sports and found them a respite from my academics. I was motivated out of a love for the teams I was on and a love for the sports themselves. I don’t think I will ever feel another rush like the one you get after winning a wrestling match. I think chasing that sense of achievement was what kept me going.

What kind of support did you have?

My coaches and the teachers who lived in my boarding house were always encouraging. I formed close bonds with many of these people, often staying up past midnight discussing my aspirations with my house parents. Though I was living away from home I felt very loved and supported.

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

One message I always emphasize to younger students seeking to do impressive things is that their focus should be on things they love. This was true for me in the classroom and in sports as well. I can honestly say that for all of the things I am proudest of that I achieved in high school, my fondest memories come from the process, be it combing through archives to write an oral history of the Vietnam War draft lottery or doing laps of the track until I could barely walk. Though I devoted immense amounts of time and effort to these projects, it never felt like a sacrifice. Sometimes you will succeed, and sometimes you won’t, but if you get something from the process you will never feel like a failure.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

Besides a school service trip to Honduras which I found highly problematic, I did not do any service during my high school years. I chose to go to Honduras to continue my education in terms of Latin America. It was educational and heartbreaking.

How much time did you spend?

N/A

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

In the summer after 9th grade, I stayed at home and took care of my baby sister, who was still a year old at the time. I also accompanied my mother on a research trip to Grenada in the Caribbean.

In the summer after 10th grade, I watched most every game of the World Cup that summer and went on a trip to Barcelona with my brother. The World Cup is very important to me.

In the summer after 11th grade, I went on a school trip to an orphanage in Honduras, then went on a scholarship-sponsored, month-long, photography study program in Argentina. Done through the Experiment in international Living, this program marked perhaps my favorite month of my life. I was able to gain deep insights into Argentine culture and the common pulses that all Latinos have. My Spanish improved immensely and I met people that I will not soon forget.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Know When to Stop

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: Top 7
GPA - Weighted: 3.81
GPA - Unweighted 3.81

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 2
How many times did you take the ACT? 0
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? 2330 (Writing 800, Reading 790, Math 740)
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? I was part of a 20 person SAT class that my school offered, which ended before the first time I sat for the SAT. Afterwards, I had one private tutoring session for the math section before the second time I took the SAT.
How many hours did you study in total? 20
When did you start preparing for the test? Fall of my junior year
When did you take the test? 11th and 12th 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? 

  • SAT2 Math: 730
  • SAT2 English Literature: 760
  • SAT2 Spanish: 770

Which AP/IBs did you take?

I took 1 AP test - AP Spanish: 5

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

While my school didn’t give awards, I was awarded by the National Hispanic Recognition Committee and was a semifinalist for National Merit Scholarship

What do you attribute your academic success to?

Since my school did not give academic awards, I just got these awards through putting in some effort into the PSATs. Thus I am not particularly proud.

What kind of support did you have?

My mother, a published author and historian, proof read many of my essays. I was also nurtured by teachers in a small classroom setting. Many of these teachers took time to get to know me as a writer and also as a person. These talks led me to new interests, new books, and new opportunities. My High School had an office hours system (it was a boarding School) so I often sought out teachers for help and advice.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

No.

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

Do the reading. While this sounds like a simple recipe for success I achieved remarkable success in my English and social studies classes simply by doing the reading assigned to me, which allowed me to participate more fully and write more engagingly on the subjects described. Many of my more intelligent friends sought ways to circumvent our workload. By just piling through my assigned work in study hall, and doing what was asked of me, I was able to stand out.

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

Never compare yourself to others and know when it is time to declare work finished. For instance, is staying up another hour going to drastically improve this essay? If not, stop.


SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION

Bad at math

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? No
Were you recruited for athletics, arts, music, etc...? No
Did you declare a major? Did this end up being your actual major? Yes. I applied as a sociology major, though I don’t think I will stick with that.

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

Princeton University, University of Pittsburgh

Which schools did you get into?

Princeton University, University of Pittsburgh

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

My math teacher and my creative writing teacher.

Why did you ask these specific people?

My Creative Writing teacher regularly told me that my writing was the best he had ever seen as a teacher. He offered to teach me Creative Writing further as a once a week meeting to discuss my work. Given that this is perhaps my biggest academic strength, he was an obvious choice. I am bad at math and labored to a few B+ grades. However, I was proud that I had earned these marks, and I had often sought out my teacher for help. I chose him because he had seen my hardworking side.

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

My common app essay was about an embarrassing experience wearing an old pair of my mother’s running shoes to school, but it was really about how my parents’ vastly different backgrounds led them to different priorities when it came to spending money. These differences were particularly stark when our family fell into debt during the late 2000s.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

Princeton gives fantastic financial aid. This means that I could go without taking out loans. It also means a vibrant and diverse student body, many of whom share experiences with me, and many of whom don’t. Princeton has a fantastic school of foreign affairs, and strong departments full of renowned names in sociology and economics as well. It is a beautiful campus, not too far from home, and not too far from where my brother went to college. I also was enticed by the Bridge Year Program, which is a fully paid yearlong immersive service experience in another country. Though this program is quite selective, it was still a powerful draw.

Gap Year

Did you take a gap year?

Yes.

If so, why?

I was admitted (off the waitlist) into Bridge Year, a fully paid yearlong immersive service experience in another country. Though I had wanted to go to somewhere in Latin America, I was sent to India, a country I knew precious little about. I wanted to take a year away from the academic grind to see the world, but in an organized and purposeful way.

