The Key to Getting into College is Preparation
When Arunima Sen, 16, from Bangalore, India, was a freshman in high school, her parents and teachers advised her to start thinking about college. They told her, when it comes to college planning, “the earlier, the better.”
“My parents told me that it was good to start early because I could explore more options and could improve myself in the consecutive years to make myself a good fit for my dream college/university,” she explains.
She took their advice to heart, and although she’s still just a junior, she has an impressive array of experiences under her belt to help her college applications shine when the time comes. With a plan to major in electrical engineering, with a minor in computer science and a concentration in physics, Arunima is taking the most challenging courses offered in her high school and constantly looking for opportunities such as internships and research fellowships. She’s an academic, technological, and research consultant for JÜV Consulting—a network of teenagers who are dedicated to giving themselves a voice in the business world. She is also working on a startup founded by high school and undergraduate students that uses neurofeedback gaming mechanisms to improve cognitive skills in children with autism and dyslexia. To add to her already impressive resume, she also interned at a Salesforce office in Bangalore as part of a #GirlsInTech initiative.
Arunima is also tapping into the advice of people who are currently working in the field she’d like to enter. Last May, Arunima attended the Academy’s Challenge 2030 event, through her involvement in our Junior Academy program. She was able to meet Nobel Laureates, CEOs, and scientists. “I had long conversations with a few guests about schools with great EECS (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) programs,” she said. “All of them shared their personal experiences about the colleges that they attended. It was extremely useful because it helped me to shortlist colleges on factors like strength of faculty and programs, quality of education, campus life, affordability, etc.”
Arunima also participated in the Academy’s one-on-one mentoring program for female high school students, 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures. Her mentor, Stephanie Shiau, a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Epidemiology at the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center at Columbia University Medical Center, has had a big impact on her.
“She pinpointed my areas of weakness, provided suggestions on how to improve, and constantly pushed me towards excellence,” she said.
As passionate as Arunima is about STEM, would you believe she still makes time to pursue her other interests? She likes to write poems and short stories, some of which have been published in national daily newspapers. She has even won several national- and state-level accolades for her writing.
Arunima is obviously a very motivated young woman, who has found the resources to help her on her path to college despite the fact that there aren’t free resources for college readiness at her school or in her community. She points out that the consultancy firms that do offer help are expensive.
For those like Arunima who don’t have college readiness resources readily available—or who aren’t as far along as she is in the preparation process—the Academy has developed a free video series focused on College Readiness, to help students navigate through the college process. Students can view the videos in order, or choose to watch the ones they find of greatest interest—from the college search to deciding what topic to write about for an essay, to finding ways to pay for tuition. Check out the user-friendly, stress-reducing video series here.