July 14, 2018
Tips for success - high school planning
Part I of the Summer Students Forum
High school is a balancing act between academics, test preps, athletics, and extracurricular activities.
Share and Grow proudly presents these outstanding kids from our own community to talk about the dos and don’ts in high school:
Angela Zhu: University of Southern California
Derek Yu: Georgia Institute of Technology
Lily Chen : University of Oklahoma
Address: Trinity Baptist Church
801 North Peter Ave, Norman OK 73069
Tips for Success
Derek You (Y): Graduated from Norman high school in 2017. Just finished his first year in Georgia Tech.
Lily Chen (L): Graduated from Community Christian school in 2018 and already started in OU. Major in Accounting. Involved in a lot of community volunteer’s work, club organization and campus leadership.
Angela Zhu (Z): Attended Norman North for 2 years and continued to study in OSSM until 2017. Currently study in USC (University of South California) and major in Neuroscience.
Q: How to apply for merit-based scholarship?
Y: When you apply for school, they will look at your resume and test scores and give your scholarship based on that. For some schools, you don’t need to apply for anything for the university based merit scholarship. Some schools are different, like OU.
For privately founded scholarship, you have to send out your applications.
Z: I received merit-based scholarship from USC. The deadline for application is December 15th. The application went through different steps. The 1st part is essay writing; If you go to the next step, you will be invited to USC for interview. Through this process it will be determined if you receive scholarship or not.
L: For OU, we have scholarships based on your ACT or SAT scores, or your rank in your class. They also have other scholarships that you can write essays for.
(A: Is there any fellowship for Asian Americans?)
Z: For universities, like USC, they don’t have any specific scholarships for Asian Americans.
Y: I don’t think I have ever seen anything specific for Asian students. I don’t know if there are any Asian scholarships.
(A: Do you know any particular website for national merit scholarship?)
Z: I have to go to the schools I am interested in to look for their scholarships. I don’t know if there is any particular website for national merit scholarship.
Y: On ACT, you can sign up to get verification for private scholarships. These are considered extra works and a lot more difficult than to get one from your university.
(A: Do you have school counselor in high school to provide your information on scholarship and other stuff?)
Z: It is a good point. You can reach to the counselor in college and they should be able to provide your information on scholarships, even when you are still in high school.
Q: What is the timeline in the next a few months for college applications? (EA/ED (Earlier Action/ Earlier decision vs. Regular)
Z: For EA/ED, you should apply earlier.
Y: I suggest that you should know what schools you are going to apply for at the beginning of the year. Different schools have different timelines. You have to look at the specific schools.
(A: If you are applying for schools next fall, you should already be prepared by this year?)
Y: Yes. It is also important to look at specific requirements from each school. Some schools require subject tests to apply. If you want to do early decision for schools that require subject tests, and you have not take it, they won’t allow you to apply. For applications, it is always your senior year. But you probably want to know your schools by the summer of your junior year, which allows you to have time to take the subject tests if necessary.
(A: Between summer and the starting date of applications for EA/ED, what you need to do for applications?)
Z: For SAT/ACT, you can start as early as your freshman year summer. In between these couple of months, you can take AP tests if you want college credits. The most you can do during this time is to start writing your essays.
Y: For SAT/ACT, you probably want to take them in your sophomore year, and if you don’t like your score, you can take them again in your junior year, even senior year if you still want better score. It is a little risky to take the tests on senior year to be sent to colleges in time.
Q: questions on recommendation letters.
(A: What about getting recommendation letters during this period of time?)
Z: You need to get your recommendation letters a lot earlier. Since the counselor is always busy, in general you may want to ask for the recommendation letters in the summer before your junior year to get them on time.
(A: Would you like to do the tours of the universities the summer before your junior year or senior year?)
L: I suggest to do it as early as possible. You want to get everything ready before you start to apply.
Z: For me, I recommend visiting the universities in person after your application get accepted. It is more efficient in my opinion. Lots of information about the university could be found online before application.
