I got the chance to speak with Phuongthao Hoang—winner of the first-ever $2,500 College Raptor scholarship—about her personal college prep journey! She hopes by sharing her story, she will help other students going through the college search and prep process. Here’s what she had to say:
Tell us a little about yourself!
My name is Phuongthao Hoang, and I will be attending Brown University next fall. My hobbies include swimming, writing, reading, and taking pictures. I belong to the National Honors Society, and I am an AP Scholar with Distinction. My favorite school-related activities include being on the swim team and leading Girls in STEM.
Can you tell us what your college search process was like?
I started my college search process during the end of junior year. I used our school’s prep website to compare my SAT scores and my GPA against those of accepted students from my high school. I also used College Raptor to compare estimated financial aid packages and campus match scores. I know that the college search process should not be simplified into mere numbers on a screen, but these two websites quickened the pace and expanded the horizon of my college search process. Without these two websites, I would have been more overwhelmed and more stressed than I already was.
How was your high school counselor helpful in the process?
The counselors at my school initiated the college search process in a class that all juniors are required to take: junior planning. There, they educated students about the steps to apply to college; we started our resumes, created our Common App accounts, and began our essays. My counselor helped me to pick classes every year, too.
How many schools were you interested in when you started the search process? How many colleges did you apply to?
Looking back, I was extremely overwhelmed by the amount of colleges that I loved. I thought that every liberal arts college in New England would be perfect for me, but I eventually narrowed down my list to nine colleges that I absolutely adored. To be honest, I can still see myself at Smith College, Wesleyan University, or Barnard College, but Brown University has my heart because of its open curriculum, academic rigor, and Liberal Medical Education program. I applied early decision to Brown University and regular decision to the remainder of my schools, but had to withdraw my other applications after Brown accepted me.
Did you feel Brown was a possibility when you first started your search?
Brown was not a possibility when I first started my college search because of the high sticker price and the low acceptance rate. I thought that I was neither smart nor rich enough to attend Brown. College Raptor, however, allowed me to look past the acceptance rate and into the SAT scores, look past the sticker price and into the estimated net cost. It made me realize that I could have a chance at gaining admission into Brown. The comparison of financial aid packages and campus match scores were most helpful.
The site also allowed me to compare so many aspects of a college even before stepping foot onto its campus. Specifically for Brown University, College Raptor gave me the advantage of knowing neuroscience was a popular major there. That initial insight from College Raptor prompted me to research further into Brown University.
What drew you to study neuroscience?
I want to become a psychiatrist and an advocate for mental health care. My best friends suffer from depression and eating disorders, and I myself have suffered with self harm. Becoming a psychiatrist will improve the lives of family, friends, and strangers. 60% of mentally ill adults and 50% of mentally ill youth do not receive treatment from the very professional I want to become. That is why I want to join the voices of Hakeem Rahim, Linea Johnson, and Demi Lovato on the stage of the National Alliance of Mental Illness Convention.
Are there any activities you plan on being involved in at Brown?
Because I was accepted into the Liberal Medical Education program, I plan to take advantage of what it offers, including the Global Health Initiative (a study abroad program) and the Medicine in Action Program (a shadowing program). Outside of medicine, I want to explore another passion of slam poetry, whether that be joining an existing team or creating my own, and I also want to join the club swim team.
How are you preparing for college now that you have made your decision?
Now, I am just trying to meet other accepted students via Facebook and Instagram. I just attended a reception for local accepted students this week, and I hope to meet up with more local accepted students before I go to Brown University. Over the summer, I plan to be a lifeguard at a local pool.
What things are you doing to help pay for your education?
To pay for my education, I have applied to other outside scholarships, and I plan to be a lifeguard over the summer. Once I pass my lifeguard certification test, hopefully I will not have to take out student loans.
What advice would you give to other students seeking scholarships?
Apply to every scholarship you’re eligible for. In the moment, it may seem like a lot of work to write two essays, complete an application, and collect a transcript, but in the end, it will pay off. Some scholarships, especially local ones, receive few applications, so you would have a greater chance of receiving the scholarship if you were to apply.
Congratulations, Phuongthao! Everyone here at College Raptor wishes you luck at Brown University.
College Raptor is proud to sponsor another $2,500 scholarship opportunity! The deadline for this scholarship is June 1st, 2018.