Conducted by Rachel Jason
Are you a current junior or senior that is busy filling out your college applications, unaware of what colleges want to see? Or are you an underclassman, figuring out what you should be doing in preparation for college? This is the perfect article for you as it outlines whatto do and what not to do in preparation for your acceptance into your dream college!
Sydney Pyon, a current senior at Garnet Valley High School, is finishing her college preparation. She has committed to MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a prestigious school known for its influential engineering and other science programs. Sydney plans to major in biochemistry and hopes to become a biomedical engineer or biochemical engineer in the future. Based on the academic programs and opportunities that MIT has to offer regarding personal development in leadership, MIT has become her #1 school. Outside of academics, she fell in love with the city of Boston, MIT’s campus, the influence of their technological innovations, and other student life activities. Sydney has set an excellent example for underclassmen and other students in regards to preparation for college.
Rachel Jason interviewed Sydney Pyon, believing that she is an example to be followed by all students that are preparing for college. During the interview, Sydney talked about the impact of hard work, the importance of being involved, and finding a “spike” for the college application process.
Rachel: What is your advice for students applying to prestigious schools such as MIT?
Sydney: “I think it is so important to find your passion early on and shape your experiences in high school accordingly.” As important as grades are, colleges are looking for a student that will make a significant contribution to their community outside of school. They are looking for students with a “spike”, instead of students being “well-rounded.” As in “you are taking something that you are interested in and putting your all into that.” Understanding that it is important to be involved in various activities, however, being dedicated and making an impact in a few of them are just as important.
Rachel: What part of your application did you focus on the most?
Sydney: I focused on multiple parts of the application. Academics go beyond just getting “amazing grades”, it’s essential to challenge yourself in classes as well. I shaped my senior year classes by looking into what MIT prioritized for their applicants. In regards to important exams such as the SATs, even though tests are not everything, they are definitely an influential way to boost your college application. While preparing for the SATs, I realized the importance of making sacrifices. I wasn’t able to see my friends as much, however, “everything played out in my favor, but it was not an easy road along the way.” When it comes to extracurriculars, it is vital to get involved in a lot of activities your freshman year. Then, narrowing down what you would like to take leadership in, “I set myself up to be involved as an underclassman so that I could take up leadership positions in my upperclassmen years.” Again, it is important to take initiative rather than just being involved in multiple extracurriculars.
Rachel: How did you balance sports and academics? How do you plan on balancing them in college?
Sydney: It depends on the person, you just have to learn how to balance your time, simple as that. It is important to find times/learn to make time during your daily schedule even if it is unconventional, “I had a playoff game at Penn State, a 3-hour bus ride home at 11 pm, and while everyone was sleeping, I was writing my Spanish essay.” In college, I plan on doing the same thing. However, MIT is helpful when it comes to balancing academics and sports since they provide time for extracurriculars by ending all classes by a certain time. I have to continue to separate academics and sports to manage my time.
Rachel: How has COVID-19 affected your college process?
Sydney: In general, the lack of college tours were probably the hardest part of the college process since many students had not visited colleges earlier. However, I was fortunate enough to have toured during my sophomore and junior year. Also, it affected my extracurriculars, such as internships that I had aligned to participate in over the summer; however, due to COVID-19 many of those opportunities were canceled. Not being able to put those extracurriculars on my college application definitely made the process stressful, nevertheless, colleges have been understanding during this entire pandemic. Overall, it was stressful since I was managing the process on my own as opposed to having the guidance of teachers and counselors.
Rachel: What is your advice for current students that are filling out their college applications?
Sydney: Colleges can tell when you are trying to portray yourselves as someone you want them to see vs. who you truly are. It is essential, on the application and during potential interviews, to let the college admissions know who you really are. Whether or not it is impressive, you should include it, “For one of the questions on the application it asks, ‘We know you lead a busy life, full of activities many of which are required of you, tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it?’ so many might use this opportunity to continue to impress admissions. However, I wrote about my Instagram ‘foodie’ account and how I love food.” When colleges provide opportunities to talk about yourself outside of academics, adding something about your personality or quirks could potentially help boost your application. “Tell them who you are as a friend.”