Hanoi girl admitted to three Ivy League universities

By Thanh Hang   May 1, 2024 | 04:45 pm PT
A Hanoi 12th grader has been admitted to three Ivy League universities in the U.S. after crafting an essay on her musical journey since a young age, showcasing her unique identity and passion.

Le Ha Anh received her admission notices on March 29, also known as Ivy Day - the day when the top eight U.S. universities announced their admissions decisions.

Anh was accepted into the Economics program at the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and Dartmouth College, three of the eight U.S.'s Ivy League schools.

Dartmouth offered her a scholarship of nearly US$280,000 for four years.

"I opened the email from Dartmouth first and cried when I saw the result," she recalled.

Additionally, she got into 11 other universities in the U.S., including Northwestern, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Anh had set her sights on studying abroad since her first high-school day.

She chose the U.S. because she believed the educational environment there is open and flexible, allowing students to explore various fields and disciplines.

In her main essay, she wrote about her journey pursuing a passion for music, despite her family not having a tradition in this field.

Having studied piano since she was four, Ha Anh passed the intermediate level at the Vietnam National Academy of Music in the Piano Department at the age of nine.

She pursued studying piano professionally there and maintained her general education curriculum at her regular school.

Anh said that when she first entered the academy, she was "overwhelmed" because most of her friends came from musical families and had been exposed to music from an early age. It took her a long time to catch up with her peers in the curriculum.

"There were times I felt inferior because the music I created was not similar to or as good as everyone else's, and I was always behind," she recalled.

During the pandemic, Anh practiced playing piano at home. It was during that period that she realized music was not just about right or wrong but also involves a combination of many factors, with emotion playing an important role.

"I realized that when I truly immerse myself in music, I can create a product that has its own unique identity, without needing to be like anyone else," she said.

Le Ha Anh plays piano when performing with an orchestra at the Rising Star Music & Arts Festival 2024 in Hanoi in January, 2024. Photo courtesy of Anh

Le Ha Anh plays piano when performing with an orchestra at the Rising Star Music & Arts Festival 2024 in Hanoi in January 2024. Photo courtesy of Anh

Although she had decided to write the essay about her musical journey, Anh still had to spend months selecting and organizing details within a 650-word limit.

She was only satisfied with her essay when there were just a few days left before the application deadline.

In terms of academic achievements, Anhgot admitted to both the Computer Science and English Specialized Departments at Hanoi - Amsterdam High School for the Gifted three years ago, and is the entrance valedictorian of the English department.

In two national English Olympiads, Anh won second prize both times; her Grade Point Average was 9.9; she scored 8.5 in IELTS and 1,560/1,600 in SAT.

She mentioned that she had been learning English since kindergarten, so she had an advantage in this subject at school. She revealed that she did not attend many extra classes, feeling that the school hours were sufficient.

"I don't force myself to study, nor do I often stay up late. If I'm tired, I'll go to sleep and wake up early the next day to complete my homework," she shared.

For her university application, Anh strengthened it with two scientific research projects.

She undertook her first research project at the start of grade 10, focusing on the mental health of adolescents during the pandemic, in collaboration with two other students.

Together, they administered surveys, collected data, and analyzed the relationships between various factors including economic and family conditions and their psychological impacts. For areas requiring specialized knowledge, they received guidance from lecturers at Hanoi University of Public Health.

After six months, the group completed the research, which was selected for presentation at the International Conference on Public Health Science 2023 in Malaysia.

The next schoolyear, she conducted a study on the impact of immigration on the economy, under the guidance of a doctoral student from the University of Michigan in the U.S. She also participated in a business club, organized summer camps, and competitions related to her field of interest at university.

Myo Min, Academic Director of Summit Professional Education, a study abroad consultancy, commented that Anh’s application was "exceptionally comprehensive."

In his 18 years of advising students on studying abroad, Myo had not encountered many candidates who had both excellent academic results and were dynamic with artistic talents.

"Top American universities often wish for students who are not only academically excellent but also care about the community, ideally with talents in other fields. Therefore, Anh's application is very strong," Myo said. "It's especially rare for Vietnamese students to get admitted to three Ivy League universities at once."

Le Ha Anh as a 12th grader at  Hanoi - Amsterdam High School for the Gifted. Photo courtesy of Anh

Le Ha Anh as a 12th grader at Hanoi - Amsterdam High School for the Gifted. Photo courtesy of Anh

Bui Thanh Huong, homeroom teacher of Anh at her high school, said the student is humble and never shows off her abilities but always exudes confidence and certainty.

As the secretary of the Youth Communist League of the class Anh is exemplary and has the ability to connect with everyone, the teacher said.

"What I highly value in Anh is her sense of responsibility, meticulousness, and thoroughness in everything. Once she decides to do something, she tries her best to complete it to the best of her ability," said Huong.

In the meantime, Anh is considering between Pennsylvania and Dartmouth and is researching more about the programs, internship opportunities, and job prospects before making a decision.

Although she will study Economics, she continues to pursue music and aims to expand genres, not just focusing on classical music as before.

Anh believes that beyond the results, the important thing she gained from the application process is understanding herself better, changing, and learning more.

"From a shy girl, I gradually dared to try new experiences such as scientific research, confidently believing in my musical abilities and value," she said.

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