• Nora Sun

Tags: UPenn

Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Study: Major in nursing, minor in global health

High School Experience

I am a first-gen low-income student who attended an urban public school. In that sense, I have never had any real advantage above others or benefits throughout my schooling experience so far. I would say most of my education was very structured and rigid but when it came to supplemental experiences outside of school, I had to be more resourceful and self-sufficient as my school could not offer me much. I liked many of my teachers who were very encouraging and supportive of me. I liked all of the opportunities for me to create change in my community just by being more proactive than others. I did not like the overly competitive nature of the students at the top rank of my class as that often made the environment very toxic. I also did not like the feeling of being ignored and underestimated by my community despite all of my work for it.

Course choices

I always knew I wanted to pursue something in the medical field so from my freshman year I worked to plan a four year schedule that would allow me to take AP Biology and other STEM courses like Calculus AB and BC and Statistics. Had I had more space in my scheduling, I would have liked to take AP Chemistry as well.


I took AP Statistics and AP Seminar sophomore year, AP Calculus AB and AP Biology junior year, and AP Calculus BC, AP Spanish Language and Culture, and AP English Language and Composition in my senior year for a total of 7 courses. With the exception of the senior year classes which are not out yet, I have gotten 4s on all of my AP exams.


4.39 weighted

Standardized Testing

My SAT superscore was a 1420 after taking the exam three times, twice alone and once during a school exam day. I took the Literature, Biology, and Spanish SAT subject tests, but found that I was very unprepared for them and did not score well enough to feel confident sending the scores to any school that did not require them, so that is what I did.


My extracurricular interests were either STEM or social activism oriented with multiple leadership titles. I was captain of my school science team, a varsity tennis player, secretary and vice president of my class student council, executive board member of my school student senate, and a member of the statewide leadership team of the 84 Movement, an anti-tobacco youth-led organization in Massachusetts. I was also a member of the Muslim Student Association, Mock Trial Team, Power of Know Club, and Youth Health Leadership Council. I founded my own global outreach project called “Two Countries, One Cause” that raised money in the US to buy high quality sensory toys and tools for autistic children in Morocco. I ran this project for all 4 years of high school. With the exception of the mock trial team, Youth Health Leadership Council, and 84 Movement, I was a member of these extracurriculars for all 4 years. I always tried to get involved early and stay involved as this is the best way to make useful connections and gain opportunities to make a difference by showing commitment.


My main recommendation was written by my AP Biology teacher. I was very intimidated by the class and struggled in it the most out of any class. It is the lowest grade on my transcript and my first C. However, I chose him and still stand by the decision because as a result of my hardship in his class, he knew best how persistent I am as a student and how despite being shy and intimidated, I was determined to stay after often and put in the extra work to succeed even if I fell short. My other recommendation was written by a teacher who taught me pre-AP US History II. While she only taught me for approximately 3 weeks before leaving on pregnancy leave, I got to know her more as a mock trial member and as a writer center coach for her students. She was a teacher that had seen me at work in many different circumstances and scenarios and probably had one of the best ideas of who I am as a student. I was very close with this teacher and still talk to her as a friend and will for years to come.


I did not follow a theme on purpose, but it may have come across that way at times because a lot of my experiences and involvements revolve around the same themes of activism and STEM. My main college essay was about my experience with my global outreach project and the challenges I faced in trying to create and run it through a low-income community without a lot of support. A few other topics I can remember is the impact of a summer hospital volunteer program and a dual enrollment class on my major/career choice decisions as well as my leadership experience as a writing coach.


I think I was a strong applicant because I showed my clear passion for global and public health. It was clear through my application that healthcare and justice were my passions and I would not settle for a future without that. I showed a strong, solid character and made it clear that I would work hard to make the best of an education that would have to be near fully funded for me to consider attending with my financial situation.


My advice to others would be to not be scared and intimidated by what everyone around you is doing. None of my friends were involved in more than two of the same things as me. Go out of your way to research new and unique opportunities for yourself that not everyone around you is doing. This will make you stand out against students at your school and show that your resourcefulness sets you apart from many other students in the country.




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