• Nora Sun

Tags: UC Berkeley

Institution: University of California Berkeley

Study: Major in microbial biology

High School Experience

I never felt encouraged to pursue advanced course work at my high school. My parents insisted my siblings and I all take the most difficult classes we can, including honors and AP pathways. Whenever I talked to my counselors, they seemed to want to direct me to take easier classes and not “push myself” so hard. They seemed reluctant to support my academic ambition and confused that I would want to push myself academically. Every time I pushed to be allowed into a particular class or follow an advanced path, the answers were ‘are you sure?’ and ‘don’t push yourself too hard.’ If I hadn’t been set on my own academic desire, the discouragement would have been damaging to my pursuits.

Course choices

In high school, my academic interests were environmental science, biology, english, writing, chemistry, and astronomy. I took as many science and environmental science classes as I could in high school and at the local community college. I also knew that to study biology in college, I would need good grades, so I took as many honors and AP classes as I could.


I took Honors English in freshman and sophomore year. I took Honors Biology, Spanish 3 Honors, and AP Human Geography (5 on the AP test) in sophomore year. In junior year I took Honors Chemistry, Advanced Journalism, Honors Math 3, AP English 11 (got a 5), and AP Spanish 4 (I got a 4). In senior year, I took AP English 11, AP Calculus, and Advanced Journalism (scores still pending).


4.17 weighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1320

ACT: 29


I volunteered throughout high school at Bouverie Wildflower Preserve working on stewardship projects and educating the community on the California ecosystems. At Bouverie I designed and conducted some of these stewardship projects including the Invasive Crayfish Eradication project. I was also Editor-in-Chief of my school newspaper. I volunteered for several years for the Presidio Trust in San Francisco. I was a lead member of the Sonoma County Junior Commission on Human Rights and through that I started several projects concerning racial inequalities and injustices in public schools, I organized several large, countywide marches, and addressed many civil rights issues in the county. I co-founded the Sonoma County chapter of the Sunrise Movement. I ran cross country and track and was hired to write free-lance articles on climate justice for local publications and online blogs.


The teachers who wrote my letters of recommendation were my Honors Chem teacher and my AP English 11 teacher/my journalism mentor. I was close to both of them and I considered them mentors. I would often discuss not only academics with them, but have conversations on a variety of topics.


I tried to make my essays personal narratives, or stories, so that I would engage the reader and express myself well. I wrote not only about my achievements, but about my personal journey and experiences.


I think a strong applicant is one who is clearly well-rounded and passionate about their preferred fields of interest. Test scores are important, but not as important as a clear expression of your interests, a commitment to academics, and a clear line of interests. A good candidate clearly stayed with at least one interest, is a hard worker, and can express themself well in their essays.


I suppose to get to where I am, people should find something that they are truly passionate about and pursue it. Everyone needs something that they are passionate about, something that holds their interest and inspires them. Beyond that, applicants should work hard and recognize their own worth. Colleges want you to brag about yourself, don’t be afraid to build yourself up and recognize your own achievements.



Aside from being an excellent university, Berkeley is very close to my home and the tuition is manageable for my family. I am the third of four children to go to college so it would have been impossible for me to attend a private university without a scholarship. I also believe that the community at UC Berkeley will offer me the perfect opportunity to become more deeply involved with social justice and climate justice work.


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