• Nora Sun

Tags: UPenn, low income, first generation

Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Study: Major of mechanical engineering

High School Experience

I think overall my high school experience was pretty great. I had amazing teachers and mentors, and my school was also very diverse (2nd most diverse school in VA!). One thing I didn't like was PE class, because everyone there took it too seriously.

Course choices

I was a big STEM enthusiast throughout high school, so I took classes around that, like engineering, AP chemistry and Physics, calculus, and I did my year long senior project about STEM.


I took a lot of AP's in high school. I took AP world history and got a 4 on the exam, AP European history and got a 4, AP Spanish Language & Culture as well as Spanish Literature and Culture and got 5 on both. AP Chemistry and got a 5, AP English Language and got a 5. This year I took AP Physics C Mechanics and E&M, AP economics (Macro and Micro), AP calculus BC, and AP government. I don't have the scores for those tests but I think I did well.


4.1 weighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1410

ACT: 34

SAT Chemistry: 740

SAT Math 2: 680


I also focused my extracurriculars around STEM. I was in the STEM club for all my 4 years of high school and was club president in junior year. I also did VEX robotics club for all 4 years and was a team captain since sophomore year. Those were my main focus, but I also did Red Cross Club on the side. As far as honor societies go, I was part of NHS and Spanish Honor Society, and I was president of SHS this year.


I consider the teachers who wrote my letters of recommendation to be very close. They've both said that they consider me to be one of the best students they've ever taught in their years of teaching. I can always rely on them if I need help with anything, school related or not. I help them out too many times, sometimes helping them set up lab equipment for their classes or coming in to speak on back-to-school night.


My essays deal mainly with my story as an immigrant. I am originally from Mexico, but my family and I have moved around a lot, from Canada, Mexico, and finally here in the US. It wasn't always easy being able to find work or pay the rent, but we've all worked hard and found our footing. As my parents do a lot of hard work to put food on the table and to keep a roof over our heads, the most I could do in return was to work hard in school, and that is exactly what I've been doing to pay them back for everything they've done for me.


I think my essays and interview are what made me a strong applicant. That is where I was able to give my application personality and a closer look into who I am. My interview went extraordinarily well and I think I made a strong impression on my interviewer. I worked really hard on my essays too, and I got as much help as I could.


One piece of advice I could give you that I didn't necessarily follow the first time is to not stress about SAT/ACT scores. A lot of people like to compare their scores to the average scores found on the college's website, and for some reason they fixate on those numbers, and stress out that their score is too low and that their chances of getting in have decreased. There is so much more to an application than your scores. Of course, it gives application readers a bit of a general idea of the applicant's academic abilities, so you still want to do well on those tests, but if it's not higher than the average, don't worry! Focus on the more personal aspects of the application and show your best self in them.


I am a first generation student, as well as a non US citizen, and I come from a lower income group, which I think affected my application in a good way.


I applied to UPenn through Questbridge, which is this program you apply to, and you rank up to 12 of their partner schools you want to attend, and if you get "matched" with one of those schools, you get accepted with a full ride scholarship! I ranked UPenn as my 5th choice, with MIT being my first. I thought UPenn was a good option for me, since it's close to home, has a great engineering program, and I saw myself going there. I luckily got accepted and will go with a full ride.

#UPenn #first_generation #low_income

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