• Nora Sun

Tags: Duke

Institution: Duke University

Study: Major in statistics

High School Experience

My high school experience was transformative. I think those four years were truly a coming of age for me, and the community I found myself surrounded by allowed me to grow into the person I always wanted to be. acted like it was a good thing and being a person of color in the IB program that was really hard for me.

Course choices

I was always interested in pursuing mathematics. Therefore, I took advantage of every math course my school offered. After taking AP Statistics I refined my mathematical interests more to specify working with data. My interest in politics and other humanities courses propelled me to take Debate, Comparative Government, US Government, and Psychology as well.


I took AP Human Geo (5), AP Psych (5), AP Stat (5), AP World History (4), AP US History (5), AP English Language (5), AP Calc AB (5), AP Environmental (5), AP Micro (5), AP Comparative Government (5), AP Macro (awaiting), AP Physics C Mechanics (awaiting), AP Calc BC (awaiting), AP US Government (awaiting), and AP English Literature (awaiting).


4.0 unweighted

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1560

SAT Math 2: 800

SAT US History: 750


My biggest extracurricular activity was Speech & Debate, which I pursued all four years and achieved national awards from. I was President of the Debate team my senior year and Secretary my junior year. I also pursued a Data Analysis Internship with my local Boys & Girls Club in the summer before my senior year, and I continue to work with them today. I was an ambassador for my school’s Advanced Placement Program for 2 years, I was vice president of my school’s Holistic Health club for 2 years, I was in my school’s Math Honor Society for 3 years and was vice president my senior year, and I was in NHS for 3 years. I see my extracurricular activities as relatively normal for a high school student, and I think I serve as an example that you do not have to accomplish something groundbreaking or spread yourself thin to be an impressive student in the eyes of college admission officers and beyond.


For my recommendation letters, I chose teachers that 1) matched my intended field of study and 2) that I felt I had the closest relationship with. This led to perhaps some unconventional decisions — for example, I got a recommendation letter from my Debate teacher. This wasn’t an academic course, but I had travelled the country with this teacher in competitions and he knew me more than any other academic instructor I’ve ever had. As a result, an authentic and heartfelt letter was produced that I fortunately was able to read myself as I needed a hard copy version for scholarship applications.


I honestly feel like I didn’t have a theme to my essays. My interests in high school were always a bit disjointed and all over the place, so I wasn’t exactly the most cohesive applicant. With that being said, my interest in numbers was a big focal point, as well as my experience in Debate. I also tried to express my personality as much as possible, so I wrote supplements about my character development throughout high school, my experiences within a big family, and my coming to terms with my sexuality.


I think that my across-the-board-solid academic performance and my authentic essays made me a strong applicant. I knew I had the stats to get through the door, so from there I know it had to be my writing that separated me from the rest. Fortunately, I received a scholarship my junior year that not only offered monetary assistance, but also helped with essay revision. I definitely would advise incoming applicants to look for opportunities like these, especially those who might not be able to afford full-time college counseling like myself. My general essay advice is just to not come off too forced; write like you’re casually speaking to someone and not like you’re trying to impress someone.


Be involved. Be the kid who joins the clubs, the kid who shows up fifteen times in the yearbook, the kid that others will remember at your 20 year high school reunion. Especially at a school like mine with 500 seniors, it’s important to make a name for yourself. Colleges will recognize your efforts to be a dedicated student, but more importantly, you yourself will be so much happier when you are actively participating in your school culture.


Probably not, again I was a very standard applicant by these means! One of my parents is a college graduate and I am a white middle-class kid coming from the suburbs.


Not being able to visit during COVID-19, I chose Duke solely because of the community I perceived through online events. By joining GroupMe and Facebook chats, attending live webinars, and taking virtual tours, I was able to make genuine connections with my fellow admitted students. I truly felt like I fit in with the group of students admitted to Duke and knew I would thrive there.


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