What did you do?

I landed in India with 7 other future Princeton freshmen and a professional program leader, dedicated to enriching and maintaining us for the next 9 months. Initially we travelled throughout the northern reaches of Bengal, to the Himalayas, taking time to stop and learn about the local cultures at each stop but also to orient ourselves to the country, through Hindi and cultural lessons like what to do when approached by a stray dog (yell and throw a rock at it). After a month we went to our base in Varanasi. There we were given jobs (I was a teacher of English and Indian History at a private school) and families to live with. This was the rest of our time, punctuated with trips to other parts of India. I also joined a local boxing team and read nearly 50 books.

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

Soccer

Typical Day

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

Wake up at 7:30. Breakfast at 8. At 8:30 attend a chapel talk, in which a high school senior is given a 15-minute platform to talk about anything they want. Class at 9. Sports begin right after class ends, at 3:15. Practice ended at 5:30, but I would often supplement that with some time in the gym until 6. Dinner until 7. Study Hall from 7:30 until 9:30. 9:30-10:30 watch TV in the common room with the other boys in my house, often basketball or WWE. Sleep at midnight.

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

3.5

What time did you usually go to sleep?

Midnight.

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

I generally took Saturday to rest and play soccer. Sunday I would watch football and pile through my homework, and often do my laundry for the week.


SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU

Princeton has normal people

Drive/Motivation

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

I am very self-motivated. More than anything I hate knowing that I could have done better by working harder. Some of my proudest grades have been C+s, and I have hated myself for getting A-s. I always figured that if I worked my hardest I would be ok, so I focused more on the process than on my goals.

Pressure/Stress/Expectations

What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

Though of course my mother expected me to go to college and do the best I could, she never talked about my grades, instead asking “but what did you learn”. I loved this attitude as it allowed me to flourish.

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

The only pressure on me was self-inflicted.  I put pressure on myself to reach my potential academically and athletically once I realized that my goals were very much in reach. 

The pressure came from myself primarily.  The culture of high achievement at Princeton High School normalized hard work as opposed to making me feel pressure.

How did you deal with this pressure?

If I felt any pressure it was from myself. I am motivated, but generally calm.

Balance

How did you balance everything going on in high school?

I have an attitude of generally choosing to do something that will make me happy, something I remember, over something that will help my grades in the short term. This meant late night conversations with friends and house parents about race and gun violence issues, even when I still had a math problem set to finish. I think having a balanced, busy life was an absolute blessing. Focusing only on academics leads to burnout, so my varied schedule always kept me fresh and engaged. Keeping time for friends also gave me many interests and ideas that doubtless helped me academically.

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

Start journaling. It will inspire you to do exciting stuff and put yourself out there so that you have interesting days to write about.

Significant Events

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

My life as an immigrant and the unique perspectives this offered set me apart from many of my peers. This was a topic I wrote about a lot. Also a traumatic event my freshman year inspired me to speak out about similar situations and seek strength from myself, rather than others.

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? Latino
Which languages does your family speak at home? Spanish (my dad), English (my mom)
How many languages are you proficient in? Spanish, English, Hindi
Do you identify with multiple cultures? Yes. I love Costa Rican culture, pan-Latinx culture, and I am also fascinated by the culture of India.

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

My high school was diverse and while there were not any people with my specific background, I was able to connect to peers over similarities, talking with my Asian peers for instance about the harms of colorism in latinx and Asian culture. I was also able to learn and appreciate so many different cultures I had never seen, particularly wealthy New England culture.

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

Love, hardwork, fun, spontaneity.

What was your #1 core value?

Love, in all of its forms. Love, in all forms, takes tremendous amounts of work. 

How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

I practiced love as a leader in the boarding community. As a head of house I was in charge of the emotional well-being of 30 boys, many of whom had never lived away from home before. I tried to create a loving community, through food events, watching horror movies together, freestyle rapping together, and discouraging bullying and insensitive humor. I tried to build a trusting atmosphere, so that, say a freshman felt comfortable with banging on my door at midnight to ask me how he could get a toned six pack.

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

I would say I’m a calm person, and I’m a happy person who tries to spread his happiness to others.

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

I am very comfortable around other people and am very confident, if not super extroverted.

Uniqueness

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

Coming from a unique background with two very different parents (my American mother is an Harvard graduate, while my Costa Rican father never graduated High School), allowed me to see both of their worlds, while not fitting completely in either. This was a blessing, as it gave me a unique ability to adapt and also keen observational skills about the aspects of the people around me.

What do you think makes you unique?

I am a levelheaded, balanced person. Once I got into Princeton a friend congratulated me and told me that this was great news since it proved that a normal person could get into such an elite school. I am able to bridge my interests, which is particularly helpful as a writer. This means things like looking through Reggaetón lyrics for clues as to the differences in Latinx racial identity in the immigrant diaspora.

Influences/Mentors/Support

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

My mother’s family is full of academics who taught me to analyze everything I see and be able to argue about it. Reading and my love for international soccer, along with frequent travel with my mother on research trips, gave me a keen interest in the world and understanding global cultures.

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

My brother.  


SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Stepping Stones

Important Lessons

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

If you focus too much on your goals, nearly every phase of your life will just be a stepping stone to something else. Take time to appreciate and embrace these stepping stones, because that process is what our life is. You never know what someone else is going through.

Advice

Any advice you would give to your high school self?

Cherish every moment.

