On a quiet March afternoon, senior Jenny Nguyen sat alone in the darkness of her bedroom closet with the light of a single laptop screen flashing at her. A few clicks later, she was shocked. She found out she was accepted into four Ivy League universities: Princeton University, Columbia University, Brown University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Nguyen had hid in her closet to check her admission updates because she was worried about her family’s reaction to her sorrow if she was rejected. But, when she got into multiple Ivy Leagues, she was shocked and thankful.
For three weeks, Nguyen spent three hours every day after school on her applications. She believes her personal statement and extracurriculars made her application stand out. “I know for sure it’s not my academic strength. I would say I was on the bottom average… What really helped me drive forward in the application process was mostly my personal statement that detailed my personal story and also my extracurriculars,” she said.
For her personal statement, Nguyen wrote about her childhood of helping her mother run her businesses. She used her writing as a way to reflect on her strengths and weaknesses. For her supplementals, Nguyen focused primarily on herself. She wrote about her family life, her personal interests, and her initiatives. “I guess this comes to show how a student who is only in band or National Honor Society and no other clubs can get into an Ivy League or college in general,” she said.
Nguyen recalls some of her most challenging moments of her high school career that helped her grow to become who she is today.
In her junior year, Nguyen balanced both AP Biology and AP Chemistry on top of two more AP classes. “I received my very first 39 percent on a chemistry test and [at] that moment… I realized growth isn’t really defined by numbers; it’s more defined by your mentality,” said Nguyen. “After that … I would continuously get [scores] you wouldn’t really be proud of on a conventional basis. It comes to show how I was being challenged, and once you come to accept that challenge, you will find all measures to pursue some sort of success in it.”
With her hard work, in the end, Nguyen received a five on the AP Chemistry exam.
Nguyen also faced a significant challenge in the end of her sophomore year when she tried out to become a drum major in band.
“Every single day ever since my freshman year, I taught myself how to conduct in the mirror. I would lock myself in the bathroom for hours learning how to conduct,” she said. So, when she did not receive the drum major position, she was devastated. However, she refused to give up; at the end of her junior year, she tried out for the position again, and succeeded.
Nguyen decided to apply to Ivy League universities because she hoped attending a well-known school will help make her voice more influential. “Unfortunately in our society today, everything is all about the reputation, the name brand,” said Nguyen. “In order to establish some sort of platform for yourself and your voice, you need to come from a place that’s well known and known for its credibility… I was hoping that maybe my education at a well known institution would help me establish that platform, that voice, and would help me have the courage and ability to shift the trends of today’s society.”
Next year, Nguyen will be attending Princeton University. She is undecided on what she will major in, although she is leaning towards the STEM field now. In her freshman and sophomore years, she hopes to take many different electives like Mandarin Chinese, history, economics, and business classes before she commits to a major.
Nguyen said, “After digesting all these acceptances, I just told myself how fortunate I’ve been to have been in this school, having these teachers write awesome recommendation letters, and having Ms. Stephens give me such amazing and effective advice in my college application. I will forever be grateful for their help.”