Updated: Aug 30, 2021
We had the opportunity of interviewing Nicholas Anderson, a student at University of Pennsylvania, about: Getting into Top Universities
Nick is a first-generation college student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. In high school, Nick was involved and held leadership positions in NHS, student government, American Red Cross, varsity soccer, jazz band, and founded the Youth-In-Action chapter. His collegiate involvements/leadership positions can be found on his LinkedIn or Website: nickjanderson.com | https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-j-anderson1/
Key points Nicholas shares:
...your ability to prioritize is what will make the world of difference throughout your high school and college years. I made the mistake of having no real priorities throughout my first two years of high school, and as a result I wasn’t particularly exceptional at any one thing.
Admissions officers are looking for what sets you apart from everyone else. That is very distinctly shown through how you lead.
Q: What do you think has made you an exceptional student for UPenn besides your wide variety of academic and extracurricular involvement?
A: As much as I’d love to take the credit and say my self-determination, the answer has to be my friends and family. You are a reflection of the people around you. I’ve done well to surround myself with engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors and the like, all of whom have different careers but strive for the same thing - excellence. My success is almost entirely a product of their will. Likewise, my family has always supported me - my dad the cool-headed jack-of-all-trades with more life experience than he knows what to do with, my mom the Jersey girl with more unconditional love than I could ever ask for, and my sister the first-generation college graduate turned extraordinary businesswoman with a world full of inspiration. Who I am as a person is a result of their influence. While you’d have to go out on a limb to call me truly exceptional, whatever success I have had is owed to these people.
Q: What would you say were your priorities in high school? Why were those your priorities?
A: I’m glad this question was asked because your ability to prioritize is what will make the world of difference throughout your high school and college years. I made the mistake of having no real priorities throughout my first two years of high school, and as a result I wasn’t particularly exceptional at any one thing. Starting in my sophomore spring semester, I set two priorities: 1) to really enjoy everything that I did and 2) to make a difference in my community. The former became a priority when I discovered that at the peak of my teenage years and young life, I was jealous of the kids going out to parties while I was up late on a Friday grinding out AP Calculus homework. At the very least, I thought, I should have fun being who I am and with what I do. I focused on soccer, jazz, and spending more time with the people I cared about (even if it was doing homework at a coffee shop). Making a difference in my community became a priority upon realizing my place of privilege. Fortunately, through my travels and volunteering around the area, I had been exposed to how different people live their lives. From my perspective, if you have the ability and the resources to help just one underprivileged person, there’s nothing in life more impactful than doing so.
Q: You’ve held many leadership positions in high school. Which of your leadership positions do you think affected your application the most?
A: Admissions officers are looking for what sets you apart from everyone else. That is very distinctly shown through how you lead. Take my school, UPenn, for example. In my year of admission, the acceptance rate was 7.7%. However, that 7.7% isn’t out of the general student body, it’s out of the qualified graduating seniors who genuinely believed that they had an opportunity of being admitted and were willing to put money on it. There were thousands of NHS presidents, sports captains, student body representatives, etc. that applied and weren’t accepted. It’s an incredible accomplishment to hold these positions, but it's really the things that are different, and set you apart from the other applicants that matter. The leadership positions that accomplished this for me were the ones that the officers hadn’t seen before: American Red Cross Chapter President, SWAT/YiA Founder and President, 1st Chair Sax + Soccer Captain, etc.
Thanks for reading!
While you’re here, connect and learn more about Nicholas on his LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-j-anderson1/
If you were interested in this article, read more about Getting into Top Universities here: https://www.alumnianswers.org/articles/categories/getting-into-top-universities
If you want to learn more from our interviewees about attending a school like UPenn, read more here: https://www.alumnianswers.org/articles/tags/upenn
Have more questions based on what you’ve read or any you would like us to ask alumni? Submit them here!