• Nora Sun

Tags: MIT

Institution: MIT

Study: Major in aerospace engineering

High School Experience

I definitely had a very eclectic high school experience. My freshman year was extremely uneventful because I was involved in nothing other than my sport, and I essentially did nothing socially outside of soccer. School wasn’t much of a thought until my Sophomore year when I really struggled. I think everyone has a wall they hit at some point where they can no longer coast by on intelligence alone and must learn to work/study or be satisfied with a lower level of success academically. I spent most of my Sophomore year really struggling and emotionally drained as I attempted to maintain my perfect GPA and I really didn’t find a comfortable routine until the very end of the year when I managed to settle in. After that, I have to admit my Junior year was not the stressful behemoth everyone talks about. I had way more fun and was able to go out a lot while still maintaining my grades, keeping up my extracurriculars, and playing soccer. Senior year was just plain fun. First semester was of course filled with college applications, but as long as I knew my schedule and stayed on it, they didn’t stress me out but made me feel accomplished. My guidance counselor was a huge help with this, and we had weekly meetings for around three months straight. High school started out slow for me, and I definitely hit some early bumps, but I came into my own over these four years and, looking back, wouldn’t change any of my experiences.


Academically, I’ve always been inclined towards math and science. I wouldn’t say I took a class that truly invigorated me and made me one hundred percent confident in what I wanted to do, but my trend towards STEM continued in high school, and I’ve always known that would generally be my future. I took all AP classes that were available to me including: World History, Environmental Science, US History, Calc BC, Chem, Lang, Lit, Bio, Gov/Econ, Psych, and CompSci. I didn’t take stats or physics because I have an irrational hatred for statistics and my school, unfortunately, does not offer a single AP physics class. I admittedly never studied much for my AP tests. I have two older sisters who have been through college admissions and both emphasized that they have little to do with admittance and will likely not provide credit if you end up at a top school. I ironically got 5’s on most of my social science tests and never got above a 3 on any STEM test (unless you count my Calc AB subscore of 4). I didn’t take any AP tests this year since we were offered a refund and I couldn’t get credit for any of my classes.


4.97 weighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1540; 770 reading, 770 math

SAT US History: 770

SAT Chemistry: 720

SAT Math 2: 790


Extracurricular-wise, the bulk of my time was spent playing soccer. I’m a competitive player who’s always intended to play in college, so around 20-30 hours a week were spent on the field. My sophomore year I started a chapter for a nonprofit to help the homeless and continued this for my last three years in high school. We raised over $2000, 100 necessity-filled backpacks, 1000 granola bars, and 200 pairs of shoes to donate and spent many weekends volunteering at a local shelter. Towards the end of my junior year, I started a nonprofit with a friend with the goal of creating a statewide competition for students to save water within their schools that included a monetary prize as well as the implementation of their plan. It was a very ambitious project and we eventually failed in getting it off the ground as other responsibilities cropped up, but it was honestly the best experience and gave me the opportunity to take on some real responsibility and get a window into what it takes to make something happen in the real world. These three were my biggest extracurriculars, but I was also involved in NHS, SHS, Math Club, and Calculus Club, and was the Vice President of SHS. My biggest suggestion is to find or create a club that gets you excited and feels important to you. Those last four were unimportant to me and were therefore not super exciting on my application, but the first three were roles I was passionate about and able to exalt in my essays rather than just list boring stats.


I’ve never been the type of person who is able to form a relationship with teachers beyond professional. I prefer there to be a wall between us and to simply coexist in the classroom which slightly backfired when it came time to ask for recs. In the end, I chose my math teacher who’d had me for two years and had seen the most of my personality of any STEM teachers since my senior year math class was extremely small and fun. I also had my junior year English teacher who was the sponsor of my club, and so had spent plenty of time with me. I wouldn’t call myself particularly close to either of them, but it was the best I could do. Definitely try to form relationships with your teachers, it isn’t fun to ask someone you’ve barely spoken to. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have an amazing guidance counselor with whom I’d managed to form a great relationship (mostly because I truly hated my Spanish IV class and would make appointments midday just to avoid it). She was passionate about her students and the biggest help in applying to schools, and I can’t even imagine the angel she made me out to be in her rec. If you don’t have a counselor like this, I’d definitely seek out a teacher or other adult who could potentially fill that role-it was invaluable for me.


My strategy for essay writing was to really be myself as much as possible, rather than what I thought the readers might want me to be. I was applying as a STEM major, but my common app was about my favorite author and what he meant to me. I really focused on my club and nonprofit wherever I could because I knew I had some meat behind them rather than just numbers. I barely talked about soccer for schools at which I was recruited because admissions already knew that facet of me. My goal generally was to expose every piece of myself that wasn’t already obvious in the stats section and, as a rule of thumb, wrote about every little thing that might be embarrassing to tell a friend who doesn’t know me that well. Schools want unique students, and we all have unique facets we usually hide; this is your chance to let them shine. I discussed everything from my weird passion for fashion design to my 6th-grade self’s belief she was Douglass Adams reincarnate. There’s no strategy that will guarantee admission to any school, but this was mine, and it proved generally effective.


For some schools, a big part of my draw was that I was a recruited athlete (though I wasn’t recruited for any that could guarantee admission). For at least one from which I was lucky enough to receive a likely letter, I know they really appreciated the effort I put into my nonprofit. In general, I was a STEM applicant with very few STEM extracurriculars which might sound perturbing, but I think rather gave me an advantage. I was well-rounded and clearly had a range of interests, and I think that was what excited most schools.


I would recommend starting applications early into the summer as it really gets a weight off off your shoulders. Also don’t focus on trying to do activities that will look “attractive” on applications, rather try out activities that you find interesting and this will help build your interest in different fields.


I am a Hispanic student, and neither of my parents was born in the US. Additionally, for MIT where I ended up committing, I had the advantage of two sisters who had already attended.



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