Meet Catherine, a sophomore. She's from China.

Academic Strength

Two perfect SATs

Biggest Weakness

Common experiences and extracurriculars

Extracurricular Strength

Animal Shelter fundraiser

Well Roundedness 7

The Challenge

Despite having excellent test scores at a prestigious Chinese high school, Catherine was entirely focused on how great China was and how much she wanted to make it great again.

Other than leading one fundraiser for an art club, Catherine had very traditional Chinese experiences and extracurricular activities – writing Chinese poems, practicing tea ceremonies, reading Chinese fairy tales. In addition to making her unmemorable as a candidate from China, Catherine’s profile also raised questions on why she was interested in studying at an American school. Needless to say, Catherine’s actual international experiences were very limited.

Possible Approaches

Catherine enrolled with Admissionado at the start of her senior year, so there was no time to advise her to broaden her extracurricular participation or increase her international experiences. While she was clearly an excellent writer, she lacked her own voice and a clear sense of personal purpose or interest. The first possible approach was to highlight her single fundraising activity and use the essays to promote her individuality. The second approach was to work with Catherine to discover exactly how she wanted to use her Chinese experiences as a platform for the future.

The Admissionado Approach

I combined the two approaches. For Catherine’s Common App essay, we focused on her leadership and creativity by organizing a successful fundraiser. Her school-specific essays required something more. By digging deep with Catherine, she began to articulate her own interest in media and communications. Growing up in China, Catherine was raised by two parents who deeply valued poetry. When she accidentally came across a poem her father had written for her mother while dating, Catherine was moved. Catherine embraced Chinese traditions – hosting traditional teatime with her friends, writing music inspired by Chinese poems, and organizing classical performances – as a means of communicating and connecting with others. In an age group that seemed ready to forget their heritage, Catherine wanted to rediscover and share it. Catherine decided she wanted to double major in Media Studies and East Asian Studies in order to promote the age-old culture of her parents, using her Eastern background as a platform for her Western future. Thus, we made sure her essays explained her aspirations, making a strong connection between her past experiences, with a strong sense of Chinese poetry, literature, and customs, and her future goals in television and movies.

The Result

Catherine was accepted to most of her top choices: New York University, University of Southern California, and the University of California – Berkeley. She ultimately chose the University of California – Berkeley for the strength of their Media Department as well as the strength of their Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, enabling her to combine her two passions on a higher level.

Personal Shoutout

While seemingly quiet, Catherine is one of the most driven, creative, and intellectually motivated students I’ve ever worked with. She worked tirelessly on her essays, throwing herself completely into the revision process, while giving me a whole new appreciation for traditional Chinese poetry.

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