 


NEXT STEPS

Check out our next profile and read about Justin's story. Haven't read our 1st profile yet? Check out Destiny's journey here. Alternatively, you can also view a summary of all our other stories here - How I Got Into Series.

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 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.


Does Test Prep Advantage Those Who Already Have Advantage? Absolutely.

Does Test Prep Provide Advantages to Those Who Already Have Advantage? Absolutely.

I recently asked one of our tutors (an Ivy League grad and teacher at a very well respected high school) if he'd be interested in getting trained in our SAT program so he could work with some of our test prep students...

This was his response:

"To be honest, I struggle with the idea of providing advantages on standardized tests in exchange for money. I fear this perpetuates a system in which those with financial resources gain access to even more privilege. Perhaps I am too stubborn with my perspective, but I am young, idealistic, and cannot help it! Would you mind sharing your, and/or your company’s, stance on providing specialized tutoring for standardized test preparation? I would greatly appreciate your perspective as I grow as an educator."

He brought up some really good points.

These are issues Kevin and I think about pretty frequently, especially considering that the only reason we were able to attend Princeton was because of their generous financial aid program.

I took advantage of a lovely 6 hour delay at the airport to draft up an email, to which he responded:

"... So I must admit you've shifted my perspective, Greg..."

Below is my email. Do you agree? Disagree? Additional perspectives I should be considering?


When Kevin and I first started tutoring in high school and college, it was driven purely by the desire to help students who were struggling.

Students would come to us confused and anxious. After our sessions, they would "get it" and be a little less stressed.

It was pretty black and white. We helped students and it made us feel good.

As we gained a little more experience and worked with more students, we started thinking about the impact of our services in the context of economic inequality... Much like the thoughts that you're currently having.

Having personally experienced financial hardships growing up and relying on full financial aid to afford Princeton, this is a topic that is especially meaningful to us.

Do tutoring services like ours perpetuate economic inequality? Are our services providing more advantage to those who already have advantages? How do we reconcile maintaining a viable business while also addressing our desire to help those who are less fortunate and can't afford our services?

What we've come to realize over the years is that economic advantage impacts much more than just education.

The ability to afford services like private academic tutoring, test prep, and private high schools certainly gives families additional advantages.

However, these same families have advantages in ALL areas of life - coaching for athletics/music/art, travel, extracurriculars, healthcare, healthier food, housing, computers and internet access, professional networks for finding their kids internships, and helping them get jobs...

My current thinking is that our services DO provide an advantage for those who can afford it. But so does pretty much any other paid service out there.

So what can we do/what are we doing to address some of these issues?

Our current model is to use the profits from popular services like academic tutoring and test prep to help fund various social impact projects:

  • In our small group SAT MasterClasses, we provide free spots for students who demonstrate financial need - we target first-generation and low-income students who qualify for free lunch
  • Provide free seminars and talks about college counseling - we discuss the value of college education, test prep tips, etc...
  • Partner with local organizations that work with inner-city kids - for example, we provide ad-hoc test prep advice to a great organization that introduces kids from Trenton to the sport of rowing and provides mentoring
  • Provide really great free resources on our PrepMaven blog. We spent a lot of time developing some really great resources and plan to give away a lot of this stuff (e.g. our entire 275 page SAT Math Coursebook)

Since our organization is still quite small, we don't yet have the resources to do much more on a larger scale - but we hope to get there one day!

Along the same vein, our services provide opportunities for our tutors to earn additional income - allowing many of them to also pursue pro-bono tutoring/service opportunities.

Another question that I think about - Are students of privileged families any less deserving of services?

If a student is really struggling and the families have the resources to help that student, should they be penalized for having been born into privilege? Some of these kids are entitled, but many are humble and good kids with the potential to do some real good in the future.

Some of the families we work with are super wealthy but many would not be considered wealthy - they value education and sacrifice a little more to budget for services.

Regardless of economic background, there is a ridiculous amount of stress, anxiety, and misconceptions surrounding the college application process.

As a result, there are many other organizations who feed into parental fears and conduct themselves in ways that are less than ethical or provide services that are sub-par. We've seen first-hand how education organizations take advantage of parents.

If we don't exist, families will just go somewhere else.

If they choose to work with us, we can at least make sure they are receiving the best advice. We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards - we turn away business all the time if the family doesn't need it or if we're not a good fit.

Furthermore, we are able to shape the conversation to help alleviate some of the stress of the college application process.

Our thoughts on these topics are constantly evolving. Please let me know if there are additional things we should be thinking about. Thanks!


NEXT STEPS

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 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.


How I Got Into Princeton - Maia (Story #2)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #2

Maia's Story

"It wasn’t until  junior and senior year when I started questioning things, reaching out to people, and making my own priorities. "

Maia attended Princeton High School, one of the most competitive public high schools in the country. She was introverted and acquiescent, and her competitive athletic training made it all too easy to fall into a regimented lifestyle.

It wasn’t until junior year when she started being more deliberate with her time and taking more risks - questioning things, making new friends, putting herself out there more.  This allowed her to break out of her shell and excel athletically, academically, and socially.

Please read below to learn more about Maia 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.

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: Princeton, NJ
Where did you grow up? Cranbury, New Jersey

Siblings

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

Parents

Parent's Marital Status: Married
With whom do you make your permanent home? Both Parents
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Former High School Science Teacher
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: Bachelor's Degree
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Principal Scientist
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: PhD, Post-Doctoral

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parent's parenting style?

