Ha Nguyen (Class of 2017) was a Finalist in the National College Match program. Matched with Duke University, Ha currently attends the school and is majoring in Economics.
SAT: 2220 old scale (which converts to around 1520 on the new scale)
Involvements: Yearbook Editor-in-Chief, UNICEF President, intern and volunteer at H.O.P.E., Class of 2017 Treasurer
Why?: A lot of top-notch schools are already great legacies. Duke, despite its rankings, is still a legacy in the making: it’s the newest among top institutions. Duke never settles. There are so many amazing, innovative programs and projects popping up around here every year. So it just feels right, I guess. I really feel like I can actually make a difference in the school culture, like I can be an integral part of building this legacy rather than just a small speck that bears the school’s brand name.
Plus, real-world learning is something that I’ve always valued, and Duke, even when it can’t provide a real-world classroom for you at home, works harder than anyone else to send you into the world’s classroom. Learning about the refugee crisis? Let’s go into the heart of the region to feel its impact. Learning engineering? We’ll go build a bridge for a community in Guatemala. Duke’s vision, its spirit of innovation, athletics, intellect, and community — they all blend together to create such a special undergraduate experience that I can already feel in my short three weeks here, and that I’m so incredibly grateful and excited to be a part of. (Oh, and did I mention? People here are also EXTREMELY good looking!)
Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
When I came to the US, I learned English to fit in, to be American.
Yet, because of English, I became more Vietnamese. As I began to lose my cultural connection, novels rekindled it. The Joy Luck Club set me beside four mothers, powerlessly watching their American daughters forget their heritage; seeing this, I remembered my own. I began to search for books to read in my native tongue. I grew determined to take a third year of Vietnamese when I had little desire to do so before. I looked deeper for more perspectives, more information on the war that tore my country apart. And I read, even more.
When I entered AP Lang, I was a perfectionist.
I couldn’t stand a single flaw on my school assignments. And yet, those “This makes no sense,” and “Get to the point,” tore apart my first essay and shattered my machinelike perfectionism. I began to use criticisms to bounce back. That initial D+ forced me to spend hours every night writing and rewriting practice essays all by myself, refusing to give up until my analyses scored sevens and eights.
When I picked up a book, a portal opened.
In the world of poems and prose, no financial burden could ever hold me back. From the confines of the small room that my family and I lived in, I was donning swanky flapper dresses and attending lavish 1920s parties. In the Californian heat, I was shivering at the iciness of Germany and crying my eyes out at the courageous sacrifice of Liesel and Hans. Only through novels, could I feel a fraction of others’ suffering, could I survive a deserted island, could I push the limits of sanity, could I murder a man. With so much good and so much evil in the world of literature, I uncovered a lens to look at my own world with newfound optimism.
English, in all its beauty and its pain, made me more vulnerable. It inspired me to feel passionately, to learn endlessly, to fight fervently for what I believed in. It made me human.