"You can only have one destiny, so start walking towards it." | A UPenn/Caltech Student on Top Uni's
We had the opportunity of interviewing Andrew Nyholm, an alum of the University of Pennsylvania and student at California Institute of Technology about: Getting into a Top University
a former student at the Materials Camp at Drexel University
a former student at the Governor's School for Engineering and Technology at Lehigh University
a former student at Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) at the University of Pennsylvania
a lover of science and sustainability
Here are some important words he shares:
"Successful students often connected various parts of their lives together while also not allowing networking to dominate their lives."
"This ability to enjoy hard work is key to my success, but it would be impossible to know if that would exist to the level it does in me without the environment in which I grew up."
" I knew that I would have to get good grades to get the scholarships to allow me to go to college and that my job in high school was to get the grades that would pay off in the end."
Q: What would you say made you stand out for UPenn and Caltech?
A: I think what allowed me to stand out for UPenn and Caltech is having a consistent story behind what motivates me and my work. I grew up in a nature preserve and have consistently been involved in environmental efforts since I was young. Within sustainability, I had a pretty set path towards energy research, and I was able to tailor my essays to highlight how their particular programs would allow me to continue on this path.
Q: What type of person do you think would fit well going to each of these schools?
A: Defining a good fit for Caltech would be difficult since I have only been here for a few months, but one general theme that has stood out is the passion people share for understanding material and honest work. At UPenn, the consistent theme that I experience was more the ability to network and make connections. Successful students often connected various parts of their lives together while also not allowing networking to dominate their lives.
Q: What do you think made you stand out for UPenn? (extracurriculars, essays, academics, passion, etc.)
A: I would say the single largest thing that allowed me to stand out was the narrative of sustainability and having a clear direction with evidence to backup this passion. That being said, I did very well in high school and was involved in a pretty wide variety of extracurricular including soccer, NHS, Key club, stage crew, environmental club, and a few other initiatives. Finally, I spent time during my summers at free engineering camps to see if engineering was truly the path in sustainability that I wanted to pursue and to gain some experience.
Q: Can you describe how you spent your free time in high school?
A: I was involved in a variety of extracurriculars which took up a decent amount of my time. If you do not view those extracurriculars as free time, I spent the rest often with a book, in the nature preserve, or helping out at home. We had two wood burning fireplaces so splitting fire wood to prepare for winter always could be done.
Q: What leadership positions did you hold in high school that you think affected your admission?
A: I was NHS president, Key club treasurer, a jv soccer captain for two years, president of the environmental club, president of the film club, and managed the auditorium’s lighting systems for theater groups, school assemblies, and training teachers.
Q: What projects did you undertake on your own in high school that you think have shaped you as a person(experiments, forming a club, nonprofit, research, internships, etc)?
A: I would say the best project I undertook in high school was applying to the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Engineering & Technology and then doing a research project on Piezoelectric Vibrational Energy Harvesting Systems. The camp was only a month long but it gave me the best glimpse of what college was like with classes, research, and freedom to plan accordingly. I really enjoyed having this project myself and then thinking of the fundamental problems that we might approach and contacting professionals to learn more.
Q: Where was your main focus in high school and how did you determine that? (Academics, extracurriculars, family, etc.)
A: I would say my primary focus was academics. I knew that I would have to get good grades to get the scholarships to allow me to go to college and that my job in high school was to get the grades that would pay off in the end.
Q: What would you say played a bigger role in your success: the environment or self-motivation?
A: I do not think it is quite that simple to differentiate the two. While most of my work was self-motivated, I grew up in an environment that consistently emphasized self-motivation. I like to think that I would have been successful with a different childhood, but I also learned how to enjoy hard work by working on the preserve nearly every day. This ability to enjoy hard work is key to my success, but it would be impossible to know if that would exist to the level it does in me without the environment in which I grew up.
Learn more about Andrew and his experience on his LinkedIn account.
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