Laid back/protective (at younger ages)

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

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

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

My parents emphasized that they valued hard work over intelligence or talent (i.e. refrained from calling us “smart” but praised us for hard work). My parents made my sister and I participate in musical/athletic extracurriculars and mandated practice time when we were younger; however, they gave us more agency to choose extracurriculars/degree of involvement as we got older. 


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Middle School

Middle School: Cranbury School
Type of School: Public

High School

High School: Princeton High School
High School City, State: Princeton, NJ
Type of School: Public
Class Size: 350

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Jobs

Did you work in high school? Yes
What kind of job/s did you have? Barista/server
Avg # hrs/week worked: 4 hrs/week

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

Track and field, jazz band

How much time did you spend on these things?

Track and field- 20 hrs/week. Jazz band-8 hrs/week.

When did these passions/interests first come about?

My passion for jazz came about in 5th grade when I started playing the clarinet.  In middle school I became interested in jazz improvisation via my involvement in my school’s jazz ensemble and improv group.  I started running track in eighth grade after a background in competitive swimming. 

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

I took private clarinet lessons for five years in which I developed sight reading and improvisational skills.  Attended after school track practices and trained with a private coach for two years during my freshman and sophomore years of high school.

What level of achievement did you reach?

Track and field - county champion, New Balance Nationals qualifier, captain for 2 years. Band - placement into top jazz band at Princeton High School (Studio Band), woodwind section leader.

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

I achieved track achievements by attending all practices and demonstrating leadership qualities in practice.  I was conscious of the ways in which behaviors outside of practice would impact my performance. In terms of band, I practiced individually and with my section on top of full ensemble practices, and demonstrated leadership qualities within my section.

What kind of support did you have?

My parents supported me emotionally, logistically and financially in terms of paying for private instruction.  My track coaches entered me in more competitive competitions outside of the regular high school schedule.

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

I  faced many challenges in terms of injuries for track.  Sophomore year, I had to stop long jumping and switch events to running due to back problems.  Further, I had chronic sesamoiditis throughout my junior and senior years which compromised my training volume and performance.  I constantly had to navigate scheduling conflicts between the two activities.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

Student liaison for Helene Cody Foundation. The Helene Cody foundation was named in honor of Helene Cody, a Cranbury resident and former member of the Princeton High School track and field team who passed away due to a brain aneurysm.  I was passionate about this cause due to its close proximity to my life and activities in which I was involved.

How much time did you spend?

2 hrs/week in the summer

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

In the summer after 9th grade, I stayed home and trained for track, traveled with family, and volunteered for the Helene Cody foundation.

In the summer after 10th grade, I stayed home, trained for track, studied for the SAT, and traveled with family.  My primary focus was improving in track for college recruitment. I worked at Jammin’ Crepes and at the local track camp to make money and was active within the Helene Cody Foundation.

In the summer after 11th grade, I studied for the SAT to improve my math score. I trained for track to improve my times for recruitment.  I worked at Jammin’ Crepes and at the local track camp to make money. Further, I managed the post-race raffle for the Helene Cody Foundation.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: NA, highest honors
GPA - Weighted: 4.3
GPA - Unweighted 3.8

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 2
How many times did you take the ACT? 0
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? 2190 (Writing 770, Reading 730, Math 690)
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? No
How many hours did you study in total? ~100
When did you start preparing for the test? Summer after sophomore year
When did you take the test? Fall of junior year (November), summer after junior year (June)

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? 

  • SAT2 Biology: 730
  • SAT2 Literature: 700
  • SAT2 US History: 720

Which AP/IBs did you take?

I took 6 AP tests:

  • AP US History: 5
  • AP World History: 4
  • AP English Language: 5
  • AP English Literature: 5
  • AP Biology: 4
  • AP Government & Politics: 3

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

I graduated with highest honors at graduation.  I won the award for superior student in life sciences at senior award night and was inducted into the National Honors Society.

What do you attribute your academic success to?

I attribute my academic achievement to organization and effective study habits.  I ensured understanding of concepts by meeting with teachers and collaborating with other students when appropriate.  

What kind of support did you have?

My parents supported me by helping with work at the beginning of high school.  As I got older, I worked more independently and relied more on the support of teachers when I struggled to understand concepts.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

No.

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

Due to band practice and track practice, I often did not get home from school until 10 pm to start my work.  Therefore I averaged about 5 hours of sleep in high school which caused me to fall sick/burn out on many occasions.

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

I found it helpful to study in groups with my friends.  On weekends, we would find classrooms in Princeton University libraries to ensure focused study and hold each other accountable.


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? 1
Were you a legacy applicant at any of these schools? No
Were you recruited for athletics, arts, music, etc...? Yes - Track
Did you declare a major? Did this end up being your actual major? No

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

I applied to only one school - Princeton University.

Which schools did you get into?

Princeton University

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

I asked my AP biology teacher and AP Literature teacher. 

Why did you ask these specific people?

I was actively engaged with their classes and often met with them on an individual basis to go over my work in depth.  I felt as though they knew and understood me as a student and person best.

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

I wrote about the ways in which Japanese culture influenced my upbringing.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

I chose Princeton because after spending so much time walking around campus with friends and training on campus for track as a result of going to high school in Princeton, I felt as though no school could compare to its atmosphere.  In terms of the track team, I had attended the track camp for two years and got along well with counselors, who were on the team, and coaches.

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 junior year of high school?

Catch the bus to school at 6:45 am, attend classes until 3:15 pm, attend track practice until 5:30 pm, eat dinner, attend band practice from 6:30pm-9:30 pm, arrive home at 10 pm, homework until 1 am.

