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.




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


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


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. 


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



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.


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


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.



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


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?


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.


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?


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 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.



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.


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).


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?



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.


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.


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. 


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).


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.


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

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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 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.