• Nora Sun

Tags: UC Berkeley, low income

Institution: University of California Berkeley

Study: Major in molecular and cell biology and theater

High School Experience

I went to a public charter high school that places an equal emphasis on rigorous academics and music education. It is located on a state university campus. At times, I felt intimidated by the talented, intellectual, accomplished students, so I in turn became overly-hard on my perfectionist self. However, I learned to channel that energy into self-improvement. I feel that in efforts to reach my greatest potential both artistically and academically, I would not be able to do so at any other high school. Overall, the student body at my high school was so kind, and I have made some wonderful lifelong friends I would not trade for the world.

Course choices

I was very STEM-oriented and artistically driven in music and drama. I had the ability to take actual science college courses since my high school is on a university campus. I also took all of the AP classes possible to take at my school, and placed into the highest-level drama and choral classes.


I took 8 AP courses in total. During my junior year, I took AP U.S. History, AP Music Theory, and AP English Language and Composition, and scored a 4, 4, and 5, on the respective AP exams. During my senior year, I took AP Calculus AB, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics, and AP Statistics, and am waiting for my AP scores.


4.0 unweighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1520

ACT: 35

SAT Math 2: 780

SAT US History: 800

SAT Biology E: 800


I was in Advanced Drama all four years of high school. During my first two years, I was involved in a community theater that has trained Broadway stars, including six-time Tony Award winner, Audra McDonald. In Sophomore year, I played the titular role in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and that was probably the most monumental moment in my high school experience. Over the next few years, I also was involved in Our Town, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and The Laramie Project. With my Drama department, I attended various theater festivals, having won awards, including Superior Actress in a Monologue. In Junior year, I became the head choreographer for our Show Choir, choreographing the dances we perform at our all-school annual production extravaganza. Since my Freshman year, I have always been a soloist in every single choir concert. In Junior year, my Chamber Choir sang on the radio, and my choir teacher asked me to sing a solo, “What I Did for Love.” Since Junior year, I have proven a leader on my campus as a Peer Mentor—which requires an application and interview process. I assist the new Freshmen as they transition into high school. I have also served as an officer for the Pre-Med/Red Cross Club. As a Junior, I was Secretary, and as a Senior, I was Vice President. Since Junior year, I have also been a Teaching Assistant for Physics and a Student Tutor at the Academic Support Center. During Senior year, I was the Associated Student Body Senior Class Secretary. For Changemakers Day, I was a leader, who helped open up conversations for students in the Senior class to be vulnerable with and trust one another. I have taken an active part in my community outside of school. Since Freshman year, I have been the Artistic Director, Choreographer, and Vocal Coach at my church’s summer Bible Camp. Since then as well, I have volunteered with the Tzu Chi Foundation, the Central California Food Bank, Fleet Feet, and Catholic Charities. As a Junior, I was the Speaker/Seminar Coordinator for Girls World Expo, an event promoting female empowerment. In networking this expo, I had the opportunity to speak on the news. Two years ago, I paired up with a few of my friends to create Little Virtuosos—a non-profit dedicated to bringing joy to underserved communities through music performance, as well as educating them on the positive effects music has on mental health. During my Senior year, I was also scouted to host my own Solo Cabaret at a local restaurant, where I sang a repertoire of songs for two hours, while guests dined and enjoyed their food.


I was pretty close to the teachers I asked to write my recommendations. I wanted to ask one STEM and one Humanities teacher, so I asked my Sophomore Chemistry (who I had also worked with on Science Fair Junior year) and my AP Comp teacher. My counselor also wrote me a letter of recommendation, and I have visited her office many times before, so she knew me well prior.


I really tuned in on how I’m interested in both STEM and the performing arts, how Broadway and film/TV are my ultimate dream, but I may end up to be a Dermatologist and create a hypo-allergenic stage makeup line.


I think my passion for the extracurriculars I took part in really shone through my personal statements. Those activities really defined my high school experience and propelled me to grow in ways I would not have otherwise. I may have strong stats as well, but I think those essays really showcased me as a dynamic, driven human being, and made an impact on the admissions officers reviewing my application.


Work hard to be in competition with your past self. Don’t compare yourself to others because you are on your own individual journey. If you put in the time and effort into your academics and things you love, all of that will lead you to where you ultimately belong. Your personal statements are the only component of the application you really have full control over, so be brave in telling your narrative, be transparent. The admissions officers will remember you for your character and essential being, rather than your statistics.


I am lower-income from a disabled single parent household, so I was not given the same opportunities like SAT/ACT prep that my peers were.


I chose this university because it is filled with so many crazy intelligent beings, who really want to make lasting change in the world. I love to be in an environment that challenges me because that is how I most grow. This university has some of the strongest faculty in the nation, who literally write the textbooks used in their courses. I know I will be able to fully reap the benefits of education at this institution, surrounded by a plethora of like-minded individuals who are doing just the same.

#UC_Berkeley #low_income

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