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

3 to 4

What time did you usually go to sleep?

2 am.

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

Wake up 8:30 am, go to track meet, arrive home at 5 pm, attend band sectional until 8 pm, study until midnight.


SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU

Drive/Motivation

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

My desire to take advantage of all opportunities available drove me at first.  For example, as a part of band, I had the opportunity to travel internationally every other year.  As a part of track, I realized I had the opportunity to compete at the highest collegiate level. This realization motivated me to work as hard as I could to go to an ivy league school.

Pressure/Stress/Expectations

What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

My parents expected me to work hard.  For them, it was more about the process as opposed to the results.  But above academics and extracurriculars, they expected me to maintain good character and be an active and enthusiastic member of the family.

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

The only pressure on me was self-inflicted.  I put pressure on myself to reach my potential academically and athletically once I realized that my goals were very much in reach. 

The pressure came from myself primarily.  The culture of high achievement at Princeton High School normalized hard work as opposed to making me feel pressure.

How did you deal with this pressure?

I dealt with this pressure by surrounding myself by friends whenever possible.  I also constantly reminded myself to regain perspective (ie not beating myself up over one bad test score).

Balance

How did you balance everything going on in high school?

I balanced everything going on in high school by making a schedule and planning ahead.  Beyond planning commitments I planned time to be spent de-stressing and being in company of family and friends.

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

Work on forging friendships and maintaining relationships so you have people to support and people to support you when you are feeling stressed out or overwhelmed.

Significant Events

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

In middle school, I was hit by a car while crossing the street in a crosswalk.  I injured my shoulder and had to stop swimming competitively. As a result, track and field became my main focus in high school.

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 French
Do you identify with multiple cultures? No

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

No influence.

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

The values most important to me in high school included dependability, drive, support,  and hard work.

What was your #1 core value?

My #1 core value was drive because it encompasses all other core values that were important to me.  

How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

I demonstrated drive in high school by doing everything with purpose to avoid “going through the motions.”  Drive manifested itself in hard work academically and athletically. I was also driven to put effort into interpersonal relationship.

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

My most important personal qualities include decisiveness and open-mindedness.  I am decisive in that I focus on solving problems as opposed to ruminating on the problem.  I am also able to weigh pros and cons of situations with a level head. Open-mindedness is an important quality because I am always considering different ways I can be more accepting and inclusive.

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

Growing up, I was very introverted.  I followed all rules without question.  This personality persisted until my sophomore year of high school.  I lived a very regimented lifestyle. Junior year, I began “putting myself out there” more, making new friends, and taking more risks.  I began to question authority and things around me as opposed to accepting things at face-value.

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 was very supportive growing up.  Especially as I got older they gave me full autonomy regarding how I wanted to spend my time and supported me in whatever I desired.  Therefore, I was more likely to push myself in high school knowing that I had a support system.

What do you think makes you unique?

Throughout my life, I have made sure that my identity is balanced.  To avoid “putting my eggs in one basket,” I make sure I do not identify too strongly with a certain group, forge friendships in all different social circles, and constantly try to expand my horizons.

Influences/Mentors/Support

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

My influences growing up include my father, who inspired me by his dedication to his family and to his lab work, and my track coach, who opened my eyes to the ways in which grit gained through athletics is applicable to all areas of life.

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

If I had a question or needed some advice, I would go to my mom. 


SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Important Lessons

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

The most important lessons I learned while growing up include: hard work is more valuable than innate ability, you must put time and effort into maintaining relationships, and you must treat people the way you wish to be treated (cliché but important).

Advice

Any advice you would give to your high school self?

I would give advice to my freshman and sophomore year self to exert greater control of my life.  I barely remember specific events from those years because I was passive in my routine. It wasn’t until  junior and senior year when I started questioning things, reaching out to people, and making my own priorities.  This caused me to excel greater athletically, academically, and socially.

 


NEXT STEPS

Check out our next profile and read about Alonso's story. Haven't read our 1st profile yet? Check out Destiny's journey here. Alternatively, you can also view a summary of all our other stories here - How I Got Into Series.

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 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.


How I Got Into Princeton - Destiny (Story #1)

How I Got Into Princeton - Story #1

Destiny's Story

"People telling me that I was worthless only drove me to study more, to work harder, to prove them wrong."

In our inaugural piece, we share Destiny's story.

She is a member of Princeton University's Class of 2020 and is pursuing a degree in English.

On the surface, Destiny's profile is similar to that of many other successful college applicants. She went to a private high school. She had a stellar GPA and good test scores. She loves creative writing and received many accolades.

Dig deeper and the similarities fade. Destiny's parents "clawed tooth and nail" to escape the inner city projects of Newark, NJ and were able to achieve success. In addition to the pressure of constantly being reminded "we could not go backwards", Destiny also faced the challenges of moving often, constant bullying, microaggressions, and extreme shyness.

Please read below to learn more about Destiny 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.

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: Detroit, Michigan
Where did you grow up? Somerset, New Jersey

Siblings

# of older siblings:  1
# of younger siblings: 2
Sibling Education Levels: Currently in high school
Where did your siblings to go college?  My younger brother is going to Drexel

Parents

Parent's Marital Status: Married
With whom do you make your permanent home? Both Parents
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Business Owner
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: Master's Degree
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: Author
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: Bachelor's Degree

Parent Beliefs

How would you characterize your parent's parenting style?

