Saturday, December 13, 2008

Boon Jim (Cornell University Class of 2013) Sharing on His Early Decision Application to Cornell University

Congratulations again to Boon Jim from Inti for getting into Cornell University Class of 2013 as Early Decision.

After he got in, I actually asked him to write an article to share on any tips he can provide for those who are applying this year or future years. Hope this sharing could be helpful for you guys.

It is amazing that he is able to write this whole piece within half a day of him getting the offer from Cornell University! Great enthusiasm and willingness to help other students! Hope this can be inspiration for other students!

Below is his sharing, quoting fully from - The Worldwide Malaysian Students Network


My Cornell Application Checklist

1) Resume
2) Commonapp form + Essay
3) Supplement form + Supplementary Essay
4) 2 Teacher’s Evaluation Forms
5) 1 Secondary School Report
6) 1 Mid Year Report
7) Other recommendation letters
8) SAT 1 & SAT 2 scores (sent by Collegeboard)
9) TOEFL score (sent by ETS)


I listed my achievements and activities with one or two sentences to explain every achievement and activity. You can also include your work experience if you have any. You don’t have to attach certificates, but it shouldn’t be a problem if you do.

I wrote about my skills e.g. computer skills, languages that I’m proficient in, musical instrument that I can play.

Do include anything about yourself that you think will interest the admission people.

Commonapp form + Essay:

The form is just plain and simple, like any ordinary forms that ask for a bunch of your personal details (name, date of birth, family details, bla bla bla).

For the essay, I chose a title which was mainly about ethical dilemma. My essay was about why I did not stand up to my belief and how I felt after that. Everyone’s essay should be unique, so I won’t disclose too much about mine.

You can choose the essay titles provided or you can write about any topic you want. The topics never change, so you can start working on your essay NOW! There’s no time sooner than now.

Give yourself plenty of time to think about your essays and do get comments from other people. To be unique, you must write about things that you think people will not usually write but don’t go off topic!

Although there’s no word limit, always try to be as concise and straightforward as possible. Do the admission officers a favor by not beating around the bush too much. Also, try to avoid using passive voice, use it only when it is necessary. Passive voice doesn’t sound good, but when the subject is unknown, it can’t be help.

Supplement Form + Essay:

There’s nothing out of the ordinary about the supplementary form, it’s easy to fill.

For the College of Arts and Sciences, the essay topic is Describe your intellectual interests, their evolution, and what makes them exciting to you. Tell us how you will utilize the academic programs in the College of Arts and Sciences to further explore your interests, intended major, or field of study. The word limit is 500 words.

I wrote about my participation in the Young Enterprise Program and how the program made me interested in Economics. In addition, I wrote about other programs in Cornell which caught my interest such as the Language House Program.

You should write about the activities that you have done which develop your interest in a particular field. Alternatively, you can write about something that happened to you and made you interested in the field you choose to pursue.

You should also browse through Cornell’s website and discover other programs in Cornell that you find interesting. In your essay, tell them about the programs that interest you. Remember to explain how those programs can be useful to you.

Teacher’s Evaluation

I approached my EST and Add Math teachers to fill in the Teacher’s Evaluation forms.

You’ll need at least 2 Teacher’s Evaluation Forms and recommendation letters from your school teachers and 1 Secondary School Report and recommendation letter from your school counselor.

When requesting recommendation letters from your teachers, you should:

1)Choose 1 teacher who teaches arts stream subject (e.g. English, Economics, etc) and 1 teacher who teaches science stream subject (e.g. Add Math, Physics, etc). It would be even better if one of them is from your secondary school, and the other is from your preparatory college.

2)Choose teachers who know you well, preferably those who are close to you.

3)Approach your teachers early, give them enough time (at least 1 month).

4)Remind your teachers not to list down your achievements in the recommendation letters because the list should be included in your resume. Your teachers should write about your character and substantiate it with examples. Statements like “John is eager to learn.” must be supported by examples.

5)Discuss what they should write. Some teachers may not have written any recommendation letters before, so don’t be shy to tell your teachers what you want them to write about you, but never make them write things that they do not want to.

Secondary School Report

My Secondary School Report was filled by my secondary school counselor.

If your counselor doesn’t know you well, he can write about you based on your school records (academic performance and extracurricular achievements) from Form 1 to Form 5. If your school doesn’t have a counselor, then the principal can fill in the Secondary School Report and write the letter. Again, do give your counselor plenty of time and guide them through the Secondary School Report if they have doubts.

If your results have been consistently good, you can also get your school results from Form 1 to Form 5 and ask your counselor to attach it with the Secondary School Report.

Mid Year Report

My mid year report was filled by some admin lady in my preparatory college.

It is advisable to include your college result in your Mid Year Report if you enter college right after SPM / Form 5 because you want to show them that you have 12 years of formal education. However, remember to write a separate letter to explain that your college education is equivalent to 12th grade in US school system. Cornell mentioned here that if you’ve done college level work, you shouldn’t be applying as freshman. So the explanation letter is very IMPORTANT!

Other Recommendation Letters

I was a St John’s Ambulance Malaysia (SJAM) member. So, I asked an officer from SJAM to write a recommendation letter for me. My piano teacher had also written a letter for me.

You should try to get additional recommendation letters unless you know nothing good will be written. These letters not only further explain your personality; they also describe the activities that you participated. You can get additional recommendation from:

1)Sports coaches
2)Part time job employers
3)Charity organizations that you’ve joined
4)Music teachers

SAT 1 & SAT 2

I scored 2090 for SAT 1, breakdown: CR 600 (I know, it’s horrible!), Writing 690, Math 800 and 2400 for SAT 2 (no typo, that’s the full score alright!) For SAT 2, I took Math 2, Physics, and Chemistry.

To prepare for SAT 1, all you need to do is a whole lot of practice! I don’t know of any other ways to prepare for SAT 1.

The 3 SAT 2 subjects which I took was easy because the syllabus was rather similar to SPM syllabus. Just try a few practice tests and you’ll understand how simple the questions are (if you can fully master SPM syllabus).


My TOEFL score was 113.

TOEFL is easy as long as you have a decent command of English. Many people can easily get above 110 without doing any preparation. Yup, that’s how easy it is!

However, do familiarize yourself with the format of the test before taking the test. There’re 4 sections all together (reading, listening, speaking and writing), each account for 30 marks.

Last Words

It was actually Chen Chow’s suggestion that I write this post. Hopefully, you will find it useful. Do feel free to publish it wherever you like, if you want to. =)

Click here to read more of Chen Chow's posts

Would encourage any of my blog readers to share with me any event that you come across. As long as the event/activity/initiative is education/charity/youth oriented and is not-for-profit, I would be more than happy to post it to share!


Unknown said...

hai..i want to ask wat course are u going to take?
thx in advance ..

Jennifer said...

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