Profile: Switching Goals and Refocusing

Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet High School grads tell their stories, dish out admissions tips.


Charlie Xie, his class's valedictorian, is headed to nearby Vanderbilt University to study biomechanical engineering on a full-tuition ride. His top choice, MIT, rejected him, so he switched his goal from getting into the top engineering program to finding a good, affordable college. After getting rejected or wait-listed by Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, he realized that "I put too much emphasis on academics." Charlie didn't play sports or work; he says, "I fit that Asian nerd type pretty well."

GPA: 4.0 unweighted

SAT/ACT scores: 740 math, 800 critical reading, 760 writing/35

Extracurrics: Magnet Science Olympiad Team, Magnet Math Team, National Honor Society, volunteering

Essay topic: Personality growth through life

Hardest part: Completing the applications on time

Advice on essays: "Try to find something you're passionate in and build on that." Charlie had a hard time picking a topic and says his main essay was too general and formal.

Tip: Don't send in essays without someone reviewing them.

Coping strategy: Began running when starting the application process, listened to music—and procrastinated!

Advice: "Research how colleges calculate financial aid before spending too much time applying for scholarships. Many schools simply deduct the scholarship award from the need-based award, essentially making the scholarship money useless if it amounts to less than the need-based award."

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