Lauralyn Lin 8 min read 12th Grade, College Application Tips

How I Got Into Wellesley College

My admissions story is one of tremendous luck. I had felt inspired by a discussion in my English class on December 15, which was also the deadline for Early Evaluation: an admissions policy unique to Wellesley notifying you in late February of whether you are “likely,” “possible,” or “unlikely” to get in before actual decisions are released in April. 

 

Now, being the master procrastinator I was (and am?), my Common App essay wasn’t really in the works until… hmm, let’s go with 4 days before January 1. 

 

But, being fully aware that I needed to start writing soon, and also having little interest in Wellesley at the time yet still feeling quite determined to make this deadline, I emerged from classes on December 15 ready to write my first draft (ft. a zombie apocalypse) and send it off that very night — which I honestly might have done, and consequently wouldn’t have gotten into Wellesley — when a friend innocently pulled me into an extracurricular commitment just a few hours before 11:59 PM, not at all suspecting that I had planned to start (and finish) my entire application in the ~six hours~ before the deadline. 

 

This, as it happens, turned out to be an accident of divine intervention. Being thus unable to complete my 650-word treatise on zombies in time, I could only apply by the Regular Decision deadline of January 15 instead — with slightly more polished materials — but thankfully got in, committed on May 1, and have felt, ever since my first day on campus, that Wellesley was truly always the perfect place for me. 

 

So what’s your takeaway here? Simply this: while the college admissions process is stressful and finicky, you will ultimately end up wherever you are meant to be! With that in mind, let’s dive into how I got into Wellesley, and how you can get in, too. 

 

Application Context

 

I attended a STEM-intensive public high school and applied under Regular Decision, which is usually a January 15 deadline, though it has been moved to January 8 this year due to COVID. Accordingly, the usual Early Evaluation option has also been suspended, so the only deadlines are November 1 for Early Decision I, January 1 for Early Decision II, and January 8 for Regular Decision. 

 

At the time of my application, I was an international student in the U.S. and neither a legacy nor first-generation. While Wellesley reads applications need-blind for domestic students, they are need-aware for international students — standard practice for most U.S. colleges — and as such, my family decided not to apply for financial aid, though Wellesley does commit to meeting 100% of demonstrated need. I think I applied as undecided for major, but I honestly could have written down just about anything (biology? sociology?), and while my school counselor assisted me with deciding where to apply and ultimately commit, I mostly relied on my friends and online resources in filling out the Common App, writing my essays, and everything else. 

 

Academics

 

In terms of academic profile, Wellesley’s admitted ranges for the SAT were 1370 – 1510 (V: 680 – 750, M: 680 – 780) for the Class of 2023, entering last fall. I scored above the 75th percentile.

 

While my high school did not calculate GPA or class rank, I would estimate my profile to be in the top 10% of my graduating class. My school also did not offer AP or IB classes, but I’d place my course load in the top 20% for rigor, and I definitely fulfilled the Wellesley coursework recommendations: English, history, four years of math, four years of a foreign language, and experience in at least two laboratory sciences. 

 

While Wellesley has suspended the SAT/ACT requirement this year due to COVID, they do superscore and will likely return to their usual standardized testing requirements after this application cycle. No SAT Subject Tests are required for admission, though I believe I sent in fairly unimpressive scores for Math II and Biology anyways. I self-studied for my standardized tests, taking the SAT three times total, and also submitted an arts supplement. 

 

Extracurriculars and Awards

 

My extracurricular profile looked something like this: 

 

Piano (9-12)

 

  • Awards in various regional, state & national competitions
  • Performed regularly for school productions, charities & other local organizations
  • Candidate for associate diploma in performance and teaching license
  • Accompanist for classes at local performing arts center 

 

Marketing Internship (11-12) 

 

  • Wrote copy for design-thinking & software workshops for a local startup serving nonprofits
  • Created pitch decks and presented to potential investors, current & future clients
  • Competed in a national pitch contest for startups with $650k in prize money

 

Student Newspaper (9-12)

 

  • Editor-in-Chief (12), Section Editor (11), Staff Writer (9-10)
  • Edited and published 5-10 articles & led staff meetings/journalism workshops weekly
  • Planned special editions, maintained website, and partnered w/ Student Council & school administration on coverage of key issues

 

Lincoln-Douglas Debate (10-12)

 

  • JV (11), V (12); state team (11), national qualifier team (12), NSDA honor society member
  • Competed in ~3 tournaments annually and attended weekly 4 hr practices 
  • Researched philosophy and policy to write cases; won various regional awards 

 

Medical Society (9-12)

 

  • Outreach Chair (11-12)
  • Worked with Office of Public Affairs to engage alumni & pilot new trips to hospitals + labs
  • Created new community partnerships for research, volunteering & shadowing opportunities

 

Various literary & performing arts clubs (10-12) 

 

  • Publicity roles (12), junior board member (10-11)
  • Organized and publicized events & off-campus trips; maintained school partnerships; piloted new initiatives for engagement; various associated duties per club

 

I was also a peer/writing center tutor, did some summer camps, and volunteered at STEM programs for children. Other than the awards associated with the activities above, I was a National Merit Semifinalist (top 1% of PSAT scores by state), AP Scholar with Distinction, Silver Medalist in the National Russian Essay Contest, and won a few local and regional scholarship/essay contests as well. 

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Essays

 

As mentioned above, I applied with the Common App and chose to write on the free-for-all prompt: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

 

Did I mention zombies? Basically, my essay was written as a letter to myself in an alternate timeline — i.e. zombie apocalypse — and highlighted my many intellectual and extracurricular passions and struggles, my advocacy work for my school, charming moments with my friends and family — just demonstrating as best as I could my individuality and passion for life, and reminding myself of all the ways that I could keep from becoming a mindless, soulless, all-conforming zombie. I had a lot of fun writing this essay and definitely felt that it reflected me at my most genuine, for better or worse, and therefore would be a great litmus test for fit depending on how schools read it and felt about it. For more tips on your Common App essay, see our post on How to Write the Common App Essays 2020-2021—With Examples, and please do start yours early!

