• Nora Sun

Tags: Duke, first generation, low income

Institution: Duke University

Study: Major in psychology major, minor in gender studies

High School Experience

I truly loved the experience of learning. While some classes (history haha) weren’t my strong suit and I really had to push myself to get the motivation to want to learn, I gathered it and ultimately came out with a good amount of knowledge. Being in the IB program, I was grouped with the same people for 4 years which had its pros and cons. I felt content that I had a friend group, but there was also lots of unnecessary drama. Another thing I didn’t like about high school was how they dealt with student problems and mental health. Personally, every time I presented an issue to administration I felt unheard as it was simply brushed aside and I was told they would “deal with it”, when in reality nothing happened until much later. My counselor was a great resource in terms of venting to her and getting information on college! However, I still felt like I learned more through outside sources.

Course choices

I have always been an English person! This is the subject that comes easiest to me and so naturally I knew my career had to include writing. I also fell in LOVE with psych - I took AP psych my sophomore year and knew that this was what I wanted to pursue. Another class that I loved was chemistry, which I wasn’t expecting. I was in IB HL, so we did organic chemistry and biochemistry junior and senior year. While this really pushed me, I really enjoyed learning about it.


I took IB Psych SL, IB English HL, Theory of Knowledge, IB Math Studies SL, IB History HL, and IB Chemistry HL. The exams were cancelled, so I don’t have those scores but our scores are now based on teacher predictions which we get sometime soon.


4.0 unweighted, 4.6 weighted

Standardized Testing

SAT composite: 1520

SAT superscore: 1560

ACT: 33

SAT Math 1: 730

SAT Literature: 730

SAT Chemistry: 640


I joined color guard my junior year and became captain my senior year! It was super transformative. I joined my school’s chapter of the Asian Student Association and became Vice President. I was a member of IB club all four years, where members said their input on changes that could be made to the program, since my class was the first IB class at my school. I started the College Board Opportunity Program chapter at my school and was the Lead Ambassador my senior year!


I had my math teacher (who I’ve had for 3 years) and my junior year English teacher write my two letters of recommendation. I has an exceptional relationship with both of them as I would often stop by to ask for questions and make sure that I paid attention throughout their lessons. I would also just hold conversations with them and ask how their life was going so we could really connect. A CEO of a finance company (this company oversees a scholarship I received my junior year) called my university to put in a good word as well!


I had a prevalent theme of resilience throughout my essay. I applied through a common app, and in that essay I wrote about how the concept of infinity ties into my journey and tested my resilience. My supplemental essays had more of a focus on my identity, but included resilience as well!


I personally thought that my writing and activities I chose to do in high school made me a strong applicant. Of course, everyone applying to a university is smart and able! What the school wants to see is how they use their abilities to accomplish certain tasks and grow. The fact that I engaged in activities that truly interested me instead of just boosting my resume is something I believed helped me. My admissions officer also told me that my writing was very strong, and so I believe this was a factor as well.


Cliche but work hard and stay true to yourself!! I used to roll my eyes at these comments whenever it came to thinking about applying to college, but when I took it in it truly gave me an advantage. I worked super hard to maintain my grades while also participating in activities, and stayed true to who I was in the application. While I highlighted my strengths, I also made sure to stay humble and acknowledge where I came from.


I am a first-gen low-income student. I was blessed to receive a scholarship my junior year that assisted me in application fees and even allowed me to visit several universities (including the one I am now committed to!).


I chose to apply to Duke ED because I fell in LOVE with it when I visited. When I was thinking of schools to apply to in junior year, I was actually struggling with deciding on whether to apply to Duke or not. However, after looking into it more and getting a feel for the campus after visiting, I knew it was the university for me. I loved the fact that it was strong academically, but also offered a good social culture with lots of research / intern opportunities.

#Duke #first_generation #low_income

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