Here's a morale booster for all you worried CCers

<p>I originally wrote this during spring break for myself so I could maybe one day remember what I went through during HS, but I've decided to share this story. I totally understand the stress many of you are going through right now, worrying about how your stats and ECs are no match for some of the crazy good applicants on this site. Hopefully my story will help you feel a little better about your chances. Warning: It's pretty long. </p>

<p>Before I start, here's some background info on me: I'm an Asian male who goes to a school district where the average income is probably above 200k. I can't play a sport to save my life. I suck at math and science. So basically, I have no hooks. </p>

<p>Back when I was a kid, I'd say I did pretty well in school. I got by middle school with straight As without much studying, and I was on par with all of my high achieving friends (who are going to top universities next year). However, once high school started, everything started to go downhill. I go to one of the top public schools in the state, and it is very well respected by universities for its rigorous and strong academics. Of course, I didn't know this when I started high school, and I thought I could get straight As and not study -- just like I did in middle school. Big mistake.</p>

<p>I ended my first semester of freshman year with across-the-board Bs and B-s. I thought to myself, once I get used to this environment, I'll be able to pull off straight As like before, no problem. But it didn't get better. By the end of my freshman year, I had straight Bs while all of my smart friends got mostly As. </p>

<p>Sophomore year was even worse. I struggled through my first AP class (chem, which was the hardest AP in the school), and consistently got Ds and Cs on tests. I was also too lazy to do my homework or study for my other classes. Usually, I'd just go home from school every day and watch Youtube videos/play video games instead of focusing on schoolwork. My filthy work habits resulted in even worse grades than last year's -- my sophomore GPA was below 3.0. </p>

<p>Now by then, I knew that junior year was the most important year of high school and that I couldn't screw up. I went into junior year determined to turn myself around. Still, the allure of Facebook, Youtube, and Warcraft III was still too strong, and destroyed my attempts to get a better academic record. As a result, I ended my first marking period of junior year with 3 Cs. I was angry at myself for screwing up -- for handicapping myself so early in the year. </p>

<p>During my second marking period, I did a little better and got all B+s. However, my slacker attitude had not prepared me well for midterms, and I was completely destroyed by them. I got a D- on my AP calc AB midterm and got low Bs in the rest of them. This was when everything began to change. </p>

<p>Right after midterms were finished, a lot of my high-achieving friends began to talk about colleges and their plans after high school. I consistently heard about their dream schools -- Penn, Cornell, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, UNC, UVA... While my friends were already looking into their dream schools, I didn't even KNOW what school I wanted to go to yet. Worse yet, I didn't have the stats to make it into any school beyond my flagship state school, Rutgers. </p>

<p>That was when I really decided to turn my life around and stop being such a slacker. SATs were coming up, and I knew that they would be my best chance to improve my academics for college. I got a 2150, a respectable score, on my first try, but I wanted more. I went to Barnes and Noble every weekend to study for the SATs. I borrowed various prep books from the shelves to do problems in my notebook for hours on end. </p>

<p>At the same time, I worked harder in school, and actually managed to get some As for my third marking period. Fourth marking period was even better, and I got straight As for the first time in my high school career. My final year report was -- 2 As and 3 Bs in my core classes. I talked with my GC about my college prospects next year, and he gave me some advice that I don't really remember. The only thing I remember from that conversation was that he gave me my class rank. I was in the top 40% of my class.</p>

<p>Over the summer before senior year, I really started to freak out about colleges. I finally knew that GPA was the most important factor, and that my horrid transcript would probably disqualify me from all of my college choices. Still, regardless of my 3.15 UW GPA, I found a "dream school" (UCLA) that I could work towards. </p>

<p>Once senior year started, I wasted no time with my essays. The college essays were my chance to stand out and show that I'm not the typical 4.0/2200/president of 130101359710 clubs applicant, and I decided to take full advantage of that. Instead of taking the traditional route of writing a generic essay about generic topics, I tried to make my essay unique by imbuing them with my own style and creativity. I read books like "X College Essays that Succeeded" and tried my best to make my essays look nothing like the essays in the book. Meanwhile, I took the October SAT and scored a 2290/1540. </p>

<p>By November, my essays were pretty much all finished, and frankly, I was very proud of them. They were all unique and I had a feeling they would do me well by setting me apart from the rest of the crowd. </p>

