💼 Bachelor: Media Industries and Technology
⏳ Aug 2018 — May 2022
✅ Student Visa (F1)
🤓 20,300 Students
🌏 20% International
My name is Jane, and I pursued my undergraduate degree at Northwestern University, where I attended the School of Communication and majored in Media Industries and Technology. I chose Northwestern for its top-notch program and strong connections to Hollywood. In this article, I'll share my application journey, experiences at Northwestern, and advice for prospective applicants.
Universities that I’ve applied to
I applied REA to Harvard but was deferred. I then applied to Northwestern University, Barnard College, Columbia University, Georgetown University, Brown University, UPenn, Dartmouth College, Cornell University, Williams College, Wellesley College, and UChicago in Regular Decision.
I was accepted at Northwestern, Brown, Barnard, UPenn, Wellesley, and Georgetown. Choosing the school was difficult for me.
At first, I wanted to go to UPenn and literally submitted the enrollment deposit, but then I changed my mind, realizing that I wouldn't be happy there. That's how I ended up at Northwestern.
Stats and Extracurriculars
My GPA was 9.38/10, and my SAT score was 1400. I also took two SAT subject tests in American and World History, scoring 750 and 800, respectively.
As for extracurricular activities, I took an active role in student government and served on the National Student Council in my home country, Moldova. I also engaged with several local organizations within my district. Additionally, I participated in a program that funded student projects nationwide, where I managed the process of gathering grants to support these initiatives. My other activities primarily centered around government politics, as I intended to major in political science. This involvement included organizing events for politicians and managing social media accounts for several political figures in Moldova.
Regarding honors, I participated in 15 Republican Olympiads during my high school years. Every year I received awards in the following subjects: Russian, English, History, Ecology, and Romanian language. Also, I was part of the team representing Moldova in an international competition that awarded grants for projects related to sustainability.
I received need-based full financial aid from Northwestern. I only used to pay $300-$400 for textbooks sometimes, but that was the only amount I paid. I completed the CSS Profile, and some schools to which I applied required me to fax them copies of my parents' tax returns. I made the mistake of paying the application fee, and when I worked in the admissions office, I realized that I had the option not to because I could just ask them for a fee waiver. If you're applying for financial aid, you should definitely reach out to the admissions office and ask for a fee waiver because why would you pay $100 for the application if you have no idea if they were going to even accept you.
Inside the admission office
An intriguing aspect of my experience working in the admissions office was that I had the opportunity to view my own admissions file. One detail that caught my attention was the admissions officer's note about my dedication and persistence in pursuing my dream of attending the school. They were impressed by the fact that I woke up at 3 a.m. and took a four-hour drive just to take the SAT. I included this information in the Additional Information section and made sure to provide as much relevant detail as possible.
A common mistake I observed during my time in admissions was that students often overlooked the importance of recommendation letters. Many submitted brief, half-page recommendations, which did not meet the expectations of admissions officers. It's beneficial to obtain recommendations from influential individuals, as this can significantly impact the outcome. I've seen cases where applicants with weaker applications managed to secure admission due to strong recommendations from prominent figures, such as their country's president or minister of education. While I'm not sure how they established contact with these individuals, their resourcefulness and determination were commendable.
Lastly, I'd like to emphasize the importance of including specific details about the school in your "Why" essays. Mentioning a particular research project, professor, club, or extracurricular activity you're interested in demonstrates that you've done your research and genuinely care about the institution. This helps to show your commitment and genuine interest in the school.
Common App Personal Statement
I think the main essay on the Common App is really important. Over the years, I've had a couple of students reach out to me for help with their applications, and I noticed that they followed the same template, copied from a guy who wrote an essay and got admitted to Harvard. They tried to write something similar. That's wrong because admission officers usually expect you to write about something; you don't need to invent.
