Stanford Bound: Successes & Tips from Sea King Trees

Rachael Ku

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With one of the lowest acceptance rates in the nation (5.1%), getting into Stanford University is a feat not many can accomplish.  Even so, several Palos Verdes High School (PVHS) Sea Kings were accepted and have committed.  Meet Julea Chin and Arielle Rodriguez- two of four future Cardinals at PVHS- to receive some insight and advice on how they got into one of the country’s most prestigious colleges.


Q: How do you think you got into Stanford?  What activities, sports, classes, etc did you take that you think helped you to get accepted?

Julea: I think the engineering extracurriculars I had [PVIT, FIRST Robotics, Boeing internship] really boosted my application.  Taking a bunch of AP [Advanced Placement] classes and being on board for various clubs helped, too.  I am honestly so grateful that they did not just axe my application after reading “anime club president.”

Arielle: Honestly I am still not quite sure how I got into Stanford, and while there was most likely a struck of luck somewhere in there, I did work really hard throughout my high school years.  I performed well in all my AP classes while also doing many outside activities.  From volunteering at the aquarium to playing the piano to working as a tutor, I put a lot of time and hard work into everything- especially my Stanford essays- and I guess it paid off!


  1. What other colleges did you get accepted to and why did you choose to go to Stanford?
  2. After I was admitted in December, I withdrew my UC apps. I had not started any other applications because of the scarring, essay-writing process I had for Stanford’s application.
  3. A. I was an early admit, so I did not apply to a lot of schools after I got in. But I got into the majority of the UCs [University of California campuses] as well BU [Boston University], LMU [Loyola Marymount University] and USC [University of Southern California]. For me, it came down to Berkeley and Stanford which was a hard choice.  I chose Stanford, because after visiting, I realized that it is such a unique school with so many amazing opportunities… I would always wonder “what if” if I did not go. The people at Stanford are driven, creative and most importantly, extremely friendly.  I also flipped a coin but in the end, it was the right fit for me.


  1. Q. What was the application process like for you?
  2. The application process was honestly pretty stressful for me. I was not sure where I even wanted to apply, and it took hours of thinking to make a list and then many, many more to actually do the applications. I redid my essays many, many times, but it all pays off in the end.
  3. It was super stressful. I did not even start my essays until two weeks before the due date because of capstone. Some of the essays were fun to write, but others made me want to crawl into a fetal position.  My dad and my cousin helped me edit my essays, and I highly recommend sharing your essays with others because typos are embarrassing.


  1. How did you feel when you got the acceptance letter?
  2. J. I was so excited that I could not stop yelling. It had always been more of a dream school than a tangible reality.
  3. Getting the acceptance letter was one of craziest moments in my life and was one will probably never forget. It was a mixture of shock, joy, excitement and more shock- I actually burst into tears and had to sit down. It was overwhelming in the best way possible.


  1. What were you doing when you found out were accepted and did you and your family react?
  2. I actually had just gotten home from school and was eating some soup. I was scrolling through my email, and when I saw the word “congratulations”, my breath was literally taken away and I choked on my soup. After I stopped crying, the first person I called was my mom who also burst into tears.  My family was more than ecstatic for me- all of my cousins, aunts and uncles threw parties for me, and I have never seen so many people cry at once.  It was both a humbling and gratifying experience.
  3. I had just finished cross country practice, and my brother was next to me while I was refreshing my e-mail. I kept rereading the letter to make sure I was not imagining things. (“That says congratulations, right? WILLIAM, HELP ME.”) Ihwa Choi rang the doorbell a minute later, and she started crying when she found out. Jasmyn Harlan also came over, armed with apple cider.  I tried calling my parents too, but they told me to calm down because they had work or something. Thanks mom.


  1. What worries/feelings do you have about attending Stanford next year? What are you most excited about?
  2. It was a bit intimidating to hear about the impressive achievements of the other Stanford admits. They seem super intelligent and talented, and I am not sure if I will fit in. I also suck at riding bikes.  On the other hand, I am pumped to meet my amazing classmates and to take classes that actually interest me.  Plus, free football game tickets.
  3. I am most excited to meet my fellow cardinals. Stanford has such an amazing and unique group of people, and I cannot wait to make new and amazing friends… [It is] definitely bittersweet, and I am sure my worst worry is the homesickness I will get from missing my family and friends. But all in all, I am extremely excited and grateful.


  1. What field do you plan to major in and how do you think going to Stanford will help you in

your future career?

  1. I am not really sure, something science-y? I applied as a mechanical engineering major, but chemical engineering and product design sound cool as well.
  2. I honestly do not know quite yet- I applied undecided to Stanford. I love to read and write, but I also have a strong love for biology. However, Stanford is great in being flexible and open about academics, so I know they will help me find a path that is right for me.


  1. What advice do you have to give to future Stanford applicants (or any college applicant in


  1. The admissions officers are actual people with a sense of humor. I thought the person who read my essays was going to be a bearded, old man but he was actually a spunky, young dude who apparently appreciated my essays on Howl’s Moving Castle and my fear of spiders. There is no use in trying to pretend to be someone you are not. I think you will sound more passionate in your essays if you write about things that actually interest you- even if they seem unimportant at first glance.
  2. My biggest advice is to be honest and true to yourself when applying. Do not write an essay based on what you think they want to hear or what your college counselor tells you to write. I wrote about music in one of my essays- which I was doubtful about- but it ended up being my favorite essay I have ever written. So be honest and write about things that you love. Chances are, you will come off as much more passionate and excited. Good luck to all of you!
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