52 – Avocados, Fortunetellers, and College Essays with Yu-Chia Cheng

What do avocados and fortunetellers have in common? They were all college essays that our guest Yu-Chia Cheng wrote! Yu-Chia is an incoming freshman at the University of Pennsylvania in its LSM program. She’ll be studying both finance and biology. Yu-Chia shares her college admissions journey starting with what she did in the summers, how she wrote her essays, and how she feels attending one of the best programs in the country!

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Show Notes:

Penn LSM Program


Thanks to Redaf for the Guitar Sound Effect licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Big Quotes:

One piece of advice an English teacher gave was to write 6 short stories. If you already have an idea write a story. Put yourself in the same setting and just write from there. Don’t worry about it being a college essay or the word count. Write the essay as you would and go from there. For most college essays, start with an anecdote that is first person and very active-voice. Then, explain the relevance of that story to who you are today. That’s a good way to approach today. Admissions officers like the detail and the vividness, but also that you’ve analyzed the relevance and how it has impacted your life


Ignore for a second the 650-word count and the importance of this essay and just tell me what happened in this story. Start from the beginning. Where were you, how did it go? The best point is that you should put yourself in the situation again.  If your talking about your first tie in a plane, start at the begging, start as your walking through the sliding doors and you see the massive foyer with huge ceilings and this line at the TSA. You want to set yourself in the scene and go from there.


Be yourself. It’s important not necessarily for the end goal of getting into a good school, but if you write a good essay that’s really you, you’ll be happier regardless of what happens. Whereas if you write some sort of story that you think AOs will like and you end up regretting it even if do you get in. would they have taken you if you had written something that was actually you?


There aren’t very many opportunities in high school to reflect back and think. The college admissions process’ end goal is to get into college but it was also a road to self-discovery. I know it was cheesy but it was self-discovery. I had to think about who I was and what I wanted to do in the future. There were so many supplements that helped me think about who I was and that’s why I enjoyed the essay writing process so much. I think that even though the personal statement was so much of a struggle, I had a good time seeing myself grow.

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