• Nora Sun

Tags: Stanford, first generation, low income

Institution: Stanford University

Study: Major in astronautics, minor in music

High School Experience

My high school experience was kind of mediocre. My high school doesn’t have many options when it comes to which courses you can take, and because of grade inflation, you must take every single AP course available in order to be academically competitive. I really liked the connection I was able to build with some of my teachers, though, as it was through their guidance and help that I was able to successfully navigate my way through high school and subsequently the application process.

Course choices

I was really into the physical sciences in high school. As a result, I took all of the Honors/AP science courses that I could take, and also enrolled into a calculus course at my local community college the summer of my sophomore year. I was also really into music, so I became the drum major of the marching band, as well as took Percussion, Jazz, and symphonic music courses.


Chemistry: 5

Biology: 5

Music Theory: 5

US History: 5

English Language and Composition: 5

World History: 4

Physics C Mech: Pending

Calc BC: Pending

English Literature and Composition: Pending

US Government and Politics: Pending

Macroeconomics: Pending

Computer Science Principles: Pending


4.0 unweighted, 4.6 weighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1550

ACT: 34

SAT Math 2: 780

SAT Chemistry: 740

SAT Biology M: 740


My biggest extracurricular interest was music. I performed in all of the instrumental ensembles at my high school and was the drum major of the marching band. I also was a member of an orchestral group outside of school, in which I competed in many different festivals and judging forums across the US. Perhaps my biggest extracurricular activity was marching Drum and Bugle Corps, in which I had the opportunity to travel the United States over the course of 3 months and perform to hundreds of thousands of people. I also participated in Academic Decathlon and National Honor Society.


I was very close with the teachers I asked to write letters of recommendation for me. My most crucial LoR came from my Academic Decathlon coach, whom I had known for 4 years. He was a teacher who I could trust with anything and I was conversely a student whom he could trust. I would sometimes have lunch with him to discuss various topics. Although I could only ask a few teachers to write recommendations for me, I had a pretty good relationship with pretty much all of my teachers.


The general theme of my essays was my unwavering passions for music and science, and my ability to reconcile the two fields. I tried to show many different perspectives of my musical and scientific interests in my essays.


I think my letter of recommendations combined with my high academic success and unique narrative in my essays made a strong applicant. I think I stood out because I was able to show my very real desire to learn and expand upon my passions and make an impact on the world.


Don’t make high school about getting into college. Focus on developing your passions and finding your identity. That will subsequently make you a more unique applicant, and give your essays more authenticity.


Don’t make high school about getting into college. Focus on developing your passions and finding your identity. That will subsequently make you a more unique applicant, and give your essays more authenticity.


I chose Stanford because it has an extremely strong engineering program with amazing financial aid. It also has the ideal environment for me, in that it has a diverse range of people from different backgrounds and interests, and I feel that it will harbor a very inviting environment for me to grow and find myself in the next four years.

#Stanford #first_generation #low_income

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