• Nora Sun

Tags: Princeton

Institution: Princeton

Study: Major in neuroscience and molecular biology

High School Experience

I went to a really competitive high school, so the academics could get really stressful at times, especially when compounded with competitions/extracurriculars. The culture could get toxic, and not only did I have to manage my time between the large workload from courses and extracurriculars, I sometimes had to deal with family stuff and my mental health as well. However, I appreciated the many opportunities school opened up for me, especially in research. I got to meet a lot of genuinely interesting people and I do believe that my ability to socialize developed greatly as a result.


My academic interests were molecular biology, visual arts, and writing creative nonfiction. I took 11 AP exams including the ones from senior year, and of the 9 exams for which I have test scores, I have received 5s.


4.5 weighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1560

SAT Math 2: 800

SAT Molecular Biology: 800

SAT Chemistry: 800


My extracurricular interests revolved mostly around my academic interests. I entered a few writing competitions (scholastic art and writing my senior year), including a few science writing contests, entered a few art contests (notably junior duck stamp/state fish art contest), and did Biology Olympiad. I was captain of our school’s Biology Olympiad club, tutored for some local nonprofit and for profit organizations in a variety of subjects, and worked for three years at the nonprofit which fundraisers for my school. I currently am lead coordinator for a volunteer organization (for 2 years) which offers local high schoolers the opportunity to inspire younger elementary/middle school aged students in STEM. Lastly, I have done cancer research in a lab at a local university for the past year.


I was extremely close to the teachers who wrote my recommendations, though they never contacted the college for me. Both were supporters when I was going through a difficult time with my mental health, and both taught subjects that I felt like I enjoyed and engaged in. I discuss both personal and academic content with my teachers, and even after graduation we are still in regular contact.


My theme was my love for biology. My common app talked about how I was inspired by my elder peers into biology and how later on I hoped to replicate the mentorship they gave me for my younger peers. In one of my supplements I talked about how I built community through our biology Olympiad club and how that sense of community was something I wanted to contribute to in college. In another supplement I wrote about how despite my mother’s abuse in trying to prevent me from studying biology, I persisted with my passion.


I felt like I was both specialized yet generalized in my application. I focused on biology but also submitted portfolios of visual art and writing for consideration.


When thinking about college applications, it’s good to have both breadth (variety in your interests) and depth (focus in a specific interest), as well as a vision and impact for how you will contribute to the college’s community. Think about your application from the college’s point of view (for examples, people post YouTube reactions to admissions officer comments to their accepted application). Don’t get discouraged. Everyone always says start early when writing essays, but personally I chose to highlight the research that I started doing summer after junior year, so I didn’t start drafting until well into senior year. Lastly, do not do everything for the sole purpose of college!! Let your passions guide you and the resume will come along the way. Ask yourself, “what am I really interested in? Why?” Apply to colleges with the mindset and confidence of already having been accepted. If a college doesn’t accept you, it probably means that you wouldn’t have been happy there either.




Each college has its own personality and emphasis, e.g. Harvard and Stanford value entrepreneurship, MIT academics. I chose Princeton because after visiting campus, I felt the atmosphere was very laid back compared to some other ivies, which I recognized would be beneficial to my mental health. The neuroscience research program was attractive, the faculty/student ratio is low, and the academics is very interdisciplinary, which I appreciated. I felt that I could pursue all of my passions at Princeton.


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