• Nora Sun

Tags: Stanford

Institution: Stanford University

Study: Major in biology and sociology, minor in music

High School Experience

I went to a moderately-competitive public high school in a suburban town, where the racial demographic consisted of ~2/3 Caucasian and ~1/3 Asian. It was pretty much a school straight out of a high school movie; there were definitely theatrical elements of fakeness and academic tension, combined with the "plat brat" and flex culture lifestyle of an affluent community. I very much enjoyed the variety of student groups and academic opportunities. I did personally have a bit of a struggle socially, especially during my underclassmen years; this was mainly due to personal and familial stresses, however.

Course choices

I was very involved in music before and throughout high school, so every year I had an orchestral elective course. I also knew that I intended to study medicine in my postsecondary education. My course choices were somewhat limited by the IB curriculum offered at my high school.


I am a full IB Diploma student, though as of right now I don't have scores for four of my exams yet. During my junior year, I scored a 6 in IB Music SL Group Performance and a 7 in Spanish SL. Next month, I will get my exam scores for English HL, History HL, Math HL, and Bio HL. I also self-studied a couple of AP courses and took the tests at another school in my district; I got a 5 in AP Euro my sophomore year, and 5s in Calc AB, Bio, and APUSH my junior year.


Straight As

Standardized Testing

ACT: 36; essay 11

SAT: 1600

SAT Math 2: 800

SAT Spanish: 800

SAT Literature: 780


I was a competitive solo pianist for 14 years; for my arts supplement, I had to submit videos of me playing as well as my resume, where I listed all of the awards, scholarships, and degrees I had earned. I was also an orchestral violinist for 6 years, in the district honors orchestra with two varsity letters. I was a former historian and Vice President of my school's HOSA chapter, and I also had six state champions and two international titles over the course of the past four years. I was in the Red Cross Club for three years, and eventually became the president, and was also a team member at Empire Mock Trial. My junior/senior year, I was in some miscellaneous leadership groups at School such as NHS, IB Buddies, and Link Crew. Beyond school, I was a hospital volunteer for two years, a city hall intern for 6 years, a city symphony volunteer for 6 years, and an e-commerce store founder for 2 years. I dabbled in painting for about two years, but my only tangible accomplishment was a display in a local art museum.


I generally had two teacher recommenders (and one extra for Harvard). My IB Bio 1 teacher and I were not particularly close, but I stood out academically in her class; to be honest, she was not a popular teacher either, so fewer students asked her to write a letter (possibly allowing her more time to focus on mine? I'm not sure). Her sister also went to Stanford, though I found this out later. My Honors 10 English and IB English HL teacher and I have had an amazing relationship for the past three years; she and I have connected through personal lives, common interests, academic styles, and more. She is my favorite teacher by far. For other recommenders, I had my piano teacher (VERY close relationship, considering I also wrote an essay dedicated to her), my HOSA advisor (somewhat-close), and my Red Cross advisor (not extremely close, but she is very kind).


For Stanford, my personal statement was about Disneyland. It's kind of hard to explain, but it tied together all of the facets of my identity. The rest of the prompts weren't necessarily tied together in theme, but more so writing style; however, I did mention my medical ambitions and couple of times, as well as my humanitarian work. For other colleges, I had a slightly more serious tone and emphasized my artistic and musical work.


I showed a non-cliche sense of authenticity in my essays, and it was clear that although I had a determination in my occupational aspirations, I also had an engaged interest in other disciplines. My state's admission officer wrote on my acceptance letter (we get a personalized note about a month after acceptance) that he was particularly impressed by my youthful curiosity combined by the understated maturity of my talents and articulation. He also told me that my response to the "What do you read/listen/watch in your free time" prompt was one of the most attention-grabbing ones he had read in a while.


My biggest advice would be to focus on a particular interest/skill/activity that you either really excel in or have had long-term commitment to. That can create a compelling narrative in your application, and I know that Stanford in particular loves the lyrically and story-telling aspect of the written answers. This is not a fact, but from my experience, Stanford's application almost encouraged some sort of rhetorical unconventionality, as opposed to the more-direct nature of Harvard and Yale. I also made the dumb mistake of caring too much about the objective statistics of my application; as long as you have good-enough grades and scores, you will be competitive enough for any top university. Don't stress out over, say, a 1530 vs a 1590.



My parents were adamant that I stay on the West Coast, and as the ultimate source of my higher education, I valued that partiality. The East Coast schools I contemplated did not have any particular edge over Stanford, especially not in a social sense; my Stanford classmates are some of the most intellectual, sassy, generous, and funny people I have ever met.


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