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The Swarm of the Super-Applicants

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Harmain Khan
Staten Island Technical High School
GPA: 98.41
SAT: 1920 (660 reading, 600 math, 660 writing)
AP scores: World history (4), English language (4)

Academic honors: His paper Tracing Early Hominid Migration in India: ESR Dating at Hathnora and Devni-Khadri won the First Place Grand Award at the Intel Student Research Contest, first place for the Geological Society of America, second place for the American Geological Institute, and third place for Sigma Xi (2006). New York City Science and Engineering Fair Grand Prize Winner (2006). NAACP Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics Gold Medalist for Drama and Chemistry; Bronze Medalist for Oratory (2006).

Extracurricular activities: Established a date range for India’s only known Homo erectus cranium and developed a method for dating crocodile teeth. Presented his paper Developing ESR Dating for Crocodylian Teeth: Stability, Interference Signal Resolution and Applications to Geoarchaeology at the conference of the Geological Society of America. Captain of the city’s top team in the Envirothon, a national environmental-science competition.

Sports: Has run for the past four years on his school’s cross-country team, currently in first place in the Public Schools Athletic League.

Applying to: Harvard (early), Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, and Williams.

His chances: He developed a method for dating crocodile teeth. How many people can say that on an application? He also has participated in his school community by running all four years. If Harvard is looking for a scientist with his particular skills, it will probably admit him despite his scores.


Liming Luo
Hunter College High School, Manhattan
GPA: 97.2
SAT: 2400 (800 reading, 800 math, 800 writing)
AP scores: Chemistry (5), U.S. history (5)

Academic honors: Vice-president and co-founder of her school’s chapter of Mu Alpha Theta (a national math honors society). Scored 122.5 (fewer than 5 percent of all students score over 100) on the American Mathematics Contest 12, a national math competition.

Extracurricular activities: Member, Hunter’s math A-Team, ranked second in New York City. Published The Mathematics of Tic Tac Toe in Hunter’s math magazine, Radicals. Co-champion at the 2005 Vassar Invitational Forensics Tournament (approximately 70 schools entered). Volunteered at a Chinese prep school teaching math to eighth-graders for one summer. Writes sci-fi and fantasy in her spare time.

Applying to: MIT (early), Harvard, Harvey Mudd, Columbia, Stanford, sunyStony Brook, Cornell, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Her chances: Her perfect SAT score is truly outstanding but not a free ticket. She is applying to many technical colleges, so she will be competing against a lot of other high-achieving math/science kids (and a lot of other Asian students in particular). While she may be admitted to MIT early, I am not convinced she’s a shoo-inI’d want to see more evidence that she’s giving back to the community.

By 2013, there will be 3.3 million more kids applying to college than in 2000.


Diana Marin  

Diana Marin
The Hewitt School, Manhattan
GPA: 3.9
SAT: 2060 (690 reading, 620 math, 750 writing)
AP scores: U.S. history (4), biology (5)

Academic honors: National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar for scoring in top 3 percent of Hispanic students nationwide on the PSAT. Wellesley Book Award for academic leadership, given to one junior per participating school. Performing Arts Award, given to one junior at Hewitt.

Extracurricular activities: Founder and president of the Gay-Straight Alliance and co-founder of zap, the Zine Advocacy Project. Editor-in-chief of the newspaper and yearbook. On the Prep for Prep admissions committee. Interned at Lehman Brothers. Member of Students of Color Club, Earth Committee, and Chamber Choir.

Sports: Varsity gymnastics team (grades 8 to 11). Teaches gymnastics at the lower school.

Applying to: Harvard (early), Beloit College, Brown, Bryn Mawr, University of Chicago, Georgetown, Grinnell, Haverford, MIT, Pitzer, Scripps, and Swarthmore.

Her chances: She is a real pioneer and self-starter. I tell my students that if you can’t find it, found it! I also like the fact that she is a proponent for diversity and combines her own interest in gymnastics with a volunteer opportunity. She’s not doing random community service to collect hours. There is one red flag, which is that she stopped gymnastics this year. Apparently, her school dropped the program; this should be footnoted on her résumé so she does not appear to be a quitter. She has a shot at Harvard depending upon what she wants to pursue; she’s in the range of their typical applicants.


Megan Popkin
Marymount School, Manhattan
GPA: 4.3
SAT: 2230 (730 reading, 700 math, 800 writing)
AP scores: European history (5), U.S. history (5)

Academic honors: Best Feature Article Award at Columbia University’s Journalism Workshop (2004 and 2005). Represented school at writing competition sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English. Ranked in the 95th percentile for the eleventh grade in the National French Contest. National Honor Society.

Extracurricular activities: Arts and Leisure co-editor of the newspaper and contributor to the literary magazine. Plays drums in the FMs, a band that includes her sister and brother. Percussionist for Marymount Singers. Works for the admissions office and at her parents’ law office. Gave speeches about the black-footed penguin as a docent at the New York Aquarium. Volunteers at a soup kitchen. Spokesperson for Make-A-Wish Foundation after her cancer diagnosis the summer before freshman year. Designed her own physical-therapy plan after treatment left her with acute neuropathy in both legs.

Sports: Starter on the varsity field-hockey team. Played varsity softball and junior-varsity basketball.

Applying to: Brown (early), Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Williams, Amherst, Haverford, Stanford, Pomona, Wesleyan, University of Chicago, Trinity College, Georgetown, and University of Virginia.

Her chances: I love the fact that she plays in a band with her siblings. Maintaining a 4.3 GPA in high school must have been tough given what she went through. This is a girl who has overcome serious obstacles and setbacks and still excelled in high school. She also gave back to Make-A-Wish by becoming a spokesperson; her generosity of spirit is evident. Her story is compelling, and I think she has a shot at getting into Brown early decision.


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