(A: Any expiration date for recommendation letters?)
Y: No expiration date. But it is probably not a very good idea to get a three years old recommendation letter…
(A: How many recommendation letters are required for application?)
Y: Normally 2 to 3. Two letters are from your teachers and one is from your counselor.
Z: Depends. Some schools do not require recommendation letters.
(A: How may colleges each of you applied and how many schools you got accepted?)
L: I applied only OU and got accepted.
Y: I turned in seven applications and got accepted by OU and Georgia Tech.
Z: I applied about 15 schools and got accepted by 4 or 5. I don’t really recommend applying multiple schools. It will be difficult for you to try the very hard on your each application, because each school has different requirements and you have to write different essays.
(A: How well do your counselors know about you and how important their letters are?)
Y: I don’t think the counselors really know most of the people. It is more like a requirement for them to write recommendation letters. In my personal opinion, the teacher’s letters will more influence your applications.
(A: If you are applying for multiple schools, do you need to send out the recommendation letter for each school?)
Y: Currently, most applications are through an APP called “ Common APP”. Students upload their general information, recommendation letters and scores into Common APP, and all the information will be sent out to all the colleges you apply for.
(A: How do you choose teachers for your recommendation letters?)
Y: I was in band for four years in high school, and I asked my band director to write me a letter. He knows me pretty well.
Z: For OSSM, since it is a smaller school, in general, you could have more personal interactions with your teachers and counselors, and your counselors will know you better and have more to talk about you in the recommendation letters.
L: I came from a pretty small private school. Basically all the teachers know you. The high school counselor works with you to make sure you have everything ready for college.
(A: Do you upload your recommendation letters or your teachers upload them?)
Z: Teachers. Teachers are very busy and you have to make sure they wont miss the deadline. They can upload the recommendation letters anytime they want and can do different schools all at once.
Q: In OSSM, how to handle the college applications in the fall semester while still taking the demanding course work?
Z: It is particularly difficult for students in OSSM because their busy schedule. My best advice is to apply really early, like the very beginning of the summer. Not a lot of people are actually doing that, but you can start to think about how to write your essays. Whenever you have time from your studies, just take a couple of minutes to write down your ideas.
In OSSM you have really strong community around you, a lot of my friends and I will talk to each other and ask supervisors for advisors, which helps a lot.
Q: What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your high school?
Y: I wish I knew more about the subject tests. I think I took mine a little bit late. I did apply for the ED for Stanford, but I didn’t have my subject tests ready.
Z: For me, I wish I knew to pursue what I was most passionate about. As you applying to the college, you realize that lots of people around you have the same strength, the same extracurricular activities you would have. If you could find something that you particularly passion about, something that is unique and can make you stand out, and to continue pursuing that along with your studies, like sports or art, that’s generally a good thing.
L: In my junior year, I spent a lot of time studying and missed a lot of fun times with friends. I wish I could find a better way to balance study and friends.
Q: When did you decide your academic interest and career goals?
Z: It really depends and varies for each kid. For me, it is what I am strongest at. I am strong at biochemistry and science, and that becomes what I am interested in.
Y: In the freshman and sophomore year of high school, there is engineering entry courses offered by Moore Norman Technology center. They teach you about basic engineering stuff. That is when I started to realize that I like to do engineering.
L: I chose accounting because I was a very quite person and I like quite environment, and I like math. It is more from my personality.
Q: What you did in high school in academics, tests, athletics and extracurricular activities?
Y: For extracurricular activities, I did band in high school, like marching band and concert band. They really give you a good group of friends to hang out with. For more academically extracurricular activities, I did robotics in high school which teaches you how to programing. Academically, just keep up with your homework and you should be fine.
L: I was more involved in leadership and community services. I’ve been vice president twice and treasure secretary once. Because we are Christian school, our strongest point is the community service, and we have a lot of projects throughout the school year. I got almost 1000 community services hours during high school. That is part of my favorite thing to do. I also built good relationship with people I worked with.
