Yuting Sun: How I got an offer from Harvard University

March 18, 2016

Yuting Sun, a Year Four student from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, recently won a place for postgraduate study at Harvard University in the United States.

Yuting is the first student at XJTLU to receive an offer from Harvard University this year, where she will study in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences after graduation from XJTLU and the University of Liverpool.

She is currently studying telecommunications engineering at the University of Liverpool through XJTLU’s “2+2” programme, which enables XJTLU students to spend their final two years of study in the UK.

According to 2015 statistics, XJTLU graduates received offers from universities in a diverse range of countries and regions. Britain was still the top choice for XJTLU graduates for postgraduate study, with 64.92 percent of students applying to institutions there. Australia was the second most popular country, while the numbers of students applying for universities in countries such as the US, Canada, Japan and Switzerland are rising steadily.

Here, Yuting shares her experiences of applying to Harvard University and hopes to encourage more XJTLU students to apply for top international universities for further studies.

Why did you decide to apply for US universities while the majority of our students apply for British universities? Where there any risks to making this decision?

Yuting: There were some limitations in me applying for British universities based on my current degree programme. In 2012, three girls in the same dormitory at XJTLU, who were also studying telecommunications engineering, successfully applied for the University of Cambridge, which encouraged me a lot. However, I found out that they actually applied for a nuclear energy and computer science programme because at Cambridge there is no equivalent programme that matches telecommunications engineering, which I wanted to study. Fortunately, US universities’ programmes match XJTLU programmes well and Ivy League universities are willing to admit “2+2” students like me who have international perspectives. In addition, US universities provide science and engineering postgraduate students a two-year optional practical training visa after graduation, which is a great chance for us to find job opportunities in the US after graduation.

You need to conquer the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) if you want to apply for a US university and sometimes you get nothing in return even if you have paid a lot. Some students give up the GRE after weighing up the pros and cons, instead choosing to find internships or research projects. However, they lose out on the qualification needed to apply for a US university when they decide to it give.

My classmate Yuanxi Zhu and I also struggled with the issue of whether to take the GRE or not at first. However, we persisted in our American dream and we finally passed. Yuanxi has already received offers from Columbia University in the City of New York and Northwestern University. My suggestion for those who want to apply for US universities is to prepare in advance and don’t postpone preparation to your final year of study.

Well-known universities like Harvard have tough application requirements and you need to compete with many talented students from all over the world in order to gain a place. In your opinion, what made you stand out from other applicants to successfully get an offer from Harvard?

Yuting: There are lots of overseas universities that are super interested in students like us, that have the “2+2” undergraduate background, because our academic qualification has been rigorously tested under great pressure in China and we have experience of studying overseas at universities such as Liverpool, making us well-suited to living abroad. These competencies help us to stand out from other students from traditional Chinese universities.

Additionally, the Harvard professor whom I contacted and communicated with during the application process has a telecommunication engineering background and was the one who recommended my application to the university admissions office. It’s really a great honour that I will continue my studies under his guidance.

My suggestion to those who want to continue further study is to rationally choose a programme that suit your skills, and to study hard. It’s unnecessary to go with the majority and choose popular programmes. I also would like to encourage students to be confident when choosing universities - many may lose opportunities to continue masters study at top international universities due to their lack of confidence while applying. My mentor Professor Yi Huang encouraged me a lot during the application process. In my opinion, if we can apply and gain entry to Oxford Cambridge Universities, why we cannot try top US universities like Harvard?

How have you benefitted from your time at XJTLU?

Yuting: I didn’t perform well in the college entrance exam and my parents considered attending XJTLU another opportunity for me to develop. I’m really grateful to Professor Ming Ying from the Department of Mathematical Sciences at XJTLU. His in-depth and detailed lectures laid a good foundation for my further engineering study. I also benefited from XJTLU’s “2+2” programme.

What’s more, XJTLU students encourage each other as we have similar goals and XJTLU alumni groups also shared with us lots of useful experience about applying for top international universities.

March 18, 2016