• Nora Sun

Tags: MIT, low income

Institution: MIT

Study: Major in computer science, economics, and data science

High School Experience

I liked the “quintessential” moments, like football games, prom, homecoming, etc., probably because I lived in Hong Kong when I was younger, so these “American high school™” events always seemed fascinating to me. I loved the friends I made. Even if it’ll be difficult to stay in touch once we go to college, I’m grateful to them for helping to make me the person I am today and just helping me to survive high school. As for dislikes: the terrible cafeteria food, waking up way too early, and CollegeBoard dictating my entire life


AP Human Geography: 5

AP Psychology: 5

AP Statistics: 5

AP Literature and Composition: 5

AP Calculus AB: 5

AP Calculus BC: 5

AP Chemistry: 4

AP Physics A: 4

AP Biology: unknown

AP Language: unknown

AP Microeconomics: unknown

AP Macroeconomics: unknown


4.95 weighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1570

ACT: 35

SAT Math 2: 800

SAT Chemistry: 740

SAT Molecular Biology: 740



Speech and Debate: 4 yrs, president

Math Bowl: 4 yrs, president

FBLA: 4 yrs, class president

Science Bowl: 2 yrs, captain

Community Service

NHS, Science NHS

Girls’ Cabinet: 3 yrs, Vice President

Girl Up: 3 yrs, President and Founder

Both are social-justice oriented clubs, so both focus on awareness and volunteering for marginalized groups and societal issues. For example, we did a campaign on human trafficking and another on domestic violence. However, I founded Girl Up (and here’s the difference between the two) so students who don’t identify as female can also join, as early as freshman year (the other club is female-only, sophomores and above)


School Honors Orchestra: 2 years, Concertmaster

Cross Country: 3 yrs, varsity

Track: 2 yrs, varsity

Tennis: 1 yr, varsity


Girls’ State

SSP (Summer Science Program)- 5.5 weeks of research over the summer, 2019


I chose teachers who I was really close to, both from class and from working with them in extracurriculars. It was mainly STEM teachers, in accordance with my intended major. These were all teachers who I felt had helped me grow academically and as a person. And speaking of being “close” to them, I actually lived on the same street as my AP Chemistry teacher, though I didn’t realize that until later.


I wrote each essay about a different experience, but I hoped that overall, they would reflect the diversity of my identity, personal history, and the communities that had shaped me. I wrote about everything from activism and inequality to collecting the stickers from Cuties mandarin oranges as a child. It wasn’t so much of a common theme as a common tone; I just tried to let my personality reflect, though I amped up the quirkiness slightly so the admissions officers wouldn’t get bored.


I believe the challenges I’ve faced made me a strong applicant. Not all of them were unique, but I was able to find my own angle on how each instance of adversity was personally impactful. I also think it was the “quirkiness” of my essays that won some colleges over. For example, I wrote about Guy Fieri, spicy noodles, and oranges. As for advice to others, leading up to college applications: pick activities and classes because you’re genuinely interested in them, not because you feel like they’d look good on an application. Do something productive with your summer, whether it’s work or something like research.


When you actually apply to colleges, just be yourself. Don’t try and sound overly academic (obviously don’t use 3-letter words, but just write conversationally). Be humorous only if you’re funny and it’s appropriate to the topic. Get to know your colleges as much as they get to know you, from their websites, college visits, and current students; they want to see why you’re a good fit, not just a good student.


Well, situation-wise, I come from a very underfunded school district in a low-income town. My scores and extracurriculars may not have been top tier, but I only got as far as I did through self-driven work outside of school. Also, I tied them into my interest in social change, so colleges were really able to see how deeply they’d impacted me. (Just for context, my school literally had asbestos in the ceiling, and it’s going to be shut down in a few years because it’s falling apart.) Also, I’m a woman of color, and though some say that being Asian-American is disadvantageous in college admissions, I felt that by focusing my essays on the unique challenges I faced because of my identity, and the unique way I had experienced being Asian-American, it ended up working in my favor. I had a unique experience with my culture because I was born in the US, raised in Hong Kong, and lived in a Latinx-majority community. I didn’t really fit in anywhere: too whitewashed in HK and China, too Chinese for my Latinx town and for the US. I didn’t complain, though. Instead, I wrote about how I used these challenges to learn to find common ground while learning to appreciate our differences.


#MIT #low_income

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