Institution: University of California Los Angeles
Study: Major in neuroscience
High School Experience
I feel like my freshman and sophomore years I kind of had the attitude that I was above it all and I just wanted to get out as soon as possible, but as I got more involved with my classmates and went to dances and games my junior and senior years I had a much better time and I’m really sad to see it go. However I do think my school had a much greater emphasis on sports than the arts on campus which I didn’t like. I also come from a semi-rural community so naturally my high school was pretty small, which I wasn’t a huge fan of because the smaller student body definitely meant fewer extracurriculars I had interest in, which is also in part due to the greater focus on sports that I mentioned before. I think generally it was a positive experience, though.
I did full IB, so I took IB HL chemistry, English, and history of the Americas for two years each, and then also took theory of knowledge and IB SL Spanish, mathematics, and art. I also took AP environmental science this year because I had an extra elective slot, and took AP English Language and AP European History my sophomore year before I could start IB. I got a B in honors Spanish once my freshman year because I tested into a higher level and was terrified to speak with all the upperclassmen in the room so my teacher dropped my grade for not speaking, and that’s the lowest grade I remember getting.
I’ve had all A’s since first semester junior year (probably going to be an A- or B or two after this semester though because quarantine killed my motivation for a while).
SAT Try 1: 1410
SAT Try 2: 1440
SAT Math 2: 660
SAT Chemistry: 780
I had recommendations from my math teacher (who I spent a lot of time with outside of class getting strategies on how to effectively tutor my peers, so I had a pretty close relationship with her), my chemistry teacher, and my history/TOK teacher. The latter two weren’t quite as close relationship-wise but I had them for three years each so I knew they knew me well enough to write effective letters!
I’ll be honest and say I don’t 100% remember every topic I wrote about, but I know my Common App essay was about growing in the same household as my aunt who was developmentally delayed, how I handled her death, and how I view death now. I think I also dedicated one of my UC essays to writing about her, and one of the other UC essays was definitely about my experience tutoring. I think I had another UC essay about learning to be more self-reliant in my learning process and developing my interest in philosophy outside of class, but I don’t completely remember if that made the cut or not.
I’ve spent a lot of time working on my writing skills over the last four years both in and out of class and I feel like that helped me a lot. The essays are the most personal touch application readers get unless you apply to a school that does an interview process or a video portfolio type thing, so I put a lot of time into making my essays not only polished but unique to my experience— which makes it more embarrassing that I don’t remember what all of them were about! I recommend reading your essay over or contemplating your essay idea and seeing if it would also apply to a great deal of other people, and if it does I would scrap it unless you have a really unique viewpoint on, say, winning the big soccer game. If you’ve put the work into being a competitive applicant, all that’s left to do is make yourself stand out. Unique extracurriculars or a large volume of extracurriculars seems to have helped for some other people who were admitted for my class at UCLA, but I did fine without.