ACING Duke University with Simran Pandey (’23) | Acing Admissions Advice


Carol Xu

Simran Pandey (‘23), President of Mock Trial, was admitted into Duke University. She shares her high school journey and gives key insights to help students apply and be accepted into Duke University.

The following responses were edited for length and clarity.

Why did you choose to apply to this college?

I chose this college because it’s really good for my major, public policy, and it is good at a lot of other majors that I’m interested in, like data science and global health.

Secondly, it has a lot of school spirit, and it is a big basketball school (I like basketball a lot). Then third, it has a lot of unique study abroad programs that transfer over for credit, so I can study abroad multiple semesters and in many different countries. 

What are your stats?

I took eight AP tests. I got fives on all of them and I am taking five more this year. For my SAT, I got a 1580 and my GPA is a 4.0 unweighted.

Did you submit your test scores? 

I submitted all of my SAT tests and AP tests.

What are two of your most memorable or significant extracurricular activities?

In my college essay, I wrote about Mock Trial, which I did for all four years, and I’m president of it now. That kind of cemented my interest in law.

Another big extracurricular activity was volunteering. I volunteered a lot for a local nonprofit for around 550 hours. It’s like an international nonprofit, but it’s located here. The main thing we do is work on creating a STEM curriculum for underprivileged students in India. We also transcribe books for the blind and then send those back to India, so that blind students can access a quality education.

Which teachers did you ask for your letters of recommendation? 

I asked three teachers: Mrs. Wohlgemuth, Miss Swanage, and my mock trial advisor Miss Baldwin.

When did you start planning or writing your college essays? 

I started writing my main college essay in July, and I did my UC essays over the summer too. But for all my early schools, I started in like August.

Can you explain your essay-writing process and how you brainstormed ideas? 

To be honest, I sat down and wrote an essay on the first thing that came to my mind. My best essays were written at like 3 A.M., because that’s when my inspiration really struck me. I wrote a lot of essays really late into the night. I read the prompt, wrote down a couple of ideas that I had, freestyled from there, and then edited it afterwards.

What was the hardest essay prompt for you? 

I think the personal statement was probably the hardest one I did, the one that was like, “What’s an experience that changed the way you think.” That was the hardest because it’s like 650 words and it could really go on, like any direction. The shorter essays were easier for me because I took them really creatively, and they were just really fun. The longer essays were just a little bit more difficult because I didn’t know like, what to say, and how much to say

How did you react or feel when you saw your acceptance? 

I am a very dramatic person, so I started screaming and I jumped out of my chair. Then, I started crying.  I didn’t believe it, so I refused to close the tab. And then I came back an hour later and realized that I actually got in. Then, I calmed down a little bit.

What advice would you give to future students applying for this college? 

Don’t stress out too much. Just have fun and show them who you are in your essays. Show them your personality. Don’t be afraid to be creative and manage your time really well.