<p>I applied to a ton of schools: Rutgers, NYU Stern, Carnegie Mellon, Michigan, UNC Chapel Hill, UVA, UCLA, Berkeley, Georgetown, Wake Forest, Boston College, Duke, Cornell, Vanderbilt, and WashU. This list was laughable for someone with a GPA like mine. </p>

<p>Then came the agonizing wait. Although everyone was nervous about colleges, I was particularly anxious because there was a very real possibility that I would end up at my safety, Rutgers. My parents' attitude didn't help -- they had no hope in me and constantly told me that they were disappointed in me and that I would end up at Rutgers. </p>

<p>I checked College Confidential EVERY DAY, looking up decisions threads from previous years, seeing if there were any applicants in the past like me who got in.</p>

<p>Over three months after I submitted my applications, my first decisions came back on March 23rd. I was hit with a total of FIVE rejections that day, including my dream school, UCLA. Receiving all those rejection letters from WashU, UCLA, UNC (waitlist), Boston College, and UVA left me devastated. I became depressed, knowing that I was screwed. </p>

<p>However, Monday, the 25th, had much better news. I received acceptances from Carnegie Mellon and Wake Forest and a waitlist at Vanderbilt. </p>

<p>Yesterday, on May 3rd, I was accepted off the Vanderbilt waitlist. Today, May 4th, I was accepted off the UNC waitlist. Here's a list of my final college results and a recap of my stats. </p>

<p>3.15 UW GPA (3.2 if you count fluff classes like gym and orchestra)
5 Bs in core classes freshman year, 5 Bs/B-s in core classes sophomore year, 2 A-s 3 Bs in core classes junior year
Top 40% class rank
2290/1540 SAT
800 SAT II math, 790 SAT II chem
5s on AP chem, bio, calc ab, english language, 4 on music theory</p>

<p>Acceptance: Vanderbilt, UNC, Wake Forest, Carnegie Mellon, Rutgers pharmacy
Waitlist: NYU Stern, Michigan
Rejection: Duke, Cornell, Georgetown, UVA, UCLA, UC Berkeley, WashU, Boston College</p>

<p>In the end, I feel really fortunate that I got into several very strong schools with my GPA and class rank (which was way below the average accepted GPAs for my HS). I think my story really shows how important the intangible factors like essays and recs are. I'm pretty sure that if I had written generic essays, I wouldn't have gotten into any of those schools. </p>

<p>One more thing I would like to add is that there's absolutely no harm in aiming high. When I was applying for colleges, people on CC laughed at my list and said that I had no chance at most if not all of my choices. Of course you need to be realistic, but you should definitely apply to some reaches. You never know, you could very well get accepted to them. </p>

<p>Anyway, thanks for taking your time to read my story. And don't worry, I won't make the same mistake twice in college =D</p>

<p>I’m REALLY proud of you. Your SAT, SAT II and your AP scores are really good. That probably why those colleges choose you lol. I think that this was a learning experience for you, and if you work hard you’ll go far. I’m only a Sophomore right now, struggling with my classes, and by reading your story, I makes me want to try even harder. Thanks so much and good luck :)</p>

<p>Wow, that was a great story!. Really inspiring. Somehow your parents’ attitude doesn’t surprise me (I’m also Asian). This really shows that stats aren’t everything.</p>

<p>Here’s my story, it’s a little more depressing than yours…but I think it is all okay in the end.</p>

