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Daniel - Yale University - Class of 2013

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Speak to students who have been admitted to the college of your choice. Ask them what they included on their applications that they thought helped them stand out.

GPA and SAT scores help your application stand out, but nothing helps you stand out more than community service and club involvement. I was very active in high school. I served as class president, junior senator, and a board member for a foundation. However, it's not all about being a leader. I also volunteered many hours as an aide at a local hospital.

Hometown: Miramar FL

High School: Public

GPA: 3.98 / 5.27 (weighted)

SAT: 2280

ACT: 33

Major: Political science

Goal: Be politically active, make lifelong friends, study abroad, and try new things

College

Status

Yale University Attending
Harvard College Accepted
Princeton University Accepted
University of Florida Accepted
University of NC Chapel Hill Accepted
Freshman Year Update

The beginning of freshman year took some adjustment, but I have learned how to better manage my time and keep up with the college workload. Before college, I was set on studying political science and going into public service. I am now considering studying economics and going into the private sector, or studying music and working in the music industry. The beauty of a liberal arts college like Yale is that I have a good amount of time to explore different subjects and develop an interest or disinterest in them before deciding.

The best advice I could probably give for next year's class is to be open-minded about majors and career options. I am surprised at how my goals have changed since the beginning of my freshman year.

Going for the Ivies

Many years ago I decided to become a lawyer because I love to debate and want to see my work benefit people. I made it a goal to get into a top-notch school that would help me get into a top law school. I also wanted great opportunities for students, such as large grants for traveling abroad. I focused on schools on the East Coast and near cities. I love the history, museums, tourist attractions, arts, and politics of big cities.

I felt a small college would feel more intimate and have a larger feeling of community. Specifically, I really liked the residential college systems of Yale and Harvard, where students are assigned to the housing they will live in throughout their college years. I feel that this really creates a strong sense of community among students, and is like your sort-of family while you are in college.

I had no favorites before getting my acceptances. I based my decision on attending pre-frosh sessions at Princeton, Yale, and Harvard back-to-back in April. Despite some rain, Yale seemed to have the most vibrant social vibe. Being a social person, it was exactly what I was looking for. I was also impressed with the political atmosphere at Yale. Students are passionate about political issues and love to debate. So in the end, my decision came down to the social and political scenes. I felt all three colleges were pretty even academically speaking.

Making my application stand out

I think it is essential to make yourself SHINE on your college application. So I did not forget even the smallest details of my life that made me the person I am today. For example, I mentioned awards I won in elementary school and middle school. I also touched upon my family history (I am a first-generation American). In my essays, I did not focus on my academic life, but on my extracurricular experiences. One anecdote I used on my application was an encounter I had with local elementary school students as a member of a science club. As I burned magnesium and made it react with hydrochloric acid, I saw how fascinated the students were. It inspired them, at least a bit, to be interested in science—an achievement I was quite pleased with.

My ups and downs

The most difficult part of the process was writing and re-writing essays only to discover that I was not really revealing much about me. In the end, I wrote about an experience at a youth leadership conference about history and politics. After that experience, I realized that tons of students care about the direction our nation is headed. That conference really inspired me to go for my goals.

It was very rewarding to see my hard work in high school pay off. AP classes in government and politics were perfect for me. They improved my GPA and covered subjects that I love. However, these classes were very difficult and I stayed up late many nights putting in my best effort.

What I learned

Be clear and thorough. Read and reread your application and essays and ask yourself: Would an admissions officer know exactly the type of person I am just by reading this? The answer should be yes.

Also, take advantage of resources, such as the CollegeData Admissions Tracker, which helps you determine the likelihood of getting into your top-choice schools. It can be an incredible confidence booster. Use as many resources as you can to get information on applying to college. Speak to students who have been admitted to the college of your choice. Ask them what they included on their applications that they thought helped them stand out. Be actively engaged in the process and do not procrastinate.

The money factor

Yale awarded me a scholarship that covers most of my tuition, room, and board. I also received outside scholarships that cover the remaining balance, with some leftover money for books and other college expenses.

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