Bella Tran & an 8 year journey with CIS
Full name: Tran Nguyen Phuong Khanh (Bella)
Grade 12, IB, CIS
CIS Student Council President
CIS House Council & Kraken House Caption
Received 100% scholarship at the University of Chicago (USA)
Hi Bella, this is your 8th year at CIS. How do you feel now ?
As one of the first students at CIS, I have watched the school grow and change over the years, and it’s something to see 100 students turning into 1,000. I can also proudly brag that I was here long enough to see all three campuses and sniffed out every corner of each school.. What I love most about CIS is its warm atmosphere. There are friendly teachers that greet students with fist bumps and highfives at the gate in the morning, let them call you by their first names, chit chat about their favorite bands, video games (surprise surprise) and make jokes and puns. The janitors and cooks are always ready to smile make jokes as students fight for the coveted french fries.
We know that you have received a huge scholarship at University of Chicago (USA). Congratulations! Can you tell us a little about your “new house” ?
The University of Chicago is one of my dream schools. I still cannot believe that I was accepted. For me, the most appealing feature about Chicago is its emphasis on intellectual challenge. At the University of Chicago, controversy is embraced and there are no intellectually “safe space” where students can hide. I feel such an environment will continually challenge me to develop my opinions with supporting facts and logical reasoning. I’ve been preparing for the admission process for three years, from Standardized Testing preps to collecting essays ideas. Applying to University of Chicago was a very interesting process, since the university is well-known for its eccentric essay prompts that really force the students to dig deep. This year, I chose to create my own idioms. To be honest, I don’t really know why the university selected me. Students who apply to the US always joke about how sometimes the application decision can be “very RNG” (random number generating). If I were to choose one thing I believe that my recommendation letters were very strong and since this University in particularly cares a lot about the type of person a student is and not so much about test scores, CIS teacher’s insights about me really gave my application a boost.
IB Programme is very stressful. How could you overcome it ?
First of all, as an IB student, I think that IB shouldn’t be viewed any differently from the OSSD program. The materials are largely the same and the difference is that IB requires slightly more work (yes, summer homework is a thing!). But, I think that no one should be stressed about it, and as long as you are willing to not procrastinate, IB will be a breeze. The hard part is time management. Second, you should always choose the course you enjoy most and make other course work as light as possible to focus on what you enjoy. That way, you will be able to maintain grades (if they are important to you) and enjoy the program. Finally, get off Facebook, cut off the chatting, gaming and other time vampires. If you cut that 30 minutes everyday, you will save up to 200 hours per year that you can devote elsewhere. Another dangerous time vampire is doing something that you don’t enjoy and just so it looks good on a transcript. Learning that the hard way, I was able to redirect my time to things I actually love doing, like maintaining a rock band or practicing martial arts. It makes high school feel more worthwhile and cuts the stress.
Do you have other tips that you would like to share with others who plan to study abroad ?
As for university applications, because I was applying to a university in the United States, it might not apply to a lot of situations. Regardless, here are my recommendations :
1. Always look at university requirements on the university’s website before Grade 11 (especially if you are considering IB) because it makes a huge impact on your subject choice.
2. If your university requires standardized testing, taking it at least one year or half a year before, so that if you are not satisfied with your scores you can retake (remember, test scores are not delivered over night !)
3. Develop good relationships with friends and teachers (teachers, especially if they will be writing your recommendation letters later on)
4. If your university requires a recommendation letter, please PLEASE ask the teacher a few months prior and come talk with them often. It is a pain for them to rush a letter three days prior to the deadline.
5. Spend a lot of time searching for WHO YOU ARE and what you like. When you are able to do that, writing personal statements or essays should be a breeze.
6. Finally, never be afraid to ask others for help and be willing to receive constructive criticism. It is hard, if not impossible, to judge your own essay objectively.
Thank you Bella! We wish you success in your adventures ahead !