What’s up guys! My name is Joshua Shongwe, and I’m working at SupertutorTV this summer. This post and video will be about what I did in high school and how I got into Stanford University for the Class of 2022!
I was born and raised in Southern California in the suburban area of Los Angeles. I’ve attended public and charter schools throughout the entirety of my primary and secondary level of schooling. My high school, Granada Hills Charter High School, was comprised of a very large student body with over 5,000 students and ranking #1 of 246 high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. With that being said, there was always an overwhelming pressure to try to be different and stand out. Moreover, the large student population definitely made achieving school-based/state-based awards significantly more difficult.
My parents always emphasized the importance of education when I was younger but growing up and being one of the only African American students in your class it seems like you have to try to fit in more and school becomes a second priority. With that being said, I actually got 5 B’s throughout the entirety of my high school career, and I racked up 3 of those B’s in the first semester of my sophomore year. A large factor that inhibited my success was attending parties and being overly social when I should have been preparing for tests or getting some extra hours of rest.
After receiving my transcript in the mail during that winter break, I had a very introspective time where I realized that I didn’t want to be someone that peaked in high school and descend from there on out. I truly wanted to create something bigger than myself, to be a part of something that could aid communities, to help provide education to those who did not have access. From that point on I held myself responsible and accountable to become a better version of myself day by day.
My second semester of sophomore year I worked extremely hard and finished with straight A’s and a 4.7 GPA. However, due to my lackluster first semester of sophomore year I knew I needed to do more in order to be considered by higher level colleges. Therefore, I registered for 6 Advanced Placement courses during my Junior year. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to take 6 Advanced Placement classes, but I personally screwed up early on in my high school career and I knew I needed to compensate for my own decisions. After that year, I achieved a 5.0 GPA for both semesters bring my cumulative GPA to a 4.67.
I personally was never a fan of standardized tests. My mom would always make me take tests online and I would just blank out midway and then end up playing video games. So she signed me up for ACT boot camp, where I sat for 8 hours a day and spent upwards of $5,000 to take tests and review them over and over again. Looking back, I’m very thankful that I utilized preparatory classes for standardized tests because it was really just a matter of going through ACT material and recognizing patterns. Now on my second attempt I scored a 33 Composite on my ACT (31-English, 34-Math, 33-Reading, 34-Science).
My AP scores were pretty bad compared to the other Stanford applicants. I took 10 AP tests receiving 3’s on all of them except Psychology which I received a 4. I’m not here to tell you that AP tests don’t matter, but my advice is that you look at the courses the colleges you are applying to accept before spending the money.
Furthermore, my subject tests were decent. I scored a 760 on Math II and I scored a 700 on Physics.
I’ve always been a go-getter in life and like to understand and figure out problems. I remember I was watching the movie Interstellar and while I was watching the movie there was a huge dust storm in the beginning and the crops were dying and the dust consumed the entirety of the town. So, I thought to myself if we eventually get to a point where we use primarily solar power, would the dirt or any other contaminant effect the efficiency of said solar panel? So, I bought my own solar panel on amazon, got my Dad’s soldering iron and built an ammeter to determine the voltage produced. I wrote up a whole lab report and actually ended up putting that in my application portfolio.
Furthermore, I planned and organized the San Fernando Valley’s Annual Hackathon which provided underprivileged kids the ability to display their knowledge in Computer Science. It was a huge success and that was honestly one of the highlights of my life seeing kids of all different color so happy to be able to work with others to create and display their solutions to real life problems.
My last major project was creating an equitable learning website for underprivileged students that didn’t have access to higher level math. I created an entire curriculum ranging from Calculus A to Multivariable Calculus with an interactive UI so it was very futuristic and the website was equipped with Video Learning, Read and Example based Learning, Problem Based learning, and Assessment based learning. I think I spent about 1,000 hours on that project and ended up contacting an LAUSD representative that said they would like to use it as a proof of concept for future equitable learning curriculum.
My graduating class was about 1,000 students and the valedictorian candidate had a GPA of 4.71 was in Academic Decathlon and won nationals twice, taught English to kids in Cambodia, linked the Robotics team to neighboring Elementary schools to expose kids to the STEM field. So even after all of that hard work, I still wasn’t “the best.” And I think that that’s something very important to note, you don’t have to be “the best” to get into the school of your dreams.
Lastly, Stanford has one of the hardest applications with 11 essays that require extreme thought. I approached the application with the idea that I didn’t want to speak about racial inequality or how being the only African-American individual a large portion of my classes affected my high school career. And while these were very prominent issues that followed me throughout my high school carrier, it was not the message I wanted to convey to the Admissions Office. I wanted to show them that I was a normal kid that had passions in engineering and computer science.
What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 word limit)
Twenty-four hours. One-thousand four-hundred forty minutes. Eighty-six thousand four-hundred seconds. Time, like matter or energy, cannot be created or destroyed, but manipulated to render maximum efficiency. And regardless of your age, race, socioeconomic status, et cetera the challenge will always be: do I have enough time for that?