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Profile of a Branksome Graduate – Soheon Choi

By Dr. Mark Lee, University Guidance Counselor

This week, we feature one of our soon-to-be Branksome Graduates who is completing her IB Diploma program and attending the University of Southern California to complete an undergraduate program in International Relations. Soheon kindly agreed to be interviewed and I know that her answers to the questions below reveal insights and experience that will be invaluable to current and future Branksome Hall students. 

Question: Tell us about your experience with the process of applying to universities this year?

Soheon: The application process was challenging as I came to Branksome Hall Asia for the purpose of graduating from High School and studying abroad. When I arrived at Branksome I knew very little about international universities or the culture of learning at this school.  I learned a lot about universities by attending the Branksome World University Fair and similar events in Seoul.  These experiences helped me focus on the types of majors I could consider. I then discussed these with my counselor and parents in order to make a final decision.  

Question: What advice would you offer to Grade 10-11 students as they move ahead in the university application process?

Soheon: The Grade 12 application process is stressful, in a large part, due to all of the essays that need to be written as part for each application.  Some essays need to be written during test and exam periods so you need to use your time wisely.  For example, it is a good idea to use your summer vacations to think about university majors that you might want to consider. For me it was International Relations.  In essence, you need to have a continuous conversation with yourself about what you want to do. You can also ask last year’s graduating students as well as talk to university students.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to quite a few students from Hong Kong universities. 

Question: What was the most challenging part of applying to universities?

Soheon: A lot was challenging. The universities have different deadlines and you really need to manage these and stay organized. The different requirements of different universities can also be complex, so it is a good idea to create a list or spreadsheet to keep these organized as you apply. 

I also lacked confidence at the beginning of the process. However, as I applied to universities from around the world, I grew more confident. I received a lot of help from my teachers, peers, and counselor.  These conversations helped me to realize that “ I can do it.”

Question: Are you happy with the universities you were accepted to?

This is a complex question.  I am very happy with the results of my application process. I am very happy to be attending the University of Southern California.  I was also accepted to the London School of Economics, so I had very good choices. When I first received my acceptances, I believed that university ranking would be the most significant factor, and that the ranking of the university would affect how my life would proceed after graduation.  I was also sad about a few of the schools I did not get into.  Overall, however, I came to realize that USC is the best school for me.  I am, therefore, happy with the results even though I did not get into every school I applied to. Also, I learned so much from the essay writing process. 

Question: Please comment on your overall experience at Branksome Hall Asia.

Branksome Hall taught me much. I was able to figure out who I am what I want to do.  Our school values student opinion and communicating directly – being able to speak up honestly about my feelings and thoughts. My teachers and friends supported me.  I learned about my identity and who I am.  This learning helped me to think about my future and my life. I realized that I have the power to have a voice and to make change in the world. I was able to broaden my perspective and really see the world. I learned how to respect other cultures and learn how to work with people from these different cultures. This experience taught me so much that I really would not have learned in public schools.

Question: What has been the impact of Branksome Hall Asia on your life so far?

I have become empowered.  There is often a general idea here in Korea that if you are a woman, you are supposed to get married and take care of children. These are some stereotypes that exist in Asian countries. Branksome Hall helped me to express my