My essay was about a cartoon. I started my essay by describing how I woke up, turned on my TV, and started watching a cartoon about Egyptian history. I fell in love with that, and that's how I started studying history and realized what I want to do with my life. This topic was something different because those admissions officers had to read a few thousand people's essays telling them that their lives are so hard, but this is not what they want to read about. So, you should write about a story that is meaningful to you, showing how this helped you realize who you are and what you want to do, even if you think that aspect of your life is not important.
My most memorable experience at Northwestern
In my freshman year, we had a retreat for all the freshmen during our fall break, and they took us to the desert. They left us there, gave us tents, and told us to stay, meet each other, and enjoy. The second day, there was a storm, the first in 10 years in the desert. We were exhausted and had to hide in buses. Our tents were destroyed, and it was a disaster. When we returned to campus, our bags were full of sand, and some people had problems with their eyes because of the sand. However, it was a very funny experience and something that I will surely remember.
Work, internships, research, and other programs
In my first year at Northwestern University, I worked in the admissions office. It was just a regular job; they don't pay you a lot there.
In my second year, my history teacher asked me for help as a research assistant. I started working with him, and that was the best job I could possibly have in college. This professor was researching the American Revolution and privateers. I worked on this project until graduation, even during the summer when I was back home. I was working, being paid, and this work was considered my class. I'm so grateful because it saved me a lot of time.
Also, I took an upper-level course regarding the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States and wrote an amazing research paper on spies and the Soviet Union. It was 30 pages long. My professor liked it a lot and got it published.
In my last semester, I was doing a full-time internship for credit. Instead of taking classes for the entire semester, I was working eight hours a week for a company.
In addition to this, during my undergraduate studies, I did a couple of internships at different tech companies: an internship at Facebook, related to music and copyright; an internship at a PR company, and another tech company in the field of marketing sales.
Research and internship opportunities were available to all students at Northwestern. My program allowed us to do whatever we wanted. If you wanted to do research, it usually took you five minutes to apply for a grant. You could do studies abroad or studies during the summer. I had access to everything that I needed, so I would 100% recommend going to Northwestern.
We had a career advancement office that helped students get internships, but I never accepted any of the opportunities we had within our office. I applied on my own to companies and tried to reach out to alumni from my school, asking them to introduce me to their teams. In my first year, people told me to apply to internships online, and I would get one. However, I realized that no one cares about online applications. I applied to an internship at Adobe 50 times online, and they never even replied. Then, I found a woman who had studied at my school. I messaged her, saying that I was extremely interested in this role, and the next day, the recruiter from Adobe messaged me, saying that we could have an interview. So, that's the best way to secure an internship. I advise each student to take advantage of the alumni relations at their university.
Extracurriculars on campus
Regarding extracurricular activities on campus, I was involved in the student government at the beginning, but then I became so busy with my classes that I left. However, I continued to get involved in organizing events together with the student activities office.
Sports are very common activities at Northwestern, but I never had the goal of being on the varsity team. However, some students were even recruited for that. They were brought to the university and offered admission because it's super important for the university to compete with other colleges. I remember we had very strong swimming and American football teams.
Integration as an international student
As international students, we all had an international advisor. We participated in an orientation program, and a good thing was that they divided us into small groups of five with one student advisor. They made sure to solve all our problems regarding bank accounts, health insurance, and many other things before the semester started. They also tried to organize events for us and support us as much as they could. Northwestern University spends a lot of resources on international students just to make sure they feel comfortable being there.
My advice for prospective applicants
I would say it's important to start the application process as early as you can. I know people who did it at the last minute and got in, but usually, that's not the case. You have to spend a lot of time with the application process and prepare yourself as early as possible to avoid all the stress.
Remember to always rely on yourself. You shouldn't think that you will ask a teacher for a recommendation and they're going to write a nice one. You have to tell them how to do it and what to mention. If you don't, they're going to write something nice about you, but it's not going to be what universities want to read about you.
Be honest in your applications - you don't have to write an essay about how you're going to save the world. You have to write about something you're passionate about and that's why they should choose you over all other people who have the same scores as you.