<p>Ok, I am an Asian male, senior in high school just like you. I, like you, went through middle school with all A’s, honors/awards, and awards in Mathcount competitions and such that put me at the top of my school. I obviously thought I was very well prepared for high school, and my mom even remarked that berkeley would become my safety school and I would go to Stanford/MIT (■■■■■ mom, I didn’t really believe her). Although my grades did not dip as much as yours, I still ended up getting a few B’s in my freshman year. At the time, I did not know how important those grades would end up being, along with a bunch of other factors. My AMC/AIME grades dropped every year, even though I qualified for AIME in freshman year, and my expectations for qualifying for USAMO ended up becoming expectations to just get to AIME (which I managed to do for all four years, I guess my brain didn’t degrade that rapidly) I managed to get good grades after freshman year, with my B’s in Spanish turning to A’s in sophomore/junior year and A’s in pretty much everything else. However, in a physics class I took, during first semester I screwed up a lot of the physics tests and by the halfway point had a flat 80% in the class. As a future engineering major, I knew that a B in physics, of all classes, would make me destroyed for top colleges, so I worked super hard and managed to get 98%/100%s on every single test, as well as the first semester final, to end up with a barely 90% in the class for an A. But sadly, after that optimism, everything kinda went downhill. In second semester physics, I got a B in that class, and the worst thing is that I thought I would have an A, unlike how I had felt like in first semester (resigning myself to a B). Somehow the 98%/100%s I got in first semester did not come back to me second semester, and even though I did not change any habits/etc, my test scores dived back down. The most cruelest thing is that on the second semester physics final, if I had gotten maybe 4 more questions right out of 50, I would have ended up with an A, but my physics teacher refused my plee for a round (I ended up with a high 88). After that, my mom persuaded me to take some classes that I didn’t really know about, and it ended up that I, a person who had always been most often the youngest in a class (year-wise), went to a class full of freshmen, who I obviously did not fit with, and a science class for which I had already taken the AP test, because there really were no other science classes I hadn’t taken an AP class for, and obviously, I ended up wasting all my time and potential in the class. To make things worse, the freshman class I was in required lots of group projects, in which the freshmen were very lazy and did not do anything, and the chem class made me do a lot of homework, which would have been fine if I was learning the info but which turned out to be just a huge waste of time of me doing stuff I already knew very well. One good thing I guess was that I managed to win siemens semifinalist with a friend in my senior year 1st semester, and also managed to get an all A streak 1st semester senior year after that depressing junior year 2nd semester with one B in physics, out of all the classes I could have gotten a B in. </p>

<p>Now here’s the depressing part: I was hoping to get into Stanford/MIT/Caltech/basically any school with a good name and top academics, and I applied to a few lower ranked privates (Rice, USC, CMU), but what ended up happening was I got basically rejected from all of them except CMU. I did have some luck with the UC’s, getting a Regent Scholarship at both UCB and UCLA, but after what I had learned about overloaded classes, cuts in public education funding, difficulty of classes, and swarming students, the UC’s weren’t really the schools I was really hoping to go to. Yet I really had no choice; what really surprised me is that out of all the privates I applied to, only one accepted me, and that one (CMU) was too expensive for my dad to pay, for the quality of education it offered me. To make things worse, I had taken AP Calc BC in soph year, and now TA’d for the class, and it ended up that a senior girl in Calc BC, who was taking it two years after me, got into Caltech, along with my research project partner, who did not do as many AP’s/take advanced classes/etc as me. I guess my research project partner was better than me in some ways, like getting an A in that class both semesters, but I felt like I had some extracurriculars (physics team semifinalist and bio olympiad semifinalist) that showed I was equally qualified. Most likely, the Caltech/MIT/ivy people saw my B in physics, ignored every other thing I had worked hard in life for, and just straight up rejected me, without even a waitlist. I probably sound snobby/ungrateful for the colleges I applied to/got in, but I feel as though all the work I did in high school, all the awards and nice SAT and A’s I got in classes, all went to waste because of 4 questions on a stupid, time-crunched physics final. Now I’m going to go to a school which people who just did normal regular classes, got A’s, did no special research project or anything outside of school or math/science competitions that took up their weekend time, are going to go to. It doesn’t even matter that I got Regent’s at UCB; once when I was with my research partner, some asian mom came to us, asked us what college we were going to, and I felt so much inferior when I had to say “Berkeley” and him “Caltech.” My friend did try to give me some credit, telling her about my Regent’s scholarship and stuff I did in high school, but that person was only interested in my partner, what he did, how he did it, and when my friend said “I did it with my partner”, responded “I know, I want to know about you not him”, and rudely ignored my existence. The truth is, its not accomplishments and work that matters, but luck that determines what college you go to. Yet people view the college you go to as an indicator of how hard you’ve worked; they see “Caltech” and they immediately know “Caltech” is better than Cal. Basically, the bottom 3% of Caltech is, in a way, above the top 3% of Cal students. I don’t blame the asian mom for being more interested in my partner than I; after all, maybe I am really inferior than the people who got into Caltech, as a person…my essays probably reflected that, getting me rejected everywhere…</p>

<p>On the bright side, UCB does offer a world class education, especially in EECS. And the pay difference isn’t that much for engineering majors either. And maybe, in the end, it won’t be what college you went to that defines how people view you, but instead your actual accomplishments as a person…except instead of siemens research papers and olympiad awards, it’ll be the startup one founds, inventions one makes, the idea one fosters…maybe in the future I will be able to define myself to others as more than just a college graduate, but instead be known for that awesome person who did something, made a difference…maybe someone like Steve Wozniak (Cal grad!)</p>

