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How I Got to College: Zoe Blickenderfer

Here's how this Massachusetts high schooler chose to attend University of Pennsylvania.

Zoe Blickenderfer, a graduate of Somerville High School near Boston, opted for the University of Pennsylvania.

Zoe Blickenderfer, a graduate of Somerville High School near Boston, opted for the University of Pennsylvania.

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This spring, U.S. News visited Somerville High School near Boston to ask members of the Class of 2012 to talk about their journeys to college and pass on any helpful advice.

Somerville is home to a mix of blue-collar families, young professionals, college students, and recent immigrants. The school's 1,324 students speak more than 50 languages; about one third are white, just over another third are Hispanic, and African-Americans and Asians account for most of the rest. The graduation rate is 81 percent; 77 percent of grads go on to college. In the last school year, 129 students took 160 AP exams. Hear from grads on how they got in.

Zoe Blickenderfer, the class valedictorian, is headed to the University of Pennsylvania, one of seven schools she got into (including University of Vermont, Tufts University, Boston College, St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., McGill University in Montreal, and University of Massachusetts—Amherst). Princeton University said no; Brown University, Columbia University, Harvard University, and Yale University wait-listed her.

In addition to taking a challenging course load, Blickenderfer worked as a research assistant for the school's ePortfolio program, a project with the Harvard Graduate School of Education to create digital stories, and belonged to the Boston Children's Chorus both as a singer and volunteer.

GPA: 3.9 unweighted

SAT scores: 690 math, 800 critical reading, 690 writing

Extracurriculars: Founder of the school's Green Club, member of National Honor Society, co-president of Boston Children's Chorus; black belt in taekwondo

Essay topic: Baking as a therapeutic experience, providing stress relief and "thinking time"

Epiphany: Interviews are very beneficial, especially if you ask questions to "get a better feel of the school."

Fun part: College visits. Fell in love with Prince­ton's vibe, but not with Swarthmore College's.

Secret weapon: Seven to eight hours of sleep each night was a great relaxer, plus it forced her to budget her time.

Advice: Taking four years of core subjects and a language helps. And "stop worrying about doing everything." Embrace an extracurricular and participate fully.

More Somerville High School student profiles:

Wriju Adhikary

Tania Ahmed

Michael Kemp

Norman Li

Zachary Sciuto

Johnson Thomas

Julia Zoukhri

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