• Nora Sun

Tags: UPenn

Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Study: Major in biology with an eco-evolutionary concentration, minor probably either classics or environmental and sustainability management

High School Experience

My high school experience was incredible. I went to a small but well known private school. Obviously, there were some difficult periods but in retrospect the personal, intellectual, and emotional growth that my high school facilitated was unparalleled by any such growth in any other time period of my life. My teachers and coaches were fantastic too and helped me explore the world and academia on another level.

Course choices

Science in general and then also Latin were at the center of most of my academic endeavors. I took all the AP sciences and every Latin class I could take because that stuff really interested me. I even took an extra class in neuroscience senior year outside of my actual schedule.


My school doesn’t offer a lot of APs so I only took 6 classes but 10 exams. Got a 5 on chem, bio, physics C mech, Latin, stat, bc calc, and english Lang (didn’t take a class for this.) then a 4 on euro history, us history, and English lit (didn’t take a class for any of those three)


97 unweighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1590

SAT Math 2: 800

SAT Latin: 800

SAT Biology M: 770

SAT Chemistry: 770


Running was huge for me. I was on varsity track and XC for 2 years and was a captain for xc my senior year. I was also really involved with my school newspaper and became managing editor junior year. President of our classics club which did a bunch of classics themed quiz bowl comps around the state. We didn’t lose for about 3 years straight before finally doing so at state champs my senior year. President of its academic team which was our regular quiz bowl team. Made it to the quarterfinals on the televised show. Also did research at Hopkins med school looking at the genetic basis of a certain muscular neuropathy and found a gene that completely suppressed the disease in question. Also did various volunteering at hospitals and camps.


Relationship with those teachers was great. Asked my biology and Latin teachers to write recommendations since they knew me really well and saw me grow a lot in the classroom as a scholar and thinker.


I really emphasized my interest in biology and classics for each school's essays. My common app was about exploring my sexuality through Latin poetry which I thought was interesting and brought some diversity to the forefront of my app. Otherwise, I wrote a couple essays on running, my gap year, classics club


I checked all the boxes for stats so I think my essays really helped. I’ve always considered myself a really strong writer given feedback from my teachers. My English teacher even pushed me to pursue publication for some essays. Research with Hopkins was also big. But generally I very clearly demonstrated my specific academic interests while showcasing my well roundedness as an individual (running, newspaper, sexuality, volunteering, work) that a lot of STEM focused applicants really lack.


Be authentic yet calculated with your essays. They should have a very clear focus yet also be in your voice and speak very clearly to your own passions. It’s so easy to tell when someone isn’t enthusiastic with their writing.


Gap year


I chose Penn because I’ve been in love with the campus, opportunities, and culture for a couple years now. Every time I visited, I felt a weird connection to the place that’s very hard to put into words. The bio department is also incredibly strong and will set me up for a lot of success wherever I end up. Also really into the work hard play hard aspect of Penn.


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