July 3, 2020
The college admission process was not easy for me. I started the college process completely clueless since my parents were both Nigerian immigrants who never attended college in the US. My mom and I continually had to rely on the internet to figure what came next, and in the end, it seemed to pay off.
Here's some background info: I'm a Nigerian-American student who currently lives in Maryland, but attended a private all-girls boarding school in Pennsylvania. I had a 3.62 unweighted GPA and a 1460 SAT score. I took eight AP classes, and also took a lot of honors courses. I participated in many extracurriculars, but some of my favorites were student council (president), robotics, the Koding with Klossy program, the WiSTEM program and my University of Maryland research program.
My school was good, but the counselors weren't very helpful when it came to the college process. They seemed to care more about students getting into colleges than if the college was a good fit for the student. My mom and I found most of the info we need on the internet.
I wasn't sure what I wanted in a school other than it needed to be in an urban area, so I applied to a lot of colleges. I felt that applying to 20+ schools was justified since most of them were competitive, especially for my major, Computer Science. A big worry of mine was that I wouldn't get in anywhere since my GPA might be too low. That's why I put emphasis on my extracurriculars in my application and worked hard on my SAT because I hope to draw attention away from my grades. My WiSTEM program director (she's a Harvey Mudd admission counselor) had also told me that once I got a 1450 (99th percentile for SAT scores) that most schools will be satisfied. Luckily for me, I eventually got a 1460, but I cut it really close to the deadline and would highly advise future applicants to finish their standardized tests before senior year.
My WiSTEM director had also told me about the importance of essays. I started writing my first drafts before school, but it still took me some time to finish since I went through so many drafts. I had the personal statement for my Common Application and Coalition applications, but also all the supplemental essays that many selective schools require. Writing essays is very time-consuming since you want to make sure you show your true personality, but also how you can be a great addition to the school. When I finished with my drafts, I would always go to various people to get feedback on what was and wasn't working. This was important because they tended to tell me if my best traits were being showcased in my essay.
As I expected, I didn't get into every school I applied to, but I got into a great selection which I was really happy with. At first, I committed to NYU, but eventually, I got admitted off the waitlist at Northwestern after sending two letters of continued interest and another recommendation. It excites me to say I'll be attending Northwestern for Computer Science, and I can't wait to see where the next four years will take me.
About the writer: Zai recently graduated from high school in Maryland and plans to attend Northwestern University this fall.
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