I am an international student, currently a freshman at National Taiwan University.
Applying as an incoming freshman ( I would readily give up my place and all my credits at Taiwan’s best university if I get accepted), I just sent out my SCEA application to Harvard, and would like to hear about what you think of my background.
First of all, my stats (or lack thereof)
- GPA and ranking: Are not calculated nor included in my official transcript. I have less than stellar grades (I'm guessing anywhere from 3.3 to 3.6) at a high school that only accepts the top 1~2% scorers on a mandatory, state-issued exam for all Taiwanese ninth graders. My school is insanely competitive, likely even more so than Philips Exeter or other American high schools of that caliber.
- SAT scores: Will be out in a week or so. My estimate is 1500+/1600, but I cannot be sure. First (and last) attempt.
- SAT Subject Test scores: Will be taking Biology and Math 1 or 2 in November Hopefully 800's on both?
- Taiwanese College Entrance Scores: Top ~2 percent for all Taiwanese high school grads (Even more competitive pool compared to the high school entrance group as many kids went to vocational school after junior high)
Specifically, I ranked in the…
99.94th to 99.96th percentile for Chinese
99.99th percentile for English (second highest scorer in the country)
96.13th to 97.16th percentile for Biology
I’m giving this info in order to try and convince the admissions committee that my terrible high school grades are not an accurate representation of my actual academic potential.
My extracurriculars and awards include:
- Senior Patrol Leader of my Venture Scout troop (pretty much translates to President) Received the Taipei City Scouting Award and spent a lot of time recruiting new members: we started out as a failing club with only 4 members and by the time I left there were >12 kids. It took a lot of hard work. We also went on many trips (climbing, camping, cliff-diving) and did community service whenever we had the chance.
- Completed Academia Sinica's Biology Program for Gifted High School Students Three years' worth of weekends that went towards lectures, lab work, internships, and finally authoring a paper and presenting it in front of some of Taiwan's most influential biologists. Most of the original members eventually dropped out but I stayed to finish everything. My lab PI (who is well-acclaimed in his field of neuroscience) knows me well and wrote my recommendation letter.
- I did Biology Olympiad and made it to the National Top 5%.
- Taipei City Honor Student, as well as Taipei First Girls' High School Honor Student. I guess my teachers and classmates just like me a lot despite the fact that I have bad grades.
- Principal's Award upon high school graduation Voted for the award by faculty members.
- I have a Tumblr blog centered on academics and the experience of living in Taiwan with ~10000 followers. I regularly update it with infographics I make, photos I take, tips, and help fellow students out.
- Mountaineering Six Peaks above 10000 ft on three separate expeditions.
- Translation I'm a published translator. Not the Amazon self-publishing kind...my work was published by a major publishing company Translated two children's books in sixth grade and they are still in print today
- Misc: Drama competition, Diplomatic Envoy Competition (in which my team won 6th place nationally), Learning French and Japanese. I'm also involved in an unofficial LGBT Club at my school, me being trans and asexual and all.
- Not sure if this matters-I did triathlon in school, gave it up for four/five years, and recently met someone who made me want to complete a full-distance Ironman!
I think I have very good rec letters. I asked teachers who knew me well and like me a lot to write my letters, and they all agreed quite enthusiastically.
My counselor is my Chinese teacher, my biology teacher trained me for the Taipei City Biology Competition and Biology Olympiad (first-hand witness of how geeky I can be), and the aforementioned lab PI.
In my essay, I was very sincere writing about my greatest passion for 16 years: Medicine.
As an aspiring research rheumatologist, I really, really love medicine and I did everything I can to make sure the adcom gets that message. It’s an essential part of who I am and drives every single one of my academic endeavors. I would literally marry medicine if I can.
(No, my parents didn’t push me to become a doctor. They actually want me to go into finance or law or linguistics. Atypical Asian parents)
In the additional information section, I explore the reasons behind my horrible grades: EC’s that became all-consuming, prepping for Taiwanese college entrance exams that had nothing to do with the curriculum, and my personal struggles with a systemic autoimmune disease.
This got really long, and I would just like to know if you would vote me in if you sat on the adcom.
Obviously my biggest insecurity is my transcript, but aside from that, do you think I could stand a chance?
Would Harvard be the school for someone like me? Given that I’m also applying to Yale, Amherst, Penn, and Duke, what are my odds at these schools?
Thanks so, so much for your answer.