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Amser still got into top school in U.S. without submitting SAT score

Post by: trangtrang | 19/12/2021 | 958 reads

Decided not to submit his SAT score due to getting only 1440/1600 in the first exam and the other five exams being cancelled, Nguyen Trung Kien was still admitted to Rice University thanks to his essay about chess

At 6 a.m. on December 11, Kien, 18, a former student of Song's family from Hanoi - Amsterdam High School for the Gifted, received a letter from Rice University. The boy was "shocked, speechless" when the phrase "Congratulations" appeared, announcing that he became a freshman in the 2022-2026 school year.

"I was surprised because I thought that my application form wasn't strong enough when I didn’t submit my SAT scores, while the school I wanted to study at is one of the top schools of the United States", Kien said. According to the university charts of US News & World Report, Rice University ranks at 17, at the same rank as Cornell University - the school in the prestigious Ivy League of America. Last year, the acceptance rate of Rice was only 9%.

Nguyễn Trung Kiên là cựu học sinh trường THPT chuyên Hà Nội - Amsterdam. Ảnh: Nhân vật cung cấp

Nguyen Trung Kien is a former student of Hanoi - Amsterdam High School for the Gifted
Image: Provided by student

Kien's journey to Rice was fraught with difficulties when Covid-19 made him constantly change my mind. In the U.S. university entrance exam for the 2021-2025 school year (Nov 2020 - Jan 2021), Kien once submitted applications to 14-15 schools. Liking  to do everything on his own, Kien did research and made his profile, all by himself.

What he had at that time was 8.0 IELTS, 8.6 GPA at 10th grade, and 9.1 at 11th grade. Kien once did some review and took the SAT at the beginning of 11th grade, but only got 1440/1600 - a low score and not up to the expectations of top schools in the US. Despite subsequent attempts to study and confidently earn higher scores because SATs rely heavily on practice, Kien failed to improve his scores by registering five times but were all cancelled or out of slots due to the influence of Covid-19. He had to give up the ACT test for the same reason.

With "humble" scores and several extracurricular activities such as joining the school's chess club, participating in the Model United Nations Conference, and an essay that he evaluated as "only 10% of the real me," Kien failed almost all of the schools. Only two schools gave him a chance, but for Kien, it's like a pick-up ticket. He decided not to enrol and was supported by my parents, who both thought I wasn't prepared enough to study far from home.

By August, while many students started the journey to the States United, he began to re-apply and aimed to get to Rice University to study finance, after careful research and choosing.

Reviewing what he had, Kien pondered before the 1440/1600 SAT. According to College Transitions, in the admission for the 2021-2025 school year, the SAT scores of Rice’s candidates were mostly 1500-1560/1600. With the previous year, 93 percent of successful applicants ranked first in their high school class. Kien decided not to submit his SAT scores, in the hope that the school would understand that he could not take the test due to Covid-19.
With an improvement in academic scores from 8.6 in 10th grade to 9.4 in 12th grade, IELTS 8.0, and the same number of extracurricular activities as last year, Kien knew that whether he would pass or fail depends heavily on the 4 essays, especially the 650-character Personal Statement, expressing his thoughts or perspectives.

Remembering last year, Kien said he wrote about the process of meditating and trying to change his shyness. He has read the essays that are considered excellent. Almost everyone wrote about a memorable event that changed lives, personalities, and perspectives. Having nobody to make comments for, he followed those essays, but ended up not learning a single meaningful lesson at the end. Most of the articles were forced and not the same as him.

This year, with the suggestion of an experienced person, Kien understood that that was not the only direction. He instantly became more open-minded and thought of a chess-related essay - his favourite intellectual sport since he was young.

That's what he thought, but Kien struggled for months by the thoughts surrounding it. I was going to write about chess playing strategies, or a memory, a lesson in one game of this sport. The ideas kept passing through Kien's mind, making it impossible for him to have a complete essay early, but only one day before the filing date of the application form.

In the essay, Kien said that while playing chess, he realized that every chess piece has its own value. Even the "pawn" - the lowest piece that many people look down on - plays a very important role. When reaching the last line of the opposite chessboard, it will be assigned to either the "queen", "bishop", "knight" or "rook" at the discretion of the player and can be a factor in turning the tables.

Kien believed that the "pawn" in chess represents the majority, the "normal people" in society but play a most important role. At the end of the essay, he quoted French diplomat Paul de Foix, "Losing a pawn can be a small problem, but that loss will be a loss of an entire game."

"Details that relate the position of each piece to the roles of different classes of society are crucial. It reveals Kien's strengths in his comprehensive way of thinking, unique perspective on issues, and always having careful thinking before speaking or writing. Kien's perspective shows keen observation of social issues, life, and perhaps that's the key factor that had onvinced the admissions office."

Applications for U.S. universities usually include high school report cards; SAT/ACT scores; certificates of English proficiency; references; financial statements; CVs or Portfolio that summarize projects applicants have partaken in; individual essays and a number of sub-essays explaining the reasons for choosing the school and major.

From the 2021 to 2022 entrance examination, many universities do not make SAT scores mandatory. Rice University is one of them. However, the school still encourages applicants to have SAT scores, especially for international applicants. The score desired by applicants is 1500.

The reason Kien thought that the essay was decisive was that all the scores and activities were the same as last year's profile that he submitted, with the only differences being omitting the SAT scores and having a different essay.

Getting accepted to Rice University, Kien found himself not as forced as last year. Still reserved, the Hanoi boy hopes to improve his communication skills, acquire a driver's license, and continue his internship at a real estate company before going to the U.S. for enrolment in August 2022.


Translator: Ngan Ha - Russian 2023