• Nora Sun

Tags: Yale

Institution: Yale University

Study: Major in molecular biophysics and biochemistry

High School Experience

Overall I enjoyed high school. I struggled a bit my freshman year (hung out with not the best people). My sophomore year I joined some clubs that interested me and this is where I met my closest friends. Finding a supportive environment is what makes high school fun. I’d therefore have to say the people are what I liked most. I went to a public high school that is largely considered a “model school for diversity.” One thing that I didn’t like about my school was that despite the school being diverse, the top classes were far from diverse.

Course choices

I’ve always loved science and this seriously influenced the classes that I took. My freshman year I successfully transferred over a year of honors chemistry credit onto my transcript, which allowed me to take honors physics my sophomore year. (I took honors biology my freshman year.) My junior year I took AP Chemistry. My senior year I took AP Biology and IRDI (Investigative Research, Design, and Innovation). IRDI is a class unique to my school that essentially provides the space and resources for juniors and seniors to do their own scientific research. IRDI was the hardest but most rewarding class that I took, especially since I am interested in research as a potential career.


I transferred over a year of AP Psychology onto my transcript sophomore year. I took this exam and got a 5. My junior year I took APUSH (5), AP Chemistry (4), AP Lang (4), and AP Spanish Lang (4*). The speaking portion of my spanish exam was lost so only part of it was able to be scored, hence the star. My senior year I took AP Calc BC (didn’t take the exam), AP Gov (didn’t take the exam), AP Lit (didn’t take the exam), and AP Bio (still waiting on the score). I didn’t take some exams my senior year for a variety of reasons. Some of the subjects I wasn’t interested in. In the case of English Lit, I had already taken an AP English exam. I was originally planning to take the AP Calc BC exam but refunded it after I found out about the online format. However, it’s important to note that my university doesn’t take AP credit.


3.9 unweighted

Standardized Testing

I took the ACT once and got a cumulative score of 36. I took the SAT as required by my school but I didn’t report this score to my colleges. I did take SAT subject tests. They did not go well. The ACT is a lot easier for me than the SAT. I recommend everyone take the ACT and SAT to see which one they find more intuitive.


I’ve been playing flute for a large part of my life (10+ years?). In high school I participated heavily in circular ensembles (4 years). I was principal of my section in the top band and orchestra for several years. This largely consisted of assigning parts and running sectionals. Outside of school I also played in some youth orchestras and chamber groups. I ran a flute trio that performed locally. I also did several auditions in the Chicago area with various results. I attended district for two years and my senior year I went to state for flute where I was principal of the honors state band. I also had an internship in a molecular biology lab at Northwestern University the summer before my senior year. Some other activities that I did were the marching band (3 years) and Science Olympiad (2 years) at my school. These last two were mostly for fun as the majority of what I did for flute was very time and labor intensive.


My AP Chemistry teacher wrote my first letter of recommendation. AP Chemistry was the first really difficult class that I took in high school. I went in to see my teacher for help at lunch a lot and I also really enjoyed the class. My band director wrote my second letter of recommendation for me. As I mentioned, I was heavily involved in the band and participated all four years. This teacher had seen me grow up and mentored me pretty much my entire high school career. My counselor also wrote a letter of recommendation. I had a close relationship with my counselor because I brought in several transfer credits, took certain classes online (Health, Financial Aid, and Cooking), and was in his office a lot more than your typical student for various reasons. I applied to my university Single Choice Early Action and they actually ended up requesting that I send an additional letter of recommendation. My IRDI teacher ended up writing this letter describing a bit about my research. The IRDI class was very small so I really got to know her. My band director, IRDI teacher, and counselor were the 3 adults who I really connected with at high school.


My Common App Essay was about my relationship with music. I talked about how music taught me how to creatively problem solve, express myself, and connect with others. With the UC School system two of my essays were about music and two were about STEM. Each of the schools that I applied to had different supplements but I generally tried to focus my supplements on STEM since my Common App Essay was already about music. (I’m planning on majoring in STEM).


I’m passionate about what I love and I think my activities, accomplishments, and interests reflect this. I’ve heard people say that you should be “well-rounded.” I honestly have no idea what they mean by that. If you love doing something, keep doing it. Don’t take time away from it to do something else that you don’t enjoy for the sake of being “well-rounded.”


Set goals. Be passionate about what you do and try and excel. Study for the SAT/ACT but don’t let it consume your life. (I printed old ACT tests and focused on sections where I was weak.) You do not need a 4.0! Please, please, please take difficult classes for the sake of learning something new even if it means you may not get an “A.” Don’t apply to 20+ schools, I don’t care what all those college decision reaction videos on YouTube tell you (I did 12 and looking back over my essays, I may have had better essays if I applied to fewer schools).


I submitted a music supplement (recording) to the majority of my schools.


Yale was my first choice. I applied Single Choice Early Action, was deferred, and then made it in Regular Decision. There were many reasons I chose Yale. Yale has so many resources and opportunities for STEM research. I remember looking at their website and seeing all these STEM grants available (that you could apply for as early as your freshman year) and immediately wanting to brainstorm a new project immediately. Yale is also amazing academically in all areas, which is very important to me because I want a liberal arts education. Yale has this website called Yale Open Course where you can watch some old lectures for free and I really clicked with the teaching style of the professors in these videos. Finally, this is going to sound cheesy but when I visited campus my sophomore I just had this certain feeling. It’s hard to describe but I remember wandering around campus and seeing myself within it. I could see myself studying in the library, walking on Old Campus, and working in the new chemistry labs. Also the people (another basic answer, I know).


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