<p>Oh and if that doesn’t suffice, I still have another 4 years to make it to an awesome grad school.</p>


  1. You still got into Berkeley!?
  2. You basically are blaming you rejections on a single B in one semester!</p>

<p>That’s awesome. During sophomore year I had 2 major surgeries and my grades plummeted because of it (1st semester was 2 As, 2 Bs and 3 Cs; 2nd semester was 2 As, 3 Bs, and 2 Cs—I had 2 APs, 3 honors, and 2 regular classes.). I know that I have people who can vouch for my medical condition, and can explain how much effort I put in. But in the back of my mind I still doubt I’ll get in anywhere. This gave me hope. My junior year grades are better than last year’s but I still am a little worried. (I had straight Bs first semester, and this semester I’m trying to end with 3 As and 2 Bs. I have 3 AP classes, and 2 honors.) </p>

<p>It’s now the summer before senior year and I’m still worried I won’t get anywhere. Your story has truly helped ease some of my anxiety.</p>

<p>Thanks for the replies!</p>

<p>well, your EC’s must have been amazing in addition to unique essays.</p>

<p>Quite frankly, this bothers me. You slacked off for years and then took the place of someone who worked harder. </p>

<p>Oh well, enjoy college.</p>

<p>^^Why should the president of like 50 clubs be considered over a slacker?</p>

<p>Descuff, look at the GRADES. His GPA is a 3.15. These are academic institutions, so clearly they should evaluate applicants’ academics. If the academics are subpar, the applicant shouldn’t be accepted over someone with better academics, in my opinion. </p>

<p>ECs also play a part, and OP doesn’t seem to have many of those either.</p>

<p>It’s not like the OP had some super hook that let him get accepted over someone who was better qualified. He got in without any hooks. That’s the bottom line. Clearly, he must have demonstrated something special to get in. And from the sound of it, I really wouldn’t call this slacking.</p>

<p>^ My point is a person who have a low EC count and GPA shouldn’t be denied just because another guy appears to have more ECs and higher GPA. As the OP had said, he had gotten a high SAT scores, four 5 on AP test/ one 4 on Music Theory which is a pretty good improvement for someone who been slacking. </p>

<p>Improving (the slacker) vs hard-working (the hard-worker).</p>

<p>alwaysleah, y u hatin?</p>

<p>Juuust my opinion. Kinda sucks that kids who worked really hard and didn’t go home to watch YouTube and whatnot all day got rejected to places like Vandy, UNC, and CMU.</p>

<p>Well, in the end it really boils down to the kind of people the colleges are looking for, not just the people who worked the hardest. Of course, working hard is good and will improve one’s chances, but if a hard worker doesn’t have anything that sets him/her apart from the crowd besides a strong work ethic, then he/she won’t fare well in admissions.</p>

<p>Believe it or not, GPA is the most important factor in admissions at all the schools I applied to. Because my GPA was already such a huge handicap (and being an Asian guy doesn’t help either), my essays, ECs (yes, I actually have ECs), and recs had to be extra strong to compensate. </p>

<p>The reason I made this thread was to show people that stats aren’t everything, and that colleges understand that applicants are more than just a GPA or SAT score.</p>

<p>waitlistftl – Good for you! I think colleges like to see/reward a maturation track. By your own admission, it took you awhile but in the middle of high school you matured and realized you needed to change your game plan. Then you put your mind to it and turned your grades around in a really impressive way. Of course the colleges which accepted you are hoping you stay on the “mature track” and have decided to give you a chance. Good luck to you! Nice of you to post so honestly and provide an example of this type of success.</p>

<p>Wow, this honestly made my day. I’m in a similar position as you were GPA-wise and I’ve been discouraged about the prospects of being accepted to any good schools. Awesome story! Let us all know where you’re going!</p>

<p>Instead of reasuring me, that’s just scared me. I’m in my freshman year at the moment and because of the way our schooling’s done it isn’t a diffiult year at all. I do homework, but very little preparation/studying and I just sort of assume I’ll get high grades in stuff. The only piece of work we’ve done this year that will really count towards my GCSEs is an english essay, done in exam conditions in lessons. I got about 70% on it. English isn’t my strength but still, I’m really hoping I won’t go down the same route as you.</p>

<p>^My school’s really rigorous, so I couldn’t just coast by with straight As without studying. Just make sure you get used to having good study habits, and you’ll be fine</p>