• Nora Sun

Tags: UC Berkeley

Institution: University of California Berkeley

Study: admitted as major in molecular & cell biology but changing to cognitive science

High School Experience

I enjoyed high school purely because of Speech & Debate and the family I made through it. I did not like the cliques and the toxic academic culture of my school, so I often relied on my teammates and coaches to relieve the stress of a long day.

Course choices

I started off high school interested in going into law and it was my main reason for joining the Speech & Debate team. However sophomore year I developed an interest in neuroscience when I began giving a speech involving Tourettes Syndrome. I did Dramatic Interpretation primarily in Speech, so that is essentially acting out a novel or play. That was when I discovered that I wanted to go into the STEM field, so I began choosing my courses accordingly and taking classes online as well that were not offered at my school.


I took only six AP courses during high school (AP Euro, APUSH, AP Capstone, AP Gov, AP Econ, & AP Calc). I received passing scores for all (meaning 3 or above).


3.94 unweighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1560; 790 math, 770 reading


I did club volleyball from 6th grade to sophomore year. Speech & Debate for all four years of high school. I also formed two clubs (one for disability advocating, and the other for female empowerment). I held the role of Speech Chair for three years, and was the president & vice president of two clubs.


I had really strong relationships with the teachers that I asked for recommendations from. One was even my freshman English teacher who moved to a different school!


I did not have a set narrative for my essays, although it would have probably been a better idea. I wrote a lot about Speech & Debate, my research in Neuroscience that I did overseas, leadership roles, and Tourette's Syndrome.


I think what made me a strong applicant was my writing skills and how all of my activities were somehow linked to one another, showing continued interest, and focus on my choice major.


My advice would be to never not do something. One day you might look back and say “If only I had-” or “What if-”. You should never let yourself say that, and make sure to do everything you can to become the best version of yourself. Never let go of the reins to your own success, because it takes so much more work to take ahold of them again.




My college decision results were as follows: I was denied at UC Irvine, Northwestern, Brown (Deferred ED, later rejected) & Princeton. I was waitlisted at UCLA, Dartmouth and Stanford. I was accepted to UC Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, Northeastern, Boston University, UC Davis, UCSB and UCSD. Overall, my decisions were pretty much all over the place. Following my deferral from Brown, I fell in love with UPenn. I was very much obsessed with the school. However, before making a final decision, I researched heavily into all the schools I had been accepted to. I did not opt into the waitlist at any school (Stanford has a less than 1% acceptance rate from the waitlist). I decided that I wanted to save money by attending an in state school, and UC Berkeley offered opportunities that I had not seen before. It also gave me more flexibility to explore my options, and was close to the Silicon Valley (meaning better internship opportunities).


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