Hello Internet! As a very ambitious and anxious high school student, I’ve been an avid reader on r/chanceme, r/a2c, College Confidential, and many other similar spheres. I am a committed student to the Yale Class of 2025 now and thought I’d share my results/how I think I got in after a very tumultuous and stressful year of COVID and college apps! I originally posted this on Reddit, but thought people on here might find it helpful as well. I’ve left my main takeaways and advice at the bottom of the post for students navigating/researching upcoming college applications. Cheers!
- Gender: Cis female
- Race/Ethnicity: Half Malaysian-Chinese (my mom is an immigrant from Malaysia), quarter Hispanic (my dad’s mom’s family immigrated from Mexico)
- Residence: Central coast of California
- Hooks: First Gen, URM
Intended Major(s): Political Science/Global Affairs
- GPA/Rank (or percentile):
- UW: 3.95 (two B’s freshman year, two B’s from middle school that counted as freshman grades)
- W: 4.44
- Class rank: 9th out of 360
- Number of Honors/AP/IB/Dual Enrollment/etc.: 12 AP classes, maxed out on possible # of AP classes available
- Senior Year Course Load: All APs! I’m taking AP Calc BC, Lang, Latin, Gov, Macroeconomics, Physics, & CompSci A.
List the highest scores earned and all scores that were reported.
- SAT/ACT: Took the ACT for the first time in the winter of my junior year, only two months before everything shut down in March 2020! I had been planning to retake it (was aiming for a perfect score) but did not get a chance due to lockdown so I sent this score to every school that was test-optional.
- Composite: 33
- English: 35
- Math: 29 (Word to the wise: do NOT change your test taking strategy day of testing because you read something on PrepScholar during the car ride there. Don’t panic or doubt yourself. Believe in your prep abilities!)
- Reading: 35
- Science: 33
- Writing: 10 out fo 12
- SAT II: N/A
- AP/IB: Earned 5s in CompSci Principles & Euro History and 4s in Stats, Calc AB, and English Lit. These are the only AP tests I’ve taken, and I reported all the scores.
- Other (ex. IELTS, TOEFL, etc.): N/A
- 11 years of studying piano, practiced 2-3 hours daily, played in recitals, shows, and competitions
- 7 years of studying violin, played in youth symphony for 5 years
- 6 years of mock trial (on executive council), 2 years on my county’s youth board (currently vice-president), 4 years of high school Democrats Club, 4 years of school FFA chapter, founded the first music club at my school during COVID (currently vice-president), 3 years of volunteering at public library, 3 years of varsity track and field (was co-captain junior year, senior year season was cancelled due to COVID)
- Starting working for a local racial justice/education non-profit during COVID as Director & Chair of social media communications/outreach
- Studied abroad in the summers between freshman-sophomore year and sophomore-junior year
- 2018: Lived in a rural town in Japan. Went to high school there for two months. Lived with a host family. Went through Youth For Understanding (YFU) on a full-ride scholarship offered by my the corporation my dad worked for at the time.
- 2019: Living in Nanjing, China. Attended Nanjing University for a month as an international student studying Chinese Language & Culture. Lived with a host family. Went through Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) on a scholarship.
- Besides gaining life/travel experience, studying abroad was what encouraged me to go into global studies because I realized I could apply my interests in political science globally. I want to work and live outside of the US after I graduate, doing immigration or international law potentially. I will definitely continue to studying abroad in college and plan on doing my entire junior year abroad. I also specifically am interested in East Asian languages & culture, which is why I chose these programs specifically.
- Won first place in local music competitions. Piano competitions were my main focus throughout high school, so I participated in all of the local ones I could. There was one competition in particular that I auditioned for 6 times! I did not place in it until my junior year, when I won first in the senior division. I also participated virtually this year and won third place. I mentioned this as one of my academic/extracurricular challenges in my applications, and explained that winning this competition meant a lot to me because of all of the embarrassing ‘failures’ year after year.
- Won first place at the county level competitions for CAPMT (state-wide music competition, nationally recognized organization) and represented my county at the state level a few times. Was a finalist once but did not win.
- Competed at the state level for mock trial every year in high school, was awarded Best Prosecution Attorney in my county one year. I also did many public speaking events and competitions through FFA at the school, county, state, and regional levels.
- Competed at state level for varsity track and field.
- Won a state-wide American Cicil Liberties Union essay contest about student mental health during COVID, which was read by CA Governor Gavin Newsom. It was featured in a few publications and an event/package in support of a bill establishing a state-recognized Mental Health Week in public schools.
- Miscellaneous honor roll/teacher-nominated awards related to my academics.
- Wellesley College, taken in December: Requested an interview after getting an email suggesting I request one. My very first interview! Went well, felt like a conversation with a mentor or friend. Talked a lot about interests in art, international business, and Asian culture. Lasted an hour.
