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The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

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Seniors share college application tips, emphasize research and extracurriculars

Seniors Yuna Pak, Iana Niknezhad and Reagan Labert smile after presenting their MSA senior projects on March 8, 2024 in the Schola. The presentation panel consisted entirely of female students, as it was International Women’s Day. Photo used with permission from Iana Niknezhad.

Senior Reagan Labert was recently accepted into Yale University, an Ivy League college ranked top nine in the world, according to Times Higher Education.

Senior Iana Niknezhad was selected as an Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia (UVA), with a plan to double major in neuroscience and economics.

For both of these students, a college application with a balanced range of extracurriculars and research projects impressed the admissions committee.

“I found what I liked and what I was passionate about,” said Labert. “I pursued those as far as I could go.”

Many people know Labert as a student researcher highly interested in biomedical sciences. She placed in the Tidewater Science and Engineering Fair and participated in multiple research projects at colleges like Virginia Tech and Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). Her work was selected to be published in the Virginia Junior Academy of Science journal, and as a result, she was chosen to be its Co-Editor. However, contrary to popular belief, science was not the only component of her application.

“I knew that I really liked Latin, so I joined our Latin club here,” said Labert. “I got very involved and eventually became a state officer, which made a very big impact.”

Niknezhad had a diverse application as well. In addition to conducting research at EVMS with Labert as her partner, Niknezhad founded the Global Organization of Medical Assistance (GOMA) in September 2022. She is a ballerina at Ballet Virginia, where she also leads classes for younger students. For her work, she was recognized as a semifinalist for the Coca-Cola Scholarship.

“I started GOMA because it was something I was passionate about,” said Niknezhad. “I also do ballet 24 hours a week, and I was a semifinalist for the Youth American Grand Prix, the largest ballet competition in the world.”

Colleges like to see such students. In the admissions process, there are normally two types of applications: rounded and spiked. 

Well-rounded students do a few activities in all areas, including academics, sports, volunteer service and more. However, being well-rounded can lead to “anxiety and mental health issues,” according to Crimson Education. 

On the other hand, a student with a “spiked” application has activities grouped heavily in one direction. This often shows a lack of depth and curiosity on the part of the applicant. Labert and Niknezhad chose to format their applications as a combination of both.

“You get to list 10 activities, so I applied with almost a rounded spike,” said Labert. “I tried to do a variety of activities, but [they were] mostly science.”

Both recommend that students interested in math and science should conduct research, which shows dedication towards the pursuit of in-depth knowledge. To support these endeavors, there are multiple classes available at Ocean Lakes, including AP Biology, AP Chemistry and AP Physics. In the end, it all comes down to eloquence, precision and passion.

“I made sure to be very specific,” said Niknezhad. “I tried to be real, honest and genuine in my essays.”

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About the Contributor
Mihika Sakharpe
Mihika Sakharpe, Design Editor
Mihika Sakharpe, a freshman in the Math and Science Academy, is a design editor and first-year journalist for The Current. She loves STEM, debate and languages (seven so far). She is a cricket fanatic and would eat sushi everyday if she could. Outside of school, she is a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. Her dream is to pursue rocketry and make humans an interplanetary species. Her goal is to write a diverse array of award-winning articles.

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