Nanette is a college student at MIT double majoring in Computer Science and Music. She is originally from Cupertino, CA, where she attended Monta Vista High School. In high school, she was on the varsity swim team and played the clarinet in symphony orchestra.
As a student-athlete-musician who recently went through the admissions process, Nanette provides a unique perspective to college applications. We interview her below to learn about her high school experiences and how she got accepted to MIT.
What was it like to attend Monta Vista High School?
Attending Monta Vista High School was definitely one of the most challenging, yet awarding experiences of my life. Up until I went to college, I had never met so many people who were equally, if not more, driven and motivated as I was to achieve their highest potential. Every single class I took—ranging from band to calculus—challenged me in a multitude of ways, and it has prepared me so well to succeed academically, socially, and knowing how to balance my work in life.
How did you manage to attend so many different kinds of extracurricular activities while keeping your academic performance at a high level during high school?
I never really forced myself to do anything that I didn’t want and was always motivated to better myself in the things I chose to do. Even when my parents tried to steer me in a particular direction, I considered it, but still found my passions to take greater precedence over what they wanted me to do. I loved music and stayed in band all four years, which is uncommon for a student at MVHS, simply because I loved ensemble performance. It was my stress relief during a day at school and to a certain extent re-energized me to tackle the tough academics later on in the day. My life also revolved around swimming since I was 7 years old, and to this day, I can’t imagine my life without it. Since I started morning practice in middle school, I had always been the one to set my alarm early in the mornings to drag my parents out of bed and over to the pool. I loved my teammates at my swim club who became my second family, and their constant love and support pushed me through all the fallbacks and hard practices; the sport was always worth it in the long run.
How did you stand out in college admissions?
I never looked at college admissions as a competition; it was a way for me to find the perfect fit in secondary education, and for the college to justify my application and see that I would thrive there. I never focused on trying to be better than the other kids in my grade, and just did my own thing. I approached academics just like any other student from the Bay Area did, but never took AP’s to impress or extra SAT 2’s just so “colleges would like it.” My course road was challenging because I wanted it to be, and I never forced myself to take a class that I didn’t want to take. I didn’t want to do what everyone else did simply because it was proven successful before, and found my own happiness in the activities I did to be much more important.
Why did you choose MIT?
I chose MIT because it would be a place where:
1. I could do everything that I wanted to do at the highest level possible (CS, varsity athletics, music).
2. MIT was far away from home and would naturally push me out of my comfort zone/allow me to grow. It was also the decision that gave me the most butterflies because of the toughness that I knew I was getting myself into, and that somehow attracted me even more to the school.
Why do you choose to double major in Computer Science and Music? How does it feel to double major in two very different fields?
I chose to double major in CS and Music because both subjects bring the most joy to my life. I was extremely undecided at first, but after spending long nights not being able to stop myself from coding away at a particular lab or practicing the same concerto on clarinet until 1 am, I knew that it wasn’t one or the other, and I was dying to get to learn more about both. Neither subjects are ones that I force myself to sit down and learn; I’m naturally inclined to seek out ways to educate myself in my majors. I think double majoring in two very different fields gives me the opportunity to have the most multidimensional methods of instruction.
On one hand, I’m able to partake in one of the most popular and well-developed computer science curricula in the nation (about half of MIT majors in CS). Those lectures are taught by world-class professors, and the TA’s/support network around those classes are phenomenal just because of how established the department of engineering is.
On the other hand, I’m one of the 5-10 music majors that attend MIT. I get to experience the other side of college with 1-on-1 attentive advising with top notch professors. The faculty to student ratio is much higher than in any other department, and I get to design my own track (half performance based, half composition/music technology based) because it does not need to be generalized for 2500 kids at a university.
How does it feel to attend college far away from home? How do you like your life on the East Coast?
Attending college far away from home has been great! I intentionally wanted to put myself in a completely unfamiliar surrounding; I had been so accustomed to living in the same place for the past 18 years of my life. East coast culture is definitely much different than west coast culture. People here run on tight schedules and tend to lean on the formal side of everyday mannerisms and conversation, whereas west coasters tend to be more lenient and chill about things. Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile to immerse myself in different cultures and realize how different people can act just from originating form different locations.
What is the most special or unique thing about MIT college life for you?
The most unique thing about MIT college life is how collaborative and supportive that the community here fosters. Despite working with some of the most intelligent people I’ll ever get to meet in my life, I’ve never once outwardly felt inferior to anyone. Everyone at MIT is extremely humble and is always willing to lend out a helping hand; the non-competitive, yet self-motivated nature of this institute is hard to find elsewhere.
Interested in getting college admissions advice from Nanette?