by Kimberly B '08

Getting Into College

With Tatiana Lam and Fretty Huang
Feel like this IB work is all going to waste, and we’re all just stressing for no reason? Well, this stuff will pay off! Here are two students who graduated from OUR school with an IB Diploma, and which them into (surprise, surprise) good schools. Fretty is currently attending Brown University, and Tatiana is contemplating attending Yale.

So, how did you college journey begin?
I have been a nerd since the 7th grade, when I would read college guides for advisory. Then I joined Sunnyside’s classes in 9th grade, but eventually dropped out until 11th grade when I returned, but either way I would not recommend anyone to drop out of classes. Anyway my college obsession, not journey, was too much. I don’t think people need to go in the path I went to be admitted into a good school.

What do you want to major in?
I do not know what I want to major in, and that is good, no matter what other people say. I might do a combination of Latin American Studies, Ethnic/Gender Studies and Literature. Of course I am also planning to study other foreign languages intensively. I’m a big fan of schools with student-designed majors, because they let you work more around something you really want to do instead of trying to make you choose between all these disciplines, which are obviously connected.

What colleges did you apply to?
I’m still not done applying. Besides Yale, I am applying to Harvard, Brown, the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Swarthmore, Oberlin, Skidmore, CUNY Honors Hunter, Bard, Eugene Lang and Binghamton.

What made you decide to have early action instead of early decision?
Well, Yale only has an early action option. Early action is not binding so I do not necessarily have to go there if I’m admitted. In order to be early-anything you have to be really into the school, and be able to work hard, so I never thought I would actually do any kind of early admission option, it is a very tight commitment.

When did you begin planning for early action?
Two weeks before. That was not good, but I had just met the Yale representative around four weeks before the early action deadline, and she said she wanted to get a couple of people from BSGE to definitely apply to Yale early action, so I was kind of taken by surprise, and everything went very fast. I sweated and cried so many times on the week of the deadline.

Do you have a full scholarship? Who granted it to you?
I still do not know my financial aid situation, I have to send in my information to Yale and they will get back to me in about two months or so.

If not, how are you going to pay for college?
If they do not offer me money, I am going to have to choose another school that does. I am hoping to get grants from the schools and minimal loans from them in order to pay for my college tuition. I am planning to apply to some scholarships, but I am only limited to some that I am eligible for, so I am really depending a lot on the schools.

What would have been your second choice if you didn’t get into Yale?
I still have the option of choosing another school. At first I really liked Brown and this other school Pomona, but right now I just want all my options laid out before I decide, I have until May 1st.

What are the extra curricular activities you did? What leadership activities did you participate in?
I think extracurricular activities were what put me above a lot of other candidates. However, it was not so because I sat down one day and decided I needed to do every extracurricular activity possible – I just had fun with it. Seriously, at the beginning of this year all I wanted to do was do my extracurricular activities, but SAT classes and the college process got in the way. I had to retake my SATs because I did not get the desired score on the math section, and I really regret that. If you can get your SATs (Is & IIs) over before you start your senior year, do so!
Some of my major extracurricular activities were: Global Action Project (subprograms: Urban Voices, Bacc Up, Media in Action, United States Social Forum crew, Youth Breaking Borders, Summer Media Institute), Helping Hands Committee, Youth-Activists Youth-Allies Network, Reading & Writing Seminar at Sunnyside, PEN Writing Institute, Urban Visionaries Film Festival, Day of Silence organizing, The Unwanted Times, Cross-Age Tutoring, Grassroots Media Conference, Asian American International Film Festival, Socrates Sculpture Park volunteering, Soundfest Concert volunteering and yoga classes.

How did you prep for college?
Sunnyside classes are always useful, and do not drop out! Other than that, I kept up my grades.

What is your GPA?
There is no GPA at our school.

What do colleges focus on the most, besides grades and leadership? Is the IB program a plus?
Well your entire transcript is really the most important thing, so I would recommend staying focused on keeping your grades up because I know people that are working really hard right now but could never make up for the years before that, and a lot of problems are coming up for them. Schools want to know that you are challenging yourself, and for that reason the IB program will help you immensely, because a lot of schools are aware of the program’s rigorous coursework. I will not deny that we are better than AP (advanced placement) because we have CAS, personal project, extended essay, oral presentations and Theory of Knowledge requirements.

Now that you are an icon of success, do you feel achieved?
If there is anything I want to emphasize from this interview is that acceptance into Yale or any Ivy-League school does not equate success. The Ivies are among the best universities in the world, but really achievement is about the individual. You want to know that a school is supporting you financially and academically, but really you are the one that makes the most of your education by using all the resources and opportunities available to you at these schools. Everyone has to read an article that Peter has, it talks about the obsession with Ivy-League schools, and how so many people now attending the Ivies are extremely depressed and statistically do not necessarily do better than other undergrads at other schools.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Your dream job, perhaps?
I look forward to graduate school after undergraduate school. After that, I want to be an activist, organizer, or at least an educator in the social justice field. I do not think any of these are jobs or should be considered jobs, but I do think they are necessary. To some extent, I am already doing some of these things, and so I am envisioning college as a place where my knowledge can grow, so I could bring it back to the communities I serve today.

Additional tips
Do not obsess over the Ivies, make sure Peter likes you. Keep up your grades. Stay at BSGE.

Kimberley Banjoko
Hey Fretty! I am e-mailing you on behalf of the bacc-rag and was wondering, how’d you get into Brown? Many students are wondering, and envy your full scholarship. write as much as you can thanks!
Fretty Huang
It was really all that work that I did in junior year that helped me get into Brown. I took a lot of SAT-prep classes. I was in LEDA (Godwina, current senior of BSGE, is in it now) and through that program, I took even MORE classes (APs). Currently, you’re on your way to getting that IB diploma (congrats!!) and if you’re doing extra stuff on top of your already hectic schedule, it will really shine through. For me, I had a lot of community service hours and several AP scores. Junior year is going to be tough, trust me i was so busy running around that i barely had time for friends but it’s all worth it! I’m having so much fun at Brown (you should visit by the way!).

Ok so there isn’t an exact formula for getting into an ivy league school because they can be quite odd in their selection of students. But here are some things that you can do:
1. Get your SAT scores up! Practice, practice! Study your vocabs. As for the writing portion, there are some books that will basically work for ALL topics. For me they were “Siddhartha,” “Invisible Man,” and any of Shakespeare’s works. Use what you know. Books that you have analyzed before in English class will work great.
2. Take some SAT IIs at the end on your junior year. Some schools (depending on your major or department) require certain SAT IIs. Taking the SAT IIs in your junior year will help you get some of these requirements out of the way so that you wont have to do everything ALL at once and if your scores are low, you can take them again. Be prepared for the SAT IIs.
3. Do something interesting that will set you apart from others. I started Culture Night. It will look great in your application if you have a whole list of clubs/activities that you were involved in. It looks even better if you took the initiative to START something.
4. Start brainstorming ideas for your personal statement. Start writing at the latest by April/May.
5. Get to know Peter really well. HAHAH he will help you out A LOT!! Although it might be frustrating at times when he tells you to do 32348923 drafts, stick it out! You need to stay on his good side.
6. Start looking into scholarships! There are a whole bunch of them that you can already start applying to!

GOOD LUCK. I applaud you for seeking advice, it shows how badly you want to go to a good college. Message me if you ever have any more questions.


By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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