Student X Columbia University
Hello everyone, my name is X Student. This year, I was accepted to Columbia early decision. Following below is what I will share with everyone my high school experiences, the entirety of my application process, and how TSAF’s teacher helped me through the entire process.
I first got to know TSAF when I applied to study at American high schools. Up until now at the end of the college application season, TSAF has accompanied me as I’ve grown.
1. what is your biggest challenge and growth during the past two years?
In my first semester at an American high school, my primary goal was just to adapt to this environment. I have a bit of "social anxiety". At first, I was extremely unconfident about my English. The only thing I was good at is probably my learning ability, so I didn’t worry about my grades too much.
However, I envied that others could confidently express their thoughts and opinions in the classroom, at the dinner table, and in daily conversations.
In my first semester, I found my first shelter. I began playing the piano again, an instrument that I have been learning since I was a child, but didn’t practice very much because I only took one lesson a week.
It just so happens that there were many independent practice rooms in the music wing of the school, and even a few Steinways available. So, I often went to the practice room to play piano in my spare time after class and during the evening study hall. After that, I slowly developed it into a habit, and an integral part of my daily routine. In this way, music became a major feature of my college profile by a happy accident.
In the next few years, I participated in various recitals, school performances, and later chamber music, wind ensemble, all while founding a classical music club. As I gradually adapted to the environment, I also met some great friends through these activities. This fall, I was even invited to perform at Lincoln Center in New York as the winner of a piano competition.
The most important thing was that after the brainstorm sessions with the counselors, I emphasized in my essays that music is not only a passion of mine, but also a way for me to reach out to others and build a community. Through music, I feel the sense of accomplishment of bringing enjoyment to listeners, and at the same time, I am also eager to share my interests with more people. This reflects that I am an engaged member of the community through my musical involvement, and I will learn to be a leader from my own passions and interests.
2. What is the most memorable moment with us, and where did you receive the most help on?
What I admire most is that the consultants and teachers of TSAF have been actively helping me to plan activities and standardized testing until the application season, and then also the list of activities, and preparation of necessary documents. With their help, a lot of stress in my application season was relieved.
I think the most amazing thing is that every time I brainstorm with Teacher Minmin, Teacher Minmin can always provide me with great ideas for writing from different and novel perspectives. Teacher Minmin would also pay great attention to my writing. With her expert guidance, I could find my specialty that attracted the attention of the admissions officers.
3. How did you plan your extracurricular activity and essay?
Regarding the planning of extracurricular activities, the counselors of TSAF have been communicating with me regularly during my high school years, and they have provided me with many good platforms and resources.
The teachers are also very supportive of changes of my interests, from my initial curiosity in environmental science later to classical studies, while also giving many suggestions for choosing schools that best aligned with my academic interests
In the end, my consultant also helped me to reach Columbia University with the relatively unpopular classical studies as a major, and provided me with a lot of resources when I was in the eleventh grade.
The most important part of my activities was a research program that was introduced by TSAF. I was fortunate enough to work closely with a Columbia history professor to produce a professional history paper, and even got a letter of recommendation from the professor.
In my paper, I made a comparison between the political system of the ancient Roman Republic and the US government today, which made me realize that many of the problems we are facing now have also appeared in the past, and the value of classics is not only in its exquisite literary and philosophical thought, but also its study of ancient social, political, economic systems. In fact, it is a highly interdisciplinary subject.
I also created an online classics public welfare course with other friends of TSAF, and edited the monthly News Letter. These activities eventually became the important parts of my activity list.
My consultant also encouraged me to begin brainstorming essays starting in March of my junior year. The teacher carefully discussed each essay with me, and helped me plan to complete the essay in the shortest time and with the greatest efficiency. As a result, during the summer vacation after the 11th grade, I had already finalized the first draft of the supplementary essays for the early school application, which allowed me to survive the usually stressful fall semester of senior year with relative ease!
4. Advice for future students?
During the pandemic (the summer vacation of grades 10 to 11), I took a domestic online SAT training class, which helped me to practice the questions and get familiar with the various question types. My eleventh grade was basically filled with all kinds of standardized exams. From the 3 SATs in the first half of the year to the 6 AP exams at the end of the school year, I was about to crack from all the exams.
My first SAT test score was 1470 in September and 1540 in November. What’s interesting is that in October, the school asked everyone to try the ACT test. I took scored a 34, but in the end I only submitted the SAT score of 1540. This experience shows that students can choose either the SAT or ACT, according to their preference.
Because the amount of reading in my high school is relatively large, general vocabulary and reading comprehension were not much problems for me (but I still worried about my speed on the reading section). Later, in March, I took the test again with the mentality of trying again, and the result was a 1510 in mathematics "split".
A small tip is that you must simulate the real test environment before the test, especially reading for me, because when the test in March was a long time away from the last test I took, my pacing on the reading part was definitely off. I also didn’t perform as well on the math part. So, you should try to simulate a timed reading section instead of reading each passage one by one as an exercise.
One thing to say, I often found that the articles I read were done before, so the benefit of the mock tests will be different from the real test (the questions on Khan Academy are repeated many times). However, at that time, the consultant teacher of TSAF suggested that I already scored high enough, so I didn't take the SAT again.
Looking back now, I think it makes more sense. After all, I really want to wrap it up. Now I feel that there are a lot of 1550+ and 1580+ bigwigs, wasting time and giving themselves unnecessary pressure and stress.
Students should actively try various activities in high school, and finally find what they like!
My personal experience is that only what I am really interested in will I commit to seriously, and I will really gain something from. These experiences have also become good topics for my writing essays in the future, so much so that I sometimes see writing as a process of self-reflection and enjoy it.
5. Final Thoughts
I wanted thank my school’s culture (everyone respects each other, and they nervously pester or fight each other, perhaps the school assigns too much homework...).
I haven't experienced much peer pressure, or I've been numb to it. After four years of high school, I found that everyone has different majors and activities that they want to pursue. It's very difficult to compare each other, and I feel we all have bright futures ahead!
After I figured out which school I wanted to apply early to , I actually didn’t have much to worry about. I steadily wrote my essays and finished the application, and then I feel like it's just a matter of course. Compared with the anxiety about extracurricular activities in the past few years, I have become like a "Buddha" this fall. After all, I’ve done the best I can, and what I do now won’t change the result much.
A very important thing is to really manage your time! The list of early application activities and the first draft of the essay should be written in the summer (thanks again to my counselors who have been dutifully supervising the progress of my essays and helping to revise them). Fill out the Common App system as soon as possible. Sometimes schools will have a lot of strange questions to respond to, so these individual details must be noted.
Because I have a lot of schoolwork, procrastinating on my work is a big taboo for me, and I often feel uneasy if I can't complete the set tasks. This mentality was actually very helpful to me during the application season, pushing me to complete things as early as possible, with more time to correct errors. Even with advance preparation, there was still a bit of a hustle and bustle when the application season arrived.
After submitting the application, I was actually not too anxious; my school counselor once told me that the school was confident in my application to Columbia, and I myself have been holding on to that vote of confidence after hearing countless stories of strong applicants being rejected. I proceeded with the mentality of "don't have too high expectations". Even when I decided to apply to Columbia University early, I still thought that even if the result is happy, all the better; if not, I can comfort myself that I can still apply to other great schools during the regular decision time frame.
Looking back at the application season, no effort of mine was useless. The application that once seemed out of reach actually only needs to be accumulated step by step, bit by bit, and the final result will follow naturally.
Once again, I would like to thank the fabulous teachers of TSAF, who accompanied me through the difficult application season and helped me reach my dream school.