How I Got Into Princeton – Story #12

Jasmine’s Story

“I think my interests were inherently balanced – I used different parts of my brain for everything and that really helped.”

Meet Jasmine, a member of Princeton’s class of 2020.

In high school, Jasmine advanced through her mathematics courses to take college-level multivariable calculus, served as President of the Young Democrats Club, competed in varsity track, and gave back to her community through the non-profit United Way.

A lot of these achievements came from persistence and intention,” says Jasmine.

However, her achievements were not without sacrifice or challenge, as she describes in this post. She attributes her success to her persistence, planning, and thoughtful intention.

Please read below to learn more about Jasmine 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 “Academics” section, where Jasmine describes her impressive array of activities and how she accomplished them.

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.




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.



Birthplace: Wilmington, NC
Where did you grow up? Wilmington, NC


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


Parent’s Marital Status: Married
With whom do you make your permanent home? Both
Parent 1 Current/Former Occupation: Engineering Manager
Parent 1 Highest Level of Education: Masters in Electrical Engineering
Parent 2 Current/Former Occupation: IT Manager
Parent 2 Highest Level of Education: Masters in Computer Science

Parent Beliefs

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

Firm but fair, and very understanding.

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

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

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

My parents mandated that we give our best effort in school, keep physically active via an organized sport, and serve regularly.


Middle School

Middle School: M.C.S. Noble Middle School
Type of School: Public

High School

High School: New Hanover High School
High School City, State: Wilmington, NC
Type of School: Public
Class Size: 354



Did you work in high school?  Yes
What kind of job/s did you have? Book teller at a college bookstore
Average hours/week worked? 10-12
Why did you work? Responsibility; new expenses associated with a car

Extracurriculars/Passions & Interests

What were your major passions/ interests in high school?

Math, tutoring, and politics

How much time did you spend on these things?

Math – 5 hours

Tutoring – 3 hours

Politics – 2 hours

When did these passions/interests first come about?

I’ve been interested in math since I was in early elementary school.  I became interested in tutoring also in elementary school, but didn’t really get the chance to do so formally until 9th grade.  My interest in politics began in middle school and stemmed mostly from my father.

How were these passions/interests developed over time?

My interest in math was definitely acknowledged and pushed from the beginning.  My parents enrolled me in engineering/STEM summer programs and school clubs like Science Olympiad from an early age.

My passion for tutoring was mostly self-developed.  I signed up to mentor/tutor students at school when at all possible.  I also reached out to my elementary school and developed relationships with my old teachers to volunteer steadily in their classrooms.

My interest in politics was mostly developed and nurtured by my parents and their political involvement.  It was an important part of my life at home. In high school, I became involved with the Young Democrats club, took a leadership position, and went on to work on a campaign.

What level of achievement did you reach?

I eventually completed all of the math courses in my high school and dual-enrolled in the university in my town to take Multivariable Calculus my senior year.  I also received a perfect 800 on the math section of the SAT.

I became the president of my school’s Young Democrats club and a fellow on a campaign.

Other achievements included a section leader in my school’s band and a varsity track athlete.

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

A lot of these achievements came from persistence and intention.  I was very persistent and often pushed my school to allow me to do certain things (like dual enroll at the university in town, and tutor at my old elementary school following AP exams).  But I was also very intentional – if I wanted to do something, I wanted to do it well, and often saw myself leading in that area.

What kind of support did you have?

My parents were an incredible support system throughout high school.  They encouraged me to try new things, and become more involved when I did.  They also backed me up when I wanted to push my school or my counselor for an opportunity.

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

I faced quite a few challenges.  Because of the nature of “pushing” my school, I often ended up in less than ideal situations.  For example, I took Calculus AB/BC my junior year, but because they were offered at the same time as AP Chemistry, I was only able to take calculus online.  I felt overwhelmed and received the lowest grades of my high school career (even though math was my best subject).

I also had a hard time saying no to things.  I ran cross country for a couple of years in addition to being in the marching band.  But because both were fall commitments that practiced after school, and the coaches of both were pressuring me, I ended up having to choose marching band and quit cross country.  This was a very difficult and stressful decision for me at the time.

I also often felt misunderstood by other students at my school.  They didn’t understand why I would take harder classes than I had to, or not optimize for a Valedictorian GPA.  Things like band class and the dual-enrollment class offered fewer GPA points than some “easier” AP classes – and I had to intentionally choose to follow my passions.  I thought it was better to stay true to my interests and tell a story with my involvement, and it ended up serving me well in the college application process.


What were your major service-related activities?

I was involved with Jack & Jill of America, Inc.  Jack & Jill is an African-American organization that promotes community, service, and civic responsibility for families.  I grew up in the organization and was the President of our teen group my last two years of high school. We planned and executed service activities and workshops multiple times per month.

I also did a lot of service through my church.

Lastly, I spent one summer volunteering consistently (20-30 hours/week) at the United Way.

How much time did you spend?

I probably spent 4-6 hours every other week on service projects – more over the summer.

