D. Sen currently attends UNC-Chapel Hill as a student of the Kenan-Flagler Business School ('24). She was a National Merit Scholar, the president of DECA and Spanish Club in high school, received a 36 on the ACT, won international and state DECA awards, and received 4s and 5s on all 13 of her AP courses.
This is the first part in a 3-part series featuring D. Sen's advice and experience.
Important things D. Sen shares:
"Though I wish that the connotations of excellence and intelligence associated with what college people go to did not exist, they are a reality and can carry forward to the professional world and what looks best on a resume."
"I believe any topic can make a good common app essay, as long as one’s personality shines through."
Q: Why did you choose UNC-Chapel Hill, and what did it have to offer you specifically?
A: I chose UNC Chapel Hill over the other schools I got into because of a combination of scholastics, prestige, and affordability that it offered. For example, I was accepted into a top 15 university, which had many things I loved, from the environment to the academics. The scholarship I was offered from that school, however, did not cover much. The remaining cost was not justifiable, in my opinion. UNC offered me a comparable, if not equal, level of academics. Though I wish that the connotations of excellence and intelligence associated with what college people go to did not exist, they are a reality and can carry forward to the professional world and what looks best on a resume. This is why prestige was a consideration, and UNC is one of the oldest public universities in the country with a great reputation. Combined, I suppose the return on investment from UNC in terms of personal, professional, and academic opportunity was projected to me best for me, and that’s how I made my choice.
Q: How did you spend your free time in high school?
A: While a lot of my free time was committed to academics and extracurriculars, I also spent time with my friends and family most weekends. Summers, I usually participated in at least one academic endeavor as well, trying to narrow down my interests for what career path I would follow. This included the Stanford Precollegiate Institute, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, Duke TIP, and the University of Maryland SELF program.
Q: How do you think your leadership positions, such as being the Spanish Club President and DECA President, influenced your admission?
A: Honestly, I think it’s difficult to say how any single aspect of my application influenced my admission. It’s such a complicated process, and in many ways, not a completely logical one. There are plenty of people who deserved admission as much as or more than me who didn’t get lucky, and no one will ever be able to say why other than the specific composition of people on the admissions panel who reviewed us -- and even among them, there was likely disagreement. Undeniably, those leadership positions were a strong point, and maybe even a deciding factor at certain schools, as I think they demonstrated certain traits of responsibility and diligence. However, I also believe that someone who didn’t have those positions would be able to be equally successful in the admissions process.
Q: How did you structure your college essay to make it stand out against the rest?
A: My main common app essay was about who I am as a person. It wasn’t about the things I had accomplished (though I did touch on those), it was about my values and perspective. All of the other things, the resume so to speak, are elsewhere in an application. I believe that this essay is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your personality and the qualitative aspects of who you are. I talked about my childhood, some things I had learned as I grew up, and how those things affect me today. Honestly, I believe any topic can make a good common app essay, as long as one’s personality shines through.
Q: You’ve been in quite a couple of academic programs. How do you think you benefited from these programs?
A: Participating in these programs gave me an opportunity to try out different disciplines and see which fit me best. I always had pretty varied interests, so one year I did a program for creative writing, then biomedical engineering, psychology, economics, and business. This helped me narrow down my major because I got a more direct look at intensive study or what a future in the field would look like. Aside from that, the best thing I got out of these programs is the people I met, many of whom I am still friends with today. They’re all ambitious, driven, genuine people who I am lucky to know.
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