加起来，她在高中阶段一共上了 15 门 AP 和 PostAP 课程，以及 17 门 Honors 课程，所有课程都保持了全A的成绩。AP 考试和 AP 课程不是一回事：AP 考试是由跨学校的教育机构统一组织的，像中国的全国统考、高中会考。在 AP 考试中得到满分5分，不一定会在学校里面的 AP 课程里面得 A；反过来也是一样。我女儿参加过的 AP 考试，包括生物、化学、微积分、物理、历史、中文、计算机、英文、政治学（US Government），等等，都得了满分。
总体来说，我女儿 Sabrina 参加了美国的学科竞赛，取得很好的成绩，GPA 是全校最高的之一，选了十几门 AP 课程，保持了全A的成绩，SAT 考试和 SAT 专项考试都获得了满分；另外，她还参加了艺术体操、学生互助教学、社区服务等课外活动，在老师指导下做过科研工作，并认真准备了申请文书，这些对于她被美国大学名校录取应当都是有用的。
Hi everyone, thanks for visiting my column today! My name is Sabrina Cai- I graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Washington DC metro area and I am currently an undergraduate student at the MIT. Today I’ll be talking about my experience in high school leading up through the college admissions process.
The main difference between American and Chinese college admissions systems is that while in most Chinese high schools the main focus is on academics and the students who do best in school are the ones that get into top colleges, in America, there’s a large focus on extracurricular activities, and the students who get into top colleges aren’t necessarily the best students in terms of grades, but have one area in which they stand out. This means that to succeed in American high schools or be accepted into top American colleges, a student must be very self motivated, seeking out opportunities for themselves, because there’s less of a clear path to follow. The earlier the student starts reflecting on their own interests and talents, the earlier they can start building their own path. The eventual goal is to combine your experiences into a cohesive story you can tell through your college admissions essays or interviews.
My own focus in high school was academic activities, and biology in particular. Participating in these academic activities can lead up to national or international awards, which will be a great boost to you in the college admissions process. In particular, for STEM subjects, the most widely recognized competitions are the Olympiads organized by each country to select members of the national team for the International Science Olympiads, such as the International Math Olympiad or International Chemistry Olympiad. I’m not as clear on what humanities competitions are available, but in general, the longer the contest has been running and the more students participate in a competition, the more impressive it is to place highly. Academic activities are usually pretty easy to get involved in, since they don’t really require any special materials or investments, so you can try a couple out quite easily if you enjoyed a class in the subject at school. For example, my favorite class freshman year was biology, so I joined my school’s Biology Olympiad club, grew to be heavily involved, and eventually made it to the Team USA Biology Olympiad training camp for the top 20 high schoolers in the nation. I think being a part of the club definitely helped me along in my journey, because I could study with other students who shared my interests, and I could talk to older students who had already been through the process for advice.
However, I still had to spend a lot of time studying on my own – I think this is true of most activities, where it helps to have other students to work together with, but if you want to truly stand out, you’ll have to put in even more time outside of the club. This is why it’s so important to be clear about your interests, because forcing yourself to study something you don’t actually care about will be much harder. Not only will your time in high school be less of a pleasant experience, you probably won’t get the results you’re looking for either. I also want to emphasize the importance of thinking deeply about what you enjoy about the things you like, beyond just the surface of the activity. For example, in middle school, I was heavily involved in math competitions, not because I especially liked math itself, but rather because I liked the logical thinking type puzzles in math competitions. Once I got to high school, then, I shifted my focus to biology because more advanced science involves the same sort of thinking, while in middle school science was mainly about memorization.
On the other hand, don’t be discouraged if you run into some difficulties or some moments when you’re tired of studying. I think it’s rare that activities match up perfectly with all of a student’s exact interests – for example, I like the majority of biology, but there are still some subtopics I’m not interested in that are tested in competition- and pretty much impossible to find an activity that you will never struggle with. Because of this, I think it’s important to plan ahead and break everything down into clearly accomplishable pieces, especially for long term goals that are easy to procrastinate on and hard to define. Once you know what you need to do, I find it helpful to block out a period of time each day to work on personal goals – for me, this was in the morning, but this can be anytime that works for you, as long as you reserve that time specifically. This will prevent you from letting time slide away from you while you chat with friends or scroll mindlessly through social media. On a related note, I think it’s important to continually reflect on your progress and how you’re spending your time. If you don’t regularly revise your strategy for reaching your goals based on whether or not it’s actually working, you may end up sinking precious hours into something that makes you unhappy without bringing you any closer to accomplishing your goals.
Overall, my high school journey definitely involved a lot of hard work, but I think it was worth it in the end. I was lucky enough to gain admission into several top colleges, but even if I hadn’t, I believe the life skills I gained from devoting so much time to a subject I’m passionate about will help me later in life. Again, I want to remind everyone that each student’s experience will be different, and my path is only one of many – thank you for reading, and good luck!