Why did you choose this activity?

I grew up in both of these organizations, so technically I did not choose them – but I enjoyed them immensely because they were culturally comforting.  Many of my positive role models came from these larger supportive networks, and they acted almost as an extended family. Service was an important value to most of the people I grew up around – and my parents were intentional about putting us in those environments.

With the United Way, my mother served on the board for the chapter in our town, so that’s why I became involved with that.


What did you do in the summers during high school?

In the summer after 9th grade, I volunteered consistently at The United Way (20-30 hours/week) and attended Cross Country practice 5-6 times per week.  Towards the end of the summer, I also had marching band camp as we prepared for the fall football season. I also read a lot and completed other workbooks for the upcoming year.  My parents were big on keeping busy – sitting at home wasn’t really an option! They pushed me (though I wasn’t really against them) to volunteer during my days, maintain reading goals, and complete academic refreshers.  The band and cross country practices were mandatory for events I knew I wanted to participate in come fall semester.

I also did a week-long summer program at Virginia Tech focusing on architecture.  At the time, I thought I wanted to be an architect, and my parents wanted me to get some experience.  I learned a lot during the week about architecture and college life, and even though I enjoyed myself I realized that I probably wanted to do something closer to engineering.

In the summer after 10th grade, I went to a slightly longer summer program at NC State for Chemical Engineering.  Again, my parents encouraged us to apply for summer programs to get ideas of what we wanted to study in college – and at the time Chemical Engineering seemed to be of interest.  I took Chemistry in 10th grade and really loved it!

I also went to a two-week summer program at Duke through Duke TIP.  (This was not my first Duke TIP program. I took the SAT in 7th Grade to gain admission and had been a Duke TIP participant since then.)  The program was called “Leading in the 21st Century” and offered condensed MBA coursework and leadership training.  My parents encouraged me to apply again to keep me busy during the summer, help me learn more about college, meet like-minded students, and build my confidence as a leader.

In the summer after 11th grade, I participated in a 6-week program at Carnegie Mellon University called SAMS (Summer Academy for Math and Science) on a Chemical Engineering track.  The program gave us the opportunity to take calculus, physics, computer programming, and SAT classes at Carnegie Mellon, and participate in a research project with a professor.  It was highly competitive, but free of charge if you got in! I attended the program for several reasons – to experience an extended stay away from home before college, to get a better idea of chemical engineering at a top engineering school, to meet like-minded students, and to gain academic exposure I could not at my public high school (like computer programming).



Class Ranking: 18/354
GPA – Weighted: 5.15
GPA – Unweighted 3.97


How many times did you take the SAT? 3
How many times did you take the ACT? 3
What were your SAT and/or ACT scores? SAT 2080; ACT 34
Did you take a class or receive private tutoring? Part of my summer program at Carnegie Mellon included an SAT class, but only before my last SAT.
How many hours did you study in total? About 40 hours
When did you start preparing for the test? I took my first test sophomore year, so probably a couple of weeks before that.
When did you take the test? 10th, 11th, and 12th grades

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 (730), Math (780)

Which AP/IBs did you take?

Government & Politics (5), Statistics (4), Chemistry (4), Physics (4), Calculus AB (4), Calculus BC (4), World History (4), Human Geography (4), English Language & Composition (4), English Literature & Composition (4), Psychology (4), United States History (4)

What were your major academic achievements in high school?

I was MVP of our math team.  I received a high A in multivariable calculus at the university in my town.  I scored a perfect 800 on SAT math and a perfect 36 on ACT science.

What do you attribute your academic success to?

I attribute them to consistent studying and a humble attitude.  My parents encouraged us to work hard, but also kept us humble amidst our achievements.

What kind of support did you have?

I received a lot of support from my parents in the form of encouragement, and often my teachers were very helpful.

Did you ever receive private tutoring?

Briefly for a couple of weeks.

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

I struggled with headaches and migraines in high school (and still do).  They’re often difficult to manage and difficult to work through, so I often felt limited by them. 

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

I lived and breathed flashcards! I also took advantage of as much of my time as possible.  Often our track meets or football games were long events, and I would use the time I was not competing or performing to study during the week.


Applications & Acceptances

Did you apply as an international or domestic student? Domestic
Did you apply regular or early? Both
How many schools did you apply to? 8
Were you a legacy applicant at any of these schools? Yes, to MIT and UVA
Were you recruited for athletics, arts, music, etc…? No
Did you declare a major? Did this end up being your actual major? Yes, at Princeton I communicated Operations Research & Financial Engineering, which is still my major. At other schools, I communicated Chemical Engineering.

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

Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, North Carolina State University, Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

Which schools did you get into?

All of them.

Letters of Recommendations

Who did you ask for letters of recommendation?

My AP Science, Math, and English teachers.

Why did you ask these specific people?

My AP classes were often smaller and more intimate – I feel like they got to know me the best and saw my highest level of work.

Common App Essay

What did you write about in your common app essay?