(A: How do you evaluation volunteer hours? Is there any criteria?)
Z: I used volunteer hours to apply for scholarships.
Y: I wrote down my volunteer experience on my essay.
(A: Is it an important component for application?)
L: Some colleges do. OU is big on it.
(A: Is GPA very important in high school?)
Z: In OSSM, we don’t really have GPAs. I have to put NA in my college applications for the GPA. Lots of courses in OSSM are going by materials and are more difficult.
Y: For Norman High, there is an over all GPA but no weighted GPA. Everyone got 4.0 will be ranked No.1 in the system.
Q: Parents got a feeling that it is difficult for Asian students to get into good schools. Did it affect your applications?
Y: You might have the feeling, but you can not do anything about it. You just do the best you can.
Q: Do you feel that you are better students when you are in college?
Y: Sometimes. The in-state requirement to get in and out of state requirement to get in is very different. The average out of state students are doing lots better than the in state students.
Z: USC is in downtown Los Angeles. There are different people coming from different backgrounds. Some people are biochemistry or chemistry, and some other people might be amazing dancers or artists. It is really what your strength are and other people’s strength are. Not really better or worse.
Q: Why do you pick your school?
Z: I have been asked this question a lot, like why did you choose a school that is so far to go home? A lot of it is to look at the programs they have offered. USC has really good neuroscience program and I was particularly interested in that. It is also to do with the scholarships I have been offered.
Q: USC is a very good school, but are you concern about the safety of campus?
Z: That is something my parents really concern about. They called me a lot and like are you safe? USC is in downtown Los Angeles and have a lot of activities around. We are kind of like in a bad neighborhood. We got programs that ensure student’s safety, like safe ride. If you stay on campus, generally you will be safer.
Y: Georgia Tech is kind of the same. We have our own campus police. On campus it is pretty safe, but you don’t want to walk off campus alone. If you are going to off-campus, try to stay in a group.
(A: do you have to live in dorm or rent a house?)
Y: You can do whatever you want. For freshman, there is a process to go through if you don’t want to stay in dorm. It is a lot easier for freshman to stay in dorms, especially if you are from out of state. For sophomore, junior and seniors, you can live in the on campus apartment.
Q: What is different in your college life and high school life?
Z: In OSSM the school tells you what to do with your time. You wake up really early and go to school and not allowed to go back to the dorm until four. You have dinnertime for one hour and then you have study time. It is straightforward and lay out for you. In college you have to budget your time by yourself. You have to balance study and hanging out with your friends.
In College you have a lot of free time than high school. In high school you have to be in your class for like 8 hours a day. In college it depends how you set up your schedule. Don’t waste time on doing like playing games all the times. Find time to study and be productive.
(A: Usually where you go to study?)
Y: I personally don’t have a problem study at dorm. A lot of people will go to library and a place called undergraduate center.
Z: Same here.
Q: Did you involve in any volunteer work in your campus life?
Z: I involved in a health club and we went to high school in LA and teach freshman about sex education since school does not provide such information.
Y: I did Marching band for football games. It is busy and basically you gave up one day of your weekend.
Q: How many APs do you recommend to take before going into college?
Y: I took basically all of my AP classes and went to school with 30 credits already. In general, the more the better. Most colleges will accept AP. If you go to out of state for college and the tuition is really expensive, it is worth to pay for the AP tests and not have to take and pay for the classes credits.
Q: What life skills you would recommend to learn to make the first year of college easier?
Y: If you live in a dorm, the most important thing to learn is to get along with your roommate.
We have a floor kitchen. The meal plan is pretty expensive and I plan to start cook after I move to an apartment.
Z: For USC, we live in Suit. The price is very different and drives people to choose what they want to live.
Q: Do you recommend the potential students to apply for Georigia tech and USC?
Y: Conditional. We have majorly computer science and engineering in G Tech. It will be difficult to transfer to another school if you are not interested in these majors.
