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How We Got to College: Sarah McMillian

Here's how this Maryland high schooler chose to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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The journey to college acceptance is one best told by the experts: high school seniors who've just completed the process. Learning how others got into college can help inform your own effort, so we asked students from the Class of 2011 at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., to relate their experiences, tips, and observations.

Sarah McMillian's high school career as a magnet student included summer internships working in medical, engineering, and physics labs at several universities. She was also captain of the basketball team and started a peer tutoring program at school. Her "long, arduous" journey to college included applications to six engineering schools: Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, Spelman College in Atlanta, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (where she chose early action), Stanford University, and Duke University.

She got into the first four and was wait-listed at Stanford and Duke. The road ended up leading to MIT, where she plans to study mechanical or civil engineering. The grants and scholarships she was awarded will cover about $46,000 of the $55,000 price tag.

GPA: 3.73 unweighted

SAT scores: 750 math, 770 critical reading, 800 writing

Extracurriculars: Besides basketball, Most Valuable Player in track, member of the school's human rights and environmental awareness organization, peer tutor in math and science. Helped create a website for a college fair that was cosponsored by the United Negro College Fund and Montgomery County Public Schools.

Essay topic: Starting the peer tutoring program at her school

Advice: Do an overnight visit at colleges to get beyond the gloss delivered on the tour.

[See our list of 36 questions to ask on a college visit.]

Biggest stressor: Deadlines. The clock turned 11:59 p.m. as she hit the send button on her Maryland application. "I'm a procrastinator," she admits.

Unusual trait: Studied Arabic for three years

Biggest mistake: "Not giving myself enough time."

More Montgomery Blair High School student profiles:

Laura Anthony

Theodore 'Teddy' Bremmer

Robert 'Kit' Durban

Janet Henkai

Eli Okun

Nicole Turchi

Ava Wallace

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