I wrote about tolerance and open-mindedness through the lens of tutoring.

Why Princeton

Why did you choose Princeton?

I chose Princeton because my major was unique to the school – and I was obsessed with the balance of applied math in engineering.  I also liked that the school was smaller, everyone lived on campus, and that the engineering school was nearly 50% women. It was ranked #1 and when I visited it seemed like a great cultural fit.  I knew that I wanted to study in the Northeast, and no school of comparable name value had given me more money.

Gap Year

Did you take a gap year?


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


Typical Day

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

I would wake up around 7 AM and head to school around 7:45 – 8 AM.  School lasted from 8:30 – 3:30 PM. Sometimes, I had an extracurricular meeting from 3:30 – 4:00 or 4:30 PM.  After that, I would attend band or track practice (depending on the season) until 5:45 PM. I would then head home, shower, and start my homework.  I’d sometimes have an event for church; otherwise, I would do homework around my family until 11 and then go to sleep.

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

4-5 hours a night

What time did you usually go to sleep?

Between 11 PM and 12 AM

What was a typical weekend like in high school?

I would typically have a service or church event, track meet/band event/football game, and hopefully a lazy Saturday morning.



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

I’ve always been prone to think about the future a lot – and I realized that I needed to do my best to leave as many opportunities open as possible.  My parents also stressed the idea of potential. A lot of my drive came from knowing that I COULD do almost anything; if I wasn’t doing something, it wasn’t because I wasn’t capable. There weren’t many excuses.


What kind of expectations did your parents have for you?

They expected my sister and I to always do our best.  They didn’t focus on numbers as much as our best effort.  A 98 wasn’t good enough if we were slacking, but if we worked hard for a B they were never upset.  They expected us to do our best and to care about what we were doing – I always understood why my activities mattered, and that made the hard things worth it.

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

I felt pressure to succeed from my parents, teachers, and peers.  Society often pushed me in the opposite direction. I was often the only minority in my advanced classes and felt the need to prove myself to my teachers.

How did you deal with this pressure?

I received a lot of support from my parents – but I also had outlets.  Running helped me to maintain a really positive self-image and blow off some steam.  Things like track, band, and service constantly reminded me that I was more than my test scores – it was important for me to feel valued as a person regardless of my grades.


How did you balance everything going on in high school?

I think my interests were inherently balanced – I used different parts of my brain for everything and that really helped.  Music required a different type of thinking than my AP courses and classes required a different type of thinking than the sheer physical effort required by track.  I stayed in the moment with my different activities and tried not to let any single activity consume me entirely.

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

I started things early and did a lot of planning.  I knew about busy weekends, out of town track meets, and large events before they happened so that I could adequately prepare for them. 

Significant Events

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

I had a teacher in elementary school who always said, “talking about how easy it is for you never made it easier for anyone else.”  She really made me think about compassion differently, and to this day I attribute my passion for tutoring to her words.

Other Challenges/Struggles

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



How do you identify yourself? Black/African-American
Which languages does your family speak at home? English
How many languages are you proficient in? 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 very aware of my identity as a black woman and the lack of representation I’d see in STEM careers.  I think that my family and African-Americans as a whole have a culture of working harder to obtain success than the majority of the country.  I knew from an early age that I should be prepared to work hard, and not be afraid to work harder than the people around me. I think that helped me to stand on my own and push boundaries in high school.

Character/Personal Qualities

What values were most important to you in high school?

Family, Consistency, and Consideration.

What was your #1 core value?


How did you demonstrate those values in high school?

I was incredibly aware of how my actions would affect others throughout my time in high school.  I knew that earning consistently good grades would make me successful and cause my parents less worry.  I knew that my consistent performance at track meets would help my relay team do well. This often motivated me to do things for more than myself.

What do you consider your most important personal qualities?

I’m very considerate, resilient, and confident.

How would you characterize your personality growing up?

In middle school and high school, I was definitely softer spoken, but not afraid to speak my mind.  I held my own in my classes but spoke only when I felt it necessary. I had friends in lots of different clubs and enjoyed being able to move through different social circles.  I worked hard on my own and was fairly independent by the time I was in high school.


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 placed a focus on effort that has served me well.  I value others and myself for how hard I work – and that means my self-worth does not wither when things don’t go as planned.

What do you think makes you unique?

I think that I have a unique motivation to act out my compassion. I see value in my hard work and the betterment of the world – and that value alone motivates me to work hard.


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

My parents were my biggest role models.

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

My parents. 


Important Lessons

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

It matters more that you tried your best, and less that you were perfect.

Have a reason for why you do what you do.

Always value yourself.


Any advice you would give to your high school self?

I would tell my high school self to just keep doing what she’s doing – because she’s doing great.  You’ll end up where you’re supposed to be if you keep doing what you’re supposed to do. Learn as much as you can about yourself and what matters to you – it’ll give you a good base to build on in college. 


Check out our first profile and learn about Erica’s journey.

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

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg & Kevin

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