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IvyWise Scholars Spotlight: Mary

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Phelps Gate at Yale University looking in towards the campus with people visible in the distance.IvyWise Scholar Mary Shares Her Top Tips for Students Applying to College

It’s so important to have perspective when going through the college admissions process, which is why we’ve reached out to one of our own students, Mary, to share some advice for future applicants.

As part of our IvyWise Gives Back initiative, IvyWise Scholars is our pro bono college admissions counseling program for high-achieving, low-income students. We caught up with IvyWise Scholar Mary, a gifted student from Minneapolis, to learn more about her college admissions journey, what it’s like to work with IvyWise during this process, and get some of her college prep advice for other students.

Tell us about your background and interests.

Hi, my name is Mary, and I’m a senior at South High, a public school in south Minneapolis, and am on the liberal arts track. This year, the classes I’m taking are:

  • AP Stats
  • AP Microeconomics
  • CIS (College-in-Schools)
  • Chinese 2
  • Community and Global Studies
  • VOICES (Values, Options, Issues, and Choices Explored in Society)

The last two courses are offered only at South High and are amazing classes to take.

As for my extracurriculars, I’m the student representative for the Minneapolis Board of Education, an executive officer for the Citywide Student Leadership Board, member of the Walker Art Center Teen Art Council, Chairwoman of the Name Advisory Committee, student representative for the Equity Team at South, and a student ambassador for South as well.

My favorite class right now would have to be VOICES. The teachers, Ms. Haug and Mrs. Lanik, work hard to create an open dialogue in the class and push students to be independent. They both developed VOICES themselves and have been teaching the course for years. They are also my favorite teachers, as they value and respect all of their students.

What aspect of the college admissions process are you most excited about? What are you nervous about?

I’m pretty nervous about college prep. It is weird to think that the last four years of my life have all been leading up to this moment.

I’m excited to write my essays, get my emotions down on paper, and have a chance to express myself. However, I often wonder what will happen if things go wrong—like not receiving an acceptance anywhere, for example. However, letting those negative emotions get the best of me might only help make these thoughts come true.

My mantra is ‘YTGT.’ I say it when I need a confidence boost. It stands for, “You’ve Totally Got This!” Make sure to say it out loud, and even throw in a power pose for added effect! I know I have.

As for my college list, financial aid is one of the biggest factors that I consider, followed by the employment rate, debt after graduation, majors offered, and campus diversity. I created a spreadsheet to put all of these factors in and directly compare schools. It’s still a work in progress but useful when figuring out if I want to apply to a certain school.

I use Cappex, Thoughtco, and College Factual for research. So far, a few of the schools at the top of my list are Yale, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Howard, Brown, Pomona, Duke, and Carleton. My in-state colleges are St. Kate’s and St. Olaf.

It is important to mention that getting accepted to or attending an Ivy League school is not as important as finding a place where you feel at your best. You are going to be the one spending four years at this school. Not your mother, not your father, not your guardians, nor your friends. You. So, follow your own path.

I want to take Global Studies or International Relations and someday become a diplomat. I’ve always wanted to work in a career where I can help people, explore the world, and do good work. For me, a career as a diplomat would help me achieve all those things. Coming from an immigrant family, it’s something I truly care about and love.

What are your top college prep tips for other students?

First, take the time to find your passions! Explore, fail, and try again—but always keep trying. I wish I had taken the time to figure out what I wanted when I was a freshman. Instead, I did what I thought colleges wanted and was completely miserable.

I was good at computer science and coding. And I assumed it was what I should pursue in high school. Even though I began to feel less passionate about it in sophomore year, I kept going because I thought that was what was expected of me, that it mattered more to impress colleges than to follow my own passions. But, over junior year, as almost all of my clubs ended abruptly because of the pandemic, I took the time to figure out what I enjoyed. And it turned out to be international relations.

Of course, this might change one day. But here’s the thing; that doesn’t matter. People change, grow, and try new things all the time. Give yourself the space to breathe. You’re young. This is the time when you’re supposed to try new things and learn something along the way.

Finally, make time for the people you love, and spend more time with them than you think you should. Time and people are precious. Of course, there was a time when I dismissed this thought. I thought my future was more important than my family. But once you lose those moments, they don’t come back, and getting into these colleges doesn’t guarantee your happiness in the future or mean the rest of your life will be perfect. If you learn to cherish every day of your life, everything else will fall into place.

For more information on families’ experience with IvyWise, check out our testimonials page, and meet some of our other IvyWise Scholars. Want to learn more about what you can be doing now to prepare for the college admissions process? Tune in to our Just Admit It! podcast for top tips from admissions experts!


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