Not without a doubt
My journey to Brown University’s class of 2027
May 22, 2023
“What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?”
As I sat in my speed-friending row, I wracked my brain for a person in my life who acted as my mentor—someone who spit out advice like a carnival fortune teller. However, the conclusion I came to was not a single quote from my master sensei, but it was a feeling. A feeling that all the support systems in my life helped me realize; No matter the choices you make, trust that everything will work out.
Speed-friending was just one of the social activities that I participated in for Brown University’s A Day on College Hill (ADOCH). ADOCH is an annual event which allows admitted students to experience Brown and all of its open curriculum, inclusive space and antique glory. I was lucky enough to have my April 21 visit be fully funded by the university.
Though I was excited for my trip, the plane ride to Rhode Island did not help calm my nerves. On the plane, I sat around three students also attending ADOCH. They spoke loudly about how ‘difficult’ it was to choose between what schools to commit to: Johns Hopkins, Yale, Dartmouth or Brown (all of which are prestigious schools).
I couldn’t help but feel imposter syndrome as I listened to their conversation. It made my accomplishments feel miniscule, like I didn’t belong. Looking back at it now, I understand that I didn’t get the same educational opportunities as they did. A common pattern I noticed among those ADOCH students who bragged about their college acceptances was that they were from schools made to feed into the Ivy Leagues.
So, instead of feeling bitter, I think about the analogy of the very drunk man on the plane who overheard their conversation: “You’re all just choosing between really good cuts of filet mignon.” In other words, no matter what you choose, everything will work out.
The choices I made in high school that got me into Brown were not between cuts of filet mignon, but I trusted that I made the right choices because I followed my heart.
I initially chose to join the Speech and Debate team for my “college application,” despite not truly knowing what applying to college meant. However, I chose to continue Speech and Debate for four years because it was what my heart wanted. This was not an easy choice. The activity put me through an overwhelming mental, physical and emotional stress that made me question whether I wanted to continue the program.
I would stay up late preparing for debate tournaments, but later beat myself up for not preparing enough. I would spend 14 hours on a Saturday in tight clothes and heels, giving the same speech over and over again. In my role as an officer (first Treasurer then Vice President of Debate), I spoke to angry parents who made me cry because of issues outside of my control.
Still, I chose to continue because my heart told me to. Because each year I surprised myself with my improvements in writing and speaking. Because no other activity will match the pride I get in watching my mentees go from shy introverts to confident leaders. Because I saw the positive influence the community had on my academic drive.
Ultimately, the skills I developed from the program helped me in my college application process. I knew how to talk about myself, which is crucial in the essay writing portion of the application. Speech and Debate also helped me develop the leadership skills that I could put on my college application. While this was surely not the sole factor in my acceptance, it was a significant one.
While Speech and debate was a difficult choice, I also made some risky choices in my education. I chose not to do the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. I knew that not having “IB Diploma Candidate” on my application when I attended an IB school would put me behind some of my peers because it is considered the most rigorous academic program.
However, I chose to take the Advanced Placement (AP) route. In my sophomore year of high school, when I was deciding whether to pursue IB or not, there were a lot of stereotypes associated with the program that I did not want to be involved in. I felt AP was just as academically rigorous and gave me more freedom in selecting classes.
I didn’t let that affect my decision. I didn’t choose to take classes just because it would look good on the college application. Instead, I followed my heart and stayed true to what I felt would be right for me. I trusted that everything would work out, and it did.
I also chose to surround myself with equally driven people. To be clear, I didn’t choose my friends because I knew they were academically driven, but I was conscious of who I surrounded myself with. I put my time and energy into people that brought out the best in me socially and academically. In other words, I cut out the toxic people in my life. I chose to spend my energy in positive relationships and paid no attention to petty, high-school drama.
Ultimately, my best friends were my number one supporters when the stress of college applications got to me. We held “college application get togethers” to edit each other’s essays and review each other’s applications. They put the fun in a process that could suck the life out of you.
While I didn’t choose my high school mentors, I chose to develop my relationships with them by asking questions. While my introverted self was initially afraid to speak to some of my teachers, I let my curiosity get the best of me.
I asked questions that I didn’t expect I would get an answer to. For example, I asked my mock trial coach if I could watch one of his trials and surprisingly, he said yes. I watched a court case play out which further inspired me to pursue a career in law and it brought me closer to my mentor.
I also asked unconventional questions to my teachers. When we practiced writing feature articles on Bonita Vista High teachers, I chose to write about my speech and debate coach. I asked him about what he was like as a teenager and asked to interview his wife to get her perspective on his youth. I learned some interesting facts about him that I would not have known otherwise.
Creating these relationships with my mentors ultimately helped me in my journey to Brown because I knew I could lean on them for support. They were crucial in teaching me to believe in myself. They were the most influential people who reassured me that everything would work out.
Initially, I didn’t apply to many prestigious schools because I doubted my chances of getting in. However, if not for my Speech and Debate coach who encouraged me to apply to Brown, I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have today.
My choices in high school were more between scoops of ground beef, but regardless I had faith that they would turn out well. When I finally pressed the button to commit to Brown, I still felt some anxiety, but I trusted that everything would work out. I had to make some difficult choices and I had to take risks, but I know I made the right choices. Not without a doubt.
I had to make some difficult choices and I had to take risks, but I know I made the right choices. Not without a doubt.
— Eiffel Sunga