Zhu: Definitely. It is very different experience from OU and you can meet different people here.
Q: National merit scholarship in OU requires SAT or ACT?
Parent’s answer: OU used to have very nice scholarship covering for four years. With the new president, the policy may change.
To qualify for the scholarship, you have to take PSAT test and you have to be among the top 0.5% of all high school students.
For parents working in OU, you can get the tuition waivered. You will still have about 50% fees.
Another scholarship for OU is called Regents’ scholarship. It requires ACT around 34 or higher then you can be qualify for that scholarship. It is almost as nice as national merit scholarship.
Q: Safety tips in campus? (continued)
A: In general campus is pretty safe. Be smart. Know the safety skills, like always walking with your friend.
Q: (For Alex ) Why you choose Duke?
A: Close to home (relatively)/ basketball.
(Alex, Biology Major (pre-med), Norman North, graduated in 2015. Applied OSSM but chose not to go, because of the swim team in Norman North. )
Q: Did you find Chinese language a useful skill in your life?
Z: Not really that case. I did not use Chinese language a lot academically or in campus life.
A: I think it is important. It depends on what career you are going to. In college, I realize how important my culture is. I attended a program funded by Duke to go to different countries, and I chose China. It is a culture change program with kids in Zhuhai. I taught them English and used a lot of Chinese there. In career too, you never know who you are going to interact with. I am glad in college I chose Chinese as my second language. I felt boring when I went to Chinese school and didn’t like it. But looking back, I don’t regret doing Chinese at all.
Y: I don’t really use Chinese that much. The most useful for me academically, is passing the AP test, so I don’t have to take language anyway.
L: When I went to Taiwan to visit my family and doing volunteer works in Taiwan, it really helped me a lot.
Q: How may volunteer hours required for high school? Is there a number?
Y: No number requirement. I did put how many hours I have been volunteering each week but not summarize the total hours.
Zhu: You can put on your resume if you want to do that.
Q: Have you heard about the military RTOC program?
Z: Not very familiar about it. Some of my friends are doing it. The military will pay for your tuition.
Y: I also have friends doing this. It is great that they paid for the tuition. But most time people don’t want to do it because the military jobs are not what they really want to do. You also have to go to boot camp and this kind of stuff, which I do not really want to go.
Q: Are you parents paying for all you cost for your college or you apply for students loan?
Z: I have scholarship in USC paying for the tuition, so this year I have to pay for the textbooks, meal plans and housing. Next year I will be a RA. In USC RA completely covers for your meal plans and housing. If I continue to be RA for the next 3 years, all I need to pay is textbooks.
(A: Did you get RA after or before your getting into college?.)
Z: You can only be RA from sophomore to senior, so you can only apply after you get into college.
Parents: For Asian students, if you want to apply for top schools, top schools normally do not offer many merit-based scholarships. Lots of scholarships are income based. If your income is high enough, you are not able to get any of these. USC is actually one of the very few schools that offer very generous scholarships. You can have trustee scholarship, which waivers all the tuitions and fees. If you are a national merit scholar semi finalist, they are going to offer you 50% off the tuition. They have many different levels of scholarships. Lots of times people overlooked these little opportunities. You also have to apply early for these opportunities. December 14th is the deadline.
(Are there any other schools that offer generous scholarships…)
I am not aware of any other schools except USC that offers such generous scholarships. Last year USC’s expense was about 80000 dollars and is one of the most expensive schools.
For the saving, there is also a college saving plan, which called 529. You can start to save from now and better to start early. However, when you apply for college, it will become party of your asset. It is like a trade off.
Q: What is the interview process like? What kind of questions they ask?
Z: I stayed in USC for two days. We stayed the night with students in USC to feel how the dorm life and student’s life will be like. In the interview they asked a lot of different questions, like what did you do in high school, what you passion about and what you are planning to do with your future. Basically the normal college interview kind of questions. I got a question like, if you can have dinner with three people who they will be.