Strict. Religious. High Expectations.

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

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

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

They always taught me “Family first”. They wanted us to be successful and continue their legacy, and figured the best way to do that was to push us. They didn’t think friends should be any sort of priority in our lives.


SECTION 2 - SCHOOLING

Middle School

Middle School: Oral Roberts E-Academy
Type of School: Private, online school

High School

High School: Gill St. Bernard's School
High School City, State: Gladstone, NJ
Type of School: Private
Class Size: ~100 per class

SECTION 3 - ACTIVITIES

Jobs

Did you work in high school? Yes, in the summers
What kind of job/s did you have? Worked for my dad’s insurance company
Avg # hrs/week worked: 25 hrs/week

Why did you work?

I wanted to make money, and my dad would only let me work if I did it for his company.

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

Writing, Advocating for minority issues.

How much time did you spend on these things?

4 hrs/week

When did these passions/interests first come about?

At a very young age; I’ve been into creative writing since I was 6 years old, inspired by reading C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In elementary and middle school, I would usually finish tests and assignments early; when I did, my teachers would tell me to read a book. This turned me into a ravenous reader as well.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

My mother is an author so she definitely encouraged me in my literary pursuits throughout my childhood. I wrote a lot of short stories in my free time. When I was in high school I got into poetry by taking creative writing classes. It’s something I’m still pursuing today at Princeton.

What level of achievement did you reach?

I got some awards.

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

While I wrote a lot in my free time—whether it was poetry, or short stories, or working on my manuscript—I also read a lot of books about the craft of writing. When I re-read the books of my favorite authors, I mentally dissected what they did well, and what they didn’t, what makes their writing great. These things definitely helped push my writing to a greater level

What kind of support did you have?

My English teacher and my parents.

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

I struggled with not being the best writer in my creative writing class. I had to accept that some people are better than me and that I had lots of room for improvement.

Service

What were your major service-related activities?

I volunteered at my church as a Sunday School teacher; I was also involved in a number of community outreach activities through my church; I led a Relay for Life team for 3 years.

How much time did you spend?

3 hrs/week

Summers

What did you do in the summers during high school?

In the summer after 9th grade, I just hung out with my friend and chilled around the house. I was also working on revising one of the early drafts of a manuscript for a fantasy novel I was working on. I didn’t feel the need to have a job yet and even if I got one I had no means of getting there, so I didn’t see the point.

The summers after 10th, 11th, and 12th grade I worked at my father’s insurance company. My father wasn’t the type to give us an allowance or lots of spending money. He was very much the “if-you-want-it-you-buy-it” type. Yet when I said that I wanted to get a job, he told me that if I was going to work, I was going to work for him. I was mostly doing whatever anyone else around the office didn’t want to do: filling out reports, filing duty, contacting different clients, updating contracts and licenses, etc.


SECTION 4 - ACADEMICS

Grades/GPA/Awards

Class Ranking: NA
GPA - Weighted: NA
GPA - Unweighted 3.99

SAT/ACT

How many times did you take the SAT? 3
How many times did you take the ACT? 1
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? 2160 (Writing 780, Reading 750, Math 630)
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? I took an SAT prep class at my high school
How many hours did you study in total? 30
When did you start preparing for the test? 11th grade
When did you take the test? 11th and 12th 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? 

  • SAT2 Biology: 660
  • SAT2 Literature: 740

Which AP/IBs did you take?

I took 6 AP tests:

  • AP US History: 4
  • AP European History: 5
  • AP Psychology: 4
  • AP English Literature: 4
  • AP Environmental Science: 4
  • AP Microeconomics: 3

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

  • National Student Leadership Conference (Summer 2014)
  • Academic Excellence Award for Creative Writing (11th)
  • Academic Excellence Award for British Literature (11th)
  • Member of Quill and Scroll Honor Society (11th)
  • C. Elliot Knoke Prize for Citizenship and Academic Achievement (11th)
  • Patricia Lee Gauch Award for Creative Writing (12th)
  • Top Ten Winner in Creative Communications Poetry Contest
  • Topical Winner of The Live Poet’s Society of NJ American High School Poets Category
  • Semi-finalist in National Amateur Poetry Competition

What do you attribute your academic success to?

Hard work, discipline, and being very intentional with my time. I wasn’t the type not to do something because I was “too lazy” or “didn’t feel like it”. However, I also made sure to follow and develop my passions. If I postponed doing work because an idea for a story popped into my head, I’d write the story, and I didn’t consider it to be a waste of time. I treated my passions with almost the same respect I did my schoolwork, which allowed me to go far.

What kind of support did you have?

My parents and friends were very supportive. Some teachers, as well. I had one English teacher, Mr. Lutz, for all 4 years of high school. He ran the school literary magazine and taught creative writing classes, all of which I was involved in. His mentorship made me a dramatically better writer.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

Once, in Algebra II. I had an abysmal teacher and wasn’t able to learn the material on my own.

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

I worked very hard. I have never been the type of person who doesn't study and still do well on a test. Everything I do, including things I consider myself somewhat naturally talented at (such as writing), I’ve studied, and worked hard at improving. I sacrificed a lot of leisure time to pursue my studies. In addition, in the latter half of my high school career, there were some health issues in my family which led to hospitalizations, which added to the stress I was already under. However, I’m proud of myself for persevering.

