What I have Done for College : Improve Your College Application

Applying to CollegeHi everyone! I’m Ridge Liu and I got a Perfect Score on the SAT. After going through Test Masters’ SAT course and getting a perfect score, I accepted Test Masters’ invitation to intern with them this summer. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my thoughts on the SAT and college admissions with y’all as I go through the process myself. I hope you enjoy my first post!

Apply to College
The application process can sometimes seem very daunting.

I am a rising senior, so my mind is focused on college and college applications. I could rave and rant about the process, but that has been done. Instead, I’ve been asked to review what I’ve done to make myself an applicant whose application won’t go straight into the trash can. (I should begin this with a disclaimer: I am a massive nerd. What follows is a rather long post about nerd things and nerd ideas and nerd habits, which if you have any familiarity with the subject you know are not for the faint of heart.)

I decided a long time ago that I would be doing something math-y or science-y. Sure, literature is thought-provoking and history is entertaining, but for me there is nothing quite like finding out how acetic acid reacts with sodium bicarbonate, or how archaeobacteria evolved into humans and cats and dogs, or how particles get mass. With that in mind it should be no surprise that I have decided to apply for a physics program.

My college application began in middle school, when I joined the “Mathcounts” team.


I wasn’t very good and I never won an award, but I learned many valuable lessons. The first was a lesson in progress, that there is always room for improvement. It is very easy to have a parochial mindset and think, “I’m the best in my class, so I must be the best in the world.” Thankfully, it is also very easy to crush that notion. The second lesson was that anything can be fun when you want it to be. To me, math used to just be a chore: finish my algebra worksheet as quickly as I can so I can play more Runescape. Starting with “Mathcounts,” I opened my eyes to problem solving and critical thinking. I also applied these lessons to other subject, and I found myself enjoying literature and history much more with this newly adopted attitude.

The legacy of my “Mathcounts” experience is evident in my participation in academic competitions through high school. I’ve competed at Rice University and University of Houston Math Competitions, with varying results. I’ve also taken the American Mathematics Contest (AMC) and American Invitational Mathematics Exam (AIME) … unfortunately, also with varying results. I’ve even competed in physics competitions, like the tryout exam for the US Physics Team. As further bait for colleges, I’ve also participated in University Interscholastic League (UIL) contests up to the regional level. While my scores may not compare favorably against those of someone at Stuyvesant or TJHSST or LASA, I hope my scores will help me stand out of the crowd of all the other students who are interested in the same things as me.

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I also competed at the local science fair with an engineering project, and I am currently working on a physics project for next year’s science fair. Though I may not achieve any remarkable result like Kensen Shi’s Siemens-Competition-winning project on cancer, I hope colleges will at least see my interest in the field and in research.

Even with these extracurricular activities, I know that colleges also care about standardized testing. As far as testing goes, I attribute my SAT score to the hours of effort I put in at Test Masters’ Exam Club, as well as the excellent strategies taught in class. There is no way I could have improved my score without the practice that Exam Club gave. Though you do not need to have a Perfect Score to get into a good university, the higher your SAT score is the more likely you are to be admitted to your university of choice.

A+ report card
An impressive list of extracurricular activities is no substitute for a good report card.

Most importantly, I do well in school. Though I do not actively participate in the GPA game where students will select the optimum schedule to get the highest GPA possible, I do still strive to get all A’s because that is what colleges care most about. By taking the hardest courses that are relevant to my interests and available at my school, I hope to show colleges that I care about the science and progress.

Since my childhood, I have been constantly reminded of college and college admissions, whether it is some TV character and their application or one of many articles on the internet; the pressure to perform comes from absolutely everywhere. Because I knew of the terrors of applications, I have taken certain measures to make myself a good candidate for colleges. The first step was finding out just what I liked the most; for me it is and always has been physics, for you it could be something else entirely. After identifying the field I want to study, and maybe one day work in professionally, I started to pursue related extracurricular activities. This not only increases my understanding of the field, but also looks very good on college applications; these activities show colleges I am serious about my chosen field, and I’m hoping admission officers will appreciate the effort I’ve put in when they make a decision on whether or not I can attend their school. Finally, while doing all of this I have not forgotten the most important thing for college applications: I kept my grades up. A good application comes from being yourself and pursuing your interests; this makes you seem smart and enthusiastic, and that is what colleges want. That is what I have done. What remains is to see whether or not it will pay off.

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By Ridge Liu

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