Experience Sharing on U.S. College Application

Some of PANO’s students are from local high schools, some are from bilingual schools, and some are attending Taipei American School (TAS) or European schools. These students have one thing in common: they all want to study abroad, and they applied to various universities and were accepted to California Institute of Technology (Caltech), University of Chicago (UChicago), University of Berkeley (UC Berkeley), University of Michigan (UMichigan) separately.

The following are the most common questions before deciding to study abroad. If you are interested in applying to a U.S. university or are still hesitant, you may wish to evaluate the following points.


Q: Why do you want to study abroad?

In response to this problem, it is recommended to evaluate it from the perspective of employment, university atmosphere, research resources, and so on.

The following is the experience of our counseling students:

When Ryan was studying in Jianzhong, he had already obtained the qualification to be recommended to National Taiwan University. However, after he and his counselor did some research, they discovered that the paths available from the physics department in Taiwan were limited and many of them were connected to teaching positions. But, if he chose to go to the United States to study, he could have a lot of academic research opportunities; as an added bonus, contemporary theoretical physics experts-Steven Weinberg, Edward Witten, etc. were all located in the U.S. In the end, he chose to apply to a U.S. university and was admitted to the physics department of University of California Berkeley like he intended.

Sonia studied at the private Yanping High School. She was studying social studies in high school, and as this was a generally overlooked category of study in Taiwan, its development was very limited. As a result, she finally decided to apply to a U.S. university and was also admitted to the Department of Economics in the University of Chicago.

Elvis is a student from Fudan University in Taoyuan. The reason why he chose to study abroad was because he had a dream of being an entrepreneur since he was a child. He wanted to work in Silicon Valley, and he also wanted to be in an environment where “the person next to him could become Mark Zuckerberg and change the world”. 


Q: What are the challenges and advantages of local high school students in applying for U.S. universities?

The biggest challenge for local high school students to apply to a U.S. university is that they have to take care of their schoolwork and understand the application steps at the same time.

The following are the experiences of our counseling students:

Sonia|Yanping High School

As a local high school student, Sonia recommends that everyone should take the TOEFL exam in the first year of high school. She herself is eligible to be exempt from the school’s English classes due to her high TOEFL scores. Therefore, she also recommends that everyone continue to polish their English skills so that the road for applications will go a lot smoother. Sonia used the time made free by her English classes to prepare for AP exams in the school library.

Elvis|Taoyuan FuDan High School

As a student in a local private high school, Elvis’s academic pressure is very high. But he added that under such an environment, the school has also taught him a lot of skills for tests, which allowed him to get good results on international tests.


Q: Shouldn’t you have to participate in several extracurricular activities when applying for U.S. universities? As a student attending a local high school, are those opportunities?

Sonia and Elvis have the same views on this issue. Sonia said that in local high schools, there’s not a lot of competitors, so if you perform well, you will have many opportunities to participate in activities on behalf of the school. Elvis also believes that ”Although the extracurricular activity opportunities in local high schools are fewer in quantity, it’s both a disadvantage and an advantage, because as long as you do it with passion, you can shine brighter.“

They also want to give 3  pieces of advice for local high school students who want to apply to U.S. universities: Set goals, manage time well, and know what they are doing.


Q: How to prepare for various tests, such as TOEFL, SAT, AP, etc.?

In fact, many students will put a lot of energy into preparing for standardized tests, but we suggest that everyone face the test “as quickly as they can so they can get it done in one go”. 

Click me to view the PANO exam tutorial course, so that you can get high scores in the shortest time and most efficiently.


Q: What extracurricular activities do I need to participate in when applying for a U.S. university in order to be more appealing?

Extracurricular activities are mainly to show what kind of person you are. Other than conforming to the university’s preferences,  it’s more important to consider “what do you like” and your “unique traits“.

Alex is a student of Wego High School who participated in Model United Nations. During the epidemic, when all on-site meetings were cancelled, he and his club friends chose not to follow suit, but decided to hold online meetings. They also invited overseas high school students to participate together and it was a big success. This extracurricular activity presented Alex as a person who dared to try new things and bring about new changes. This was also one of the reasons he was successful in applying to the University of Michigan.

When Elvis was in high school, he liked music very much, so he joined the Hot Music Club. He said, “I joined the music club purely to play music, and I wasn’t expecting to apply to U.S. universities. If I wanted to apply to U.S. universities at the time, I would’ve joined the model United Nations to practice my English”. However, during his college application process, he wrote about the experience of playing in the Hot Music Society in his composition, which moved the college interviewer.

Ethan is a student of Taipei American School. He participated in the school’s Computer Science Team and gained an interest in computer science. In addition, he also participated in the school swimming team and taught himself a new language. Although the latter two were only Ethan’s hobbies, to pursue these kinds of interests fully demonstrated his 

You don’t have to think about whether the extracurricular activities you do will help future college applications, but you must find extracurricular activities you really enjoy and do it with all your heart.


Q: A word of advice for the underclassmen

“Time management is very important. Do what you like, enjoy the whole process, and don’t do it just to apply for college.”

“Preparing early can save a lot of time.”

“High school is like a chemical reaction, and every opportunity is like a catalyst. Always go straight on the road which you call your dream!”


If you have any doubts about applying for an U.S. university, or if you want to know your own analysis, please click me to make an appointment with a counselor for one-on-one consultation