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

For me, what helped was keeping a schedule. Like: “I’m going to spend 7-8 doing Spanish hw, then 8-11 writing this paper, then 11-1 doing my lab report”. Even if you don’t write it down and just keep it in your head, it’s very useful. Also, try to enjoy or be interested in what you’re learning, just doing mental tricks like that can help a lot. If you’re getting bogged down with work, give yourself incentives. Watch an episode of your favorite tv show after X hours of work, tell yourself that you can get ice cream only after you finish your essay, etc.


SECTION 5 - THE COLLEGE APPLICATION

Applications & Acceptances

Did you apply as an international or domestic student? Domestic
Did you apply regular or early? 2 early, 8 regular
How many schools did you apply to? 10
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 and yes.

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

Princeton, Harvard, Williams College, Duke, College of William & Mary, Davidson, Boston College,  Johns Hopkins, Texas Christian University

Which schools did you get into?

All except for Davidson, where I was waitlisted.

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

An English teacher that I had had for all 4 years, and my advisor (everyone in my school was put into an “advisory group” led by a teacher).

Why did you ask these specific people?

I had great relationships with both of them, and asked them both for advice all throughout high school, so they were natural choices. Plus, my advisor had graduated from Princeton.

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

I wrote about my process of beginning the manuscript for my fantasy novel at age 11.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

I chose Princeton because they have one of the best creative writing programs in the country, with amazing professors who are well-known in the literary world. I also liked the size and beauty of the campus, and the fact that professors supposedly took an interest in their students.

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 junior year of high school?

I had 5-6 classes every day. Class ranged from 45 min to 70 min. Every day we had a 45 minute period called “meeting period”; various clubs would meet at this time and if I didn’t have a meeting, I would hang out with my friends around the locker area, go to the campus store to get a snack. Lunch was at 12:15. I had a pretty tight friend group. We would claim one of the round tables in the cafeteria for our own. We were always the weirdos laughing loudly in the corner. After that, more classes. After school ended at 3 I got picked up and headed home. I spent about an hour or two lounging around the house and relaxing, and then the rest of the night was usually taken up with homework (minus dinner and showering). My school assigned a ridiculous amount, and I’d regularly be up until 2-3am working.

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

Easily 6 hours a night.

What time did you usually go to sleep?

Somewhere between 1 and 3 am.

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

I would go to the movies or the mall with my friends on Saturdays. Sundays I woke up at 6 to go to church in South Plainfield, where my father was the senior pastor. We had 2 services, and I was usually teaching children’s Sunday school for at least one of them. Afterward I’d socialize while waiting for my dad to get out of meetings. Then we’d get home, eat dinner as a family and watch the football game. I usually didn’t start my homework for Monday until Sunday night.


SECTION 7 - WHAT MAKES YOU YOU

Drive/Motivation

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

My parents raised me to have a strong work ethic. I was told from the time I was little that I had to be successful. My family was well-off and I grew up in the suburbs, but my parents, aunts, uncles, older cousins, were all from the projects of Newark, NJ. They clawed their way tooth and nail to get out of the inner city. So I was always told that we could not go backward. That whatever success my parents had, I had to take it to the next level.

I was also bullied severely growing up, from preschool until 8th grade. People telling me that I was worthless only drove me to study more, to work harder, to prove them wrong. It turned me into a pretty disciplined and competitive person.

Pressure/Stress/Expectations

What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

Going to college wasn’t an option. I would go to college, and though it was never explicitly stated, I was expected to go to an elite one. I had always had a dream of going to the Ivy League, and my parents definitely wanted me to apply. I’ve also been told I need to eventually get a Ph.D in something.

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

A lot of pressure. Half of it self-imposed, half of it put on by my family. I was a good kid, and had been making straight A's since I was 4 years old, at a certain point everyone expects you to be super successful. I felt like if I failed I would not only let myself down, but my family and my church as well. 

In addition to pressure from my parents, my high school was very competitive, which fed into this mentality. My grade especially was a bit cut-throat. Also, due to my race, people often had low expectations concerning my intellect. So of course, I had to prove otherwise.

How did you deal with this pressure?

Honestly for the vast majority of my high school career, I drove myself harder than I should have, which led to me being extremely stressed. I tried to be intentional about making time for myself on the weekends, prioritizing leisure over school work.

Balance

How did you balance everything going on in high school?

What helped me was staying focused. I liked to make schedules and to-do lists, to keep my life organized.

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

My friends, both inside and outside of school, were a huge help. They were constantly encouraging me, had an unshakeable faith in my abilities, and were hilarious. To this day, I have never laughed more than when I was with my high school friends.

Significant Events

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

I moved a lot growing up. I lived in 3 states, moved 7 times, and went to 7 different schools. I didn’t have a lot of friends due to constant bullying, and when I did make them, I moved and we lost contact. This pattern caused me to be extremely shy until the summer after 10th grade. I attended this summer leadership program that was all about making people get out of their comfort zone. It really helped me get over my fears and resulted in me becoming more outgoing in general.

Other Challenges/Struggles

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

In my school I felt like I had to constantly prove how smart I was. My senior year, during college application season, whenever two or more people were applying to the same school, most other people would take bets on which one would get in. Several other people besides me were applying to places like Harvard and Princeton. No one (except my friends) betted on me.

Culture/Identity

How do you identify yourself? African American
Which languages does your family speak at home? English
How many languages are you proficient in? 1. English.
Do you identify with multiple cultures? No

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

I was one of the few black people at a high school consisting mostly of wealthy, white people. I experienced a lot of microaggressions and a lack of empathy from the administration on minority issues. I was very proud of my culture, and made that apparent, which often made my peers uncomfortable.

