• Nora Sun

Tags: Columbia

Institution: Columbia

Study: Major in biochemistry and business, minor in ethnic studies

High School Experience

My high school experience was interesting, to say the least. I attended Chicago Hope Academy, a small Christian school on the west side of Chicago. As any high school student can attest, there were many positives and negatives to my choice of schooling. Having about 250 students, I was able to form very close relationships with not just all of my classmates, but my teachers and faculty as well. Conversely, however, the size of the school prevented access to certain resources that a large public school, for example, would have - sports programs, AP classes, updated facilities, etc. Overall, I loved my four years at Hope and am extremely grateful for all that it has given me and all the ways it contributed to formulating the person I embody now and placing me in the position as a student at Columbia University.

Course choices

Throughout high school, I was always interested in a broad range of areas of study. However, my main interest resided in the hard sciences - biology, chemistry, etc. It was this innate interest that helped contribute to my passion for medicine, which would eventually transfer to my enrollment at Columbia as a Pre-Med undergraduate planning to major in biochemistry.


Due to a lack of resources, my school had access to a few AP courses and no IB courses. Those of which were taught, I enrolled in, including Government, Calculus AB, World History, and English Language and Composition.


4.17 weighted, 4.0 unweighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1490 ACT: 34


Regarding extracurriculars, I participated in a considerably wide range of programs including several sports teams, student-led clubs, and after school jobs. Nevertheless, my efforts always centralized on my primary passion, which was and is the concept of servitude: serving others for the benefit of humanity and not one’s self. Thus, I partook in service-related programs and gained positions such as Eagle Scout, Student Government President, a student at multiple medical programs, and a member of the Future Leaders of Chicago.


I was fortunate to have an amazing relationship with the adults who assisted me in my college process. My three letters of recommendation were written by my calculus teacher, economics and homeroom teacher (a Columbia alum), and former biology teacher. The founder of my school (also a Columbia alum) even went to the Columbia campus and advocated me to the faculty.


As mentioned earlier, my entire application - the short questions, essays, checked boxes - centered around the concept of servitude. As an aspiring orthopedic surgeon, my entire passion was to serve others through the means of medicine. Thus, I needed to make this passion imminently clear to whoever would be reading my application. Whether it was through medicine, social activism, my academic interests, chores at home, or my job, I wanted to serve people.


I think there were two main components of my application that made me a strong applicant. The first being that my story was unique: a poor Mexican kid from Chicago who in light of setbacks such as poverty, discrimination, and domestic instability, managed to overcome these things and not just become one of the top-performing students in the area but also participated in a diverse array of extracurricular activities and programs. The other, and perhaps more significant of the two, was that I knew who I was and what I wanted of myself. I was Christopher Cinkus-Rios: future MD, social activist, home-keeper, athlete, scholar, civil servant, an underdog who would stop at nothing for success.


Here are a few pieces of advice (some more cliche than others) that I have learned to follow over the past four years:

  1. Be yourself: I am sure that everyone has heard this a million times, but it is a cliche for a reason. Stay true to yourself: your values, desires, interests, and identity. Do not tire yourself attempting to fill some ideal image of a perfect student or person. When you are yourself you are comfortable and confident, which will genuinely reflect in your work.

  2. Stay active: Although I love fitness, that is an unrelated subject here. Stay active in the sense of maximizing your potential in whatever feasible ways you can. If you have free time, fill it. Load up that resume, so that come Fall of your senior year, you are ready to wow the admissions officers at whatever college you are applying to.

  3. Seek help: To those like myself who sometimes think that they can do everything themselves, I am sorry, but you cannot. Even if you fo not necessarily feel like you need it, reach out to peers and mentors for advice and assistance with school work, essays, or just life in general. They will likely give you insight that you had never even considered before.

  4. Dream big but stay humble: No matter what anyone may tell you, ultimately only you define your destiny. If you want to go to an Ivy League school, then by all means shoot for it! In no way did I think that I was Ivy League material, but a few people saw that potential in me, and now here I am today, living proof that if you dream big and work hard, amazing things can and will happen. But of course, through all of this remember to stay humble. Doing so will keep you grounded and focused. And besides, no one likes an airhead.

  5. Unwind: Lastly, just remember to relax. Take the time every once in a while to simply care for yourself whether that be going out and doing things that please you or just unwinding and shutting off your mind for a bit. It is so easy during these stressful and busy times to neglect your mental health, and far too many students (myself included) have done so.


Everything that has happened in your life will essentially affect your college application. Now, what exactly you choose to include and exclude to inform the admissions officer of is your choice entirely. I am privileged to come from a fairly healthy upbringing, but I had certain misfortunes in my lifetime aforementioned that I chose to include in my application because they were all factors that composed who I was.


I chose Columbia because I felt that it best reflected who I was as a person and the kind of college experience that I wanted to define the next four years of my life. I wanted to go to a school where I knew that I would be challenged constantly, yet consequently always continue to grow as an academic and person. From the diversity of its student body to the rigorous academics to the beautiful city of New York, I loved Columbia and knew it was where I truly needed to be.


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