 

As for my Wellesley supplement, I believe this prompt has remained the same for years: you pick two items from the Wellesley 100 and write two paragraphs. Here’s half of my essay, formatting and all: 

 

03 | The Hoop

 

A student-run gathering space and co-op cafe in the lower level of our campus center. Nachos, drinks, sofas. Where everybody knows your name.

 

This is the secret to a revolution – right here, underground, a place for great ideas to blossom. It’s our secret, and it’s safe; the people behind the counter are our friends, and we’ve all sworn to die for another.

 

When I lack inspiration, I go to a café. It’s the environment that inspires my imagination: both trust and intrigue permeating the air, a place of fleeting human connection coupled with the potential for so much more. But then I settle down and drink something warm, and time slows – and then, it’s time to write and create and dream. I’ve finished countless papers in cafés, dreamed up hundreds of possibilities for my clubs and my school while sipping Americano at midnight. Sometimes, I have my friends with me – we might contemplate, we might collaborate. Sometimes, the perfect turn in the conversation strikes when we’re all dozy in the afternoon; other times, it hits us just as night settles in, and we all get carried away with our crazy new proposals and great, impossible dreams. All we need is that warm coziness all around us, a feeling of safety and trust, and that’s precisely what the Hoop sings: a song of community and love. Here, I’ll be writing the next great American novel while snacking on nachos with guac. Or maybe plotting a revolution with my friends behind the counter. Who really knows? The possibilities are endless…

 

My other paragraph was about Wellesley Centers for Women as a representation of applying education to advocacy, and also connecting that theme to my own contributions in my school community, my ambitions for future advocacy, and my conception of confidence, which seemed to be a running theme in all the student testimonials about Wellesley that I’d been reading and hearing. There was no word count requirement when I applied, so I wrote 533 words total — just enough to fit perfectly on one page — but this year’s specifications are 250-400 words. For advice on tackling this prompt, check out How to Write the Wellesley College Essay 2020-2021

 

Letters of Recommendation & Interviews

 

Wellesley requires two letters of recommendation. I asked my history teacher, with whom I had taken almost two years of classes with and felt quite close to; he was also advising my independent study, and as he had seen me succeed and fail in a variety of contexts, I believed that his letter would be strong and quite comprehensive. 

 

My other letter came from my very kind math teacher, who I had also taken two years of classes with and who had the singular experience of watching me play piano in an airport in Munich once. While I didn’t feel myself to be one of his favorites and indeed was not outstanding in math at all amongst my peers, he had seen me struggle and improve and work hard in his classes, and I felt that he would be able to shed light on my growth while also mentioning fun anecdotes from that travel trip. 

 

I also want to note that as Wellesley really puts a lot of emphasis on recommendation letters, it’s probably best to meet with your recommenders and have a conversation about your interests, academic accomplishments, and what you want to achieve, just so they have a more complete picture and can present that multifaceted view of you. Also keep in mind that Wellesley is governed by the Honor Code, so character and integrity are things that admissions officers specifically look for in applications, and you’ll definitely want that reflected in your letters.

 

Lastly, interviews are recommended but not required. I did one at my school with a local Wellesley alum, and while I don’t remember the details anymore, it was a fine experience overall — it felt very easygoing and casual, truly just an informative and interesting conversation without any pressure. She just wanted to get to know me, and I wanted to understand what her experiences at Wellesley were like. 

 

Wrapping Up: Tips for Admission

 

The Wellesley Admissions website is full of resources, and I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with all the information on there, including the opportunities available to connect and learn more about Wellesley. You can also look up courses on our very aesthetic Course Browser, though this school year’s offerings have changed due to COVID, so I would look through listings from Spring 2020 and prior semesters to get a sense of what classes are usually offered. You can also check out student organizations via WEngage and find their social media/websites for more information. 

 

As for admissions tips, the first step is clearing the academic cutoff. While a lower SAT/ACT is forgivable — especially in this COVID era — doing well in school is fairly non-negotiable, along with taking the most rigorous courses available to you. Wellesley is a pretty hard school, so you need to show that you can handle it, and that’s usually done through your transcripts. 

 

For holistic review, it’s critical that your voice and passion shine through in essays and extracurriculars. Based on your application materials, the admissions committee should be able to visualize you physically on campus and picture exactly what kind of person you’ll be in our community. Along those lines, your Why Wellesley supplement really needs to 1) prove that you’ve researched this school and 2) demonstrate your fit by tying key aspects of Wellesley back to your own personality traits, interests, and goals — i.e. describe how you reflect Wellesley. 

 

I’ll conclude by saying that Wellesley students are generally ambitious, passionate, and kind people who care deeply about their communities, like to stay involved, and are eager to bring about change or have some sort of impact on the world. As such, you should demonstrate character and passion, highlight community engagement and advocacy, and craft a narrative of being dedicated, determined, and likely to accomplish great things for the people and causes you care about. 

 

For more information on applying to Wellesley, check out The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Wellesley. You can also learn more about other historically women’s colleges in FAQs: Applying to a Women’s College.

 

If you want to know your chances of getting into Wellesley, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine. It’ll let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and it give you tips for improving your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to get started!

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Short bio
Lauralyn is a junior at Wellesley College studying political science and psychology. She's been with CollegeVine for two years now as a test prep consultant, marketing intern, and livestream host, and spends the rest of her time on ballroom dance and books.