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

Achievement, Boldness, Creativity, Decisiveness, Drive, Empathy, Excellence, Justice

What was your #1 core value?

Achievement.

How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

Through my passions and my school work.

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

I am empathetic, a visionary, I’m a natural-born leader, motivated, driven.

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

I was painfully shy up until around 11th grade. I didn’t make eye contact, rarely introduced myself to people, didn’t talk much outside the house. I was quiet, studious and a tad bit mischievous.

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 very religious; my father is a pastor, and comes from a long line pastors. That type of upbringing definitely contributed to me staying focused. I wasn’t distracted by things like parties because I wasn’t allowed to go to them lol.

What do you think makes you unique?

I am a very practical person, and am almost utilitarian with my time. I like to be busy, and I like my time to be spent with a purpose, even if that purpose is relaxing/hanging with friends. I’m a deep thinker, and spend a lot of time pondering philosophical questions and being an amateur social psychologist. I have a seemingly infinite imagination and am constantly being inspired by the most mundane things about me. I am also a very direct and blunt person, which doesn’t appear to be all that common.

Influences/Mentors/Support

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

The fantasy genre as a whole, especially work by authors C.S Lewis and Tolkien. ~90% of the books I read in my free time were fantasy, and I hope to one day become a fantasy author. Gospel music and what I would call “black church culture” was a huge influence as well. Having a pretty tight-knit family meant my parents had the biggest impact on my life.

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

My mom, usually. Sometimes my dad, or my English teacher.


SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION

Important Lessons

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

  1. Never let anyone tear you down or tell you what you aren’t. Having healthy self-esteem and self-worth is one the most valuable things you can possess. You are absolutely incredible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  2. Always aim for excellence, no matter what you do. My mom used to say even if I became a garbage man, I should be the best darn garbage man in the history of sanitation.
  3. No one is perfect. Especially not you. You’re going to make mistakes. Admit your faults and failures, but don’t wallow in them, or let them hold you back. You can only learn what not to do by failing.

Advice

Any advice you would give to your high school self?

Calm down and don’t stress out so much. Also, focus your extracurriculars on the things you want to do, not the things you feel like you have to do. Pick one or two things you want to pursue, and pursue them to the highest level possible.

 


NEXT STEPS

Check out our next profile and read about Maia's story. You can also check out a summary of all our other stories here - How I Got Into Series.

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 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.


How to Proctor Your Own ACT Practice Test

Practice ACT Proctoring Instructions

Official ACT Practice Tests are like gold.

When using an official test as a diagnostic or practice test, mimic official test conditions as closely as possible. This means timing the test and taking it in one sitting. This will ensure you’ll get the most value out of these tests.

Not sure how to take the test? Follow the simple instructions below:

Who Should Proctor?

Ideally, a parent or friend  should proctor the test.  Otherwise, the student can self-proctor.

Before The Test:

Testing Instructions:

  • Proctor will provide student with test and answer sheets.
    • The student may not start until you tell them to start

Section 1 - English

  • Set timer for 45 minutes
  • Tell student to start on Section 1

Section 2 - Math

  • Set timer for 60 minutes
  • Tell student to start on Section 2

Break - 10 minutes

Section 3 - Reading

  • Set timer for 35 minutes
  • Tell student to start on Section 3

Section 4 - Science

  • Set timer for 35 minutes
  • Tell student to start on Section 4

Break - 5 minutes

Section 5 - Essay

  • Set timer for 40 minutes
  • Tell student to start on the essay

Additional Notes

  • The student must work within each section of the test only for the time allotted
  • The student may not go back to a section once that section has ended
  • The student may not go ahead to a new section if the student finishes a section early

 

Considering the SAT as well? Check out SAT proctoring instructions here.

Not sure which test to take (SAT vs ACT)? Ask yourself these 5 questions to find out.

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

 


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 college preparation and test prep process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.


How to Proctor Your Own SAT Practice Test

Practice SAT Proctoring Instructions

Official SAT Practice Tests released by the College Board are like gold.

When using an official test as a diagnostic or practice test, mimic official test conditions as closely as possible. This means timing the test and taking it in one sitting. This will ensure you’ll get the most value out of these tests.

Not sure how to take the test? Follow the simple instructions below:

Who Should Proctor?

Ideally, a parent or friend should proctor the test.  Otherwise, the student can self-proctor.

Before The Test:

Testing Instructions:

  • Proctor will provide student with test and answer sheets.
    • The student may not start until you tell them to start

Section 1 - Reading

  • Set timer for 65 minutes
  • Tell student to start on Section 1

Break - 10 minutes

Section 2 - Writing

  • Set timer for 35 minutes
  • Tell student to start on Section 2

Section 3 - Math (No Calculator)

  • Set timer for 25 minutes
  • Tell student to start on Section 3

Break - 5 minutes

Section 4 - Math (Calculator allowed)

  • Set timer for 55 minutes
  • Tell student to start on Section 4

Break - 2 minutes

Section 5 - Essay

  • Set timer for 50 minutes
  • Tell student to start on Section 5

Additional Notes

  • The student must work within each section of the test only for the time allotted
  • The student may not go back to a section once that section has ended
  • The student may not go ahead to a new section if the student finishes a section early

 

Considering the ACT? Check out ACT proctoring instructions here.

Not sure which test to take (SAT vs ACT)? Ask yourself these 5 questions to find out.

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

 


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 college preparation and test prep process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.