- Harvard, taken in January: My best interview by far. Talked about traveling, cultures, studying abroad, living in new places, music and playing in symphonies, and so much more. He was very kind and it really felt like I was speaking with a friend. Lasted nearly two hours.
- Yale, taken in February: Was very nervous before it because I had made a horrific typo in my email to him! (Accidentally wrote ‘Harvard’ instead of ‘Yale’ in a sentence… to say I was mortified was an understatement. I sent him a second email immediately after acknowledging and apologizing for the slip-up). The interview itself was okay. He asked a lot of questions ranging from various topics, which made me nervous because in my other interviews the conversation had flowed more naturally. He was an attorney, so I asked very many questions about his career/law school since that is what I am interested in. We bonded a bit over personal (i.e. family issues) stories which was probably the strength of this interview.
Decisions (indicate ED/EA/REA/SCEA/RD)
Acceptances: (list here):
- Yale! - I’m committed!
- UC Berkeley! - My dream school since seventh grade. I have always pictured myself going there because I am in-state, and realistically, I had a good chance of getting especially compared to other T20s.
- Wellesley College! - Once I heard about Wellesley, I loved it. Once I got in, I had a difficult time deciding between Berkeley and Wellesley (before Ivy decisions were released).
- Barnard College! - Received a likey letter from them in January.
- Cal Poly SLO! - I applied as a Computer Science major.
Waitlists: (list here)
- Swarthmore College
Rejections: (list here)
- Talked about family issues/responsibilities as the oldest kid in an immigrant/raised by single parent household. My mom, who raised me, is an immigrant and English is her fourth language, so starting from elementary school I helped a lot with house work, making appointments, translating, helping my younger sister with homework, etc. My parents are not officially divorced (yet) but I did talk about how their rocky relationship affected my education, upbringing, and goals in my essays/interviews/other information sections.
- First, take care of your mental health. This process can be SO toxic and SO stressful! If you get frustrated or have writer’s block, take a break. Let your thoughts ruminate for a few days if you have to. Remember that everything will work out in the grand scheme of things. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is so important to staying sane throughout all of this!
- Start early!!! I am probably an extreme example of this, but I started brainstorming college essay ideas as early as sophomore year. I did not get serious until the end of junior year, however. I spent all summer before senior year doing research and brainstorming essay topics/application approaches. I did a LOT of writing and drafting, both in Google Docs and on paper. Write down every idea you have! if you’re starting a new draft of an essay, save the old one just in case you want to look back on it in the future.
- Do research. Chances are if you are reading this, then you are already on the right track. Make a list of every school you are interested in, and read about their academics, location, social environment, etc. Visit their websites and social media pages, attend their virtual programs, talk to their students. This may be a hot take, but you really don’t need to apply to 15+ colleges. I saw so many people apply to colleges just for the sake of it, without actually liking or wanting to go to the school! That is a waste of time, money, and mental energy. I recommend applying to a selection of schools you like/could really picture yourself at, and once you have a more manageable list of schools you’d like to attend, make every application meaningful. For reference, I applied to 1 safety school, 5 reach/low match schools, and 3 dream schools.
- Take advantage of your resources. My college essay editors were my English teacher and friends. I met with my English teacher once or sometimes twice a week for feedback on college essays I wrote. He got to know me really well and actually became the advisor to the music club I started. He wrote me a letter of recommendation, which I haven’t read but assume was very strong. I asked my three closest friends to read my essays once I was pretty much done with them. I also had 2 friends who were college students attending the schools I was applying to help with editing and feedback. You also have a community here on Reddit, College Confidential, and College Admissions Hub on Discord to use! I received a lot of suggestions and advice from strangers on the Internet. Sometimes it’s really helpful to get a second opinion on things from someone who doesn’t know you, because that’s what the admissions officers will be like!
- Do lots of self-reflection.
- Who are you, really? What are your core values, really? What are your interests, really?
- How are these things reflected in your extracurriculars/academic interests and performance? What do you have to show that this is who you are?
- How can you explain who you are through what you do? What specific activities, experiences, or memories can be used to tell your unique story?
I’m not saying you need to package yourself into a product, or devote yourself completely to one ‘spike’ or activity, but it can help you brainstorm how you’ll talk about yourself in your essays. Be thorough and comprehensive. That is how you will “be yourself” through this process like everyone always says.
My apologies if this post is atrociously long. I hope it helped in some capacity. Why I was admitted into Yale is still a bit of a mystery to me, as I’m not a physics genius, or the next Joshua Bell, or Lori Loughlin’s third daughter. All I did was share who I am as a person, as accurately as I could. Stay friendly, humble, graceful, and positive. You’ve made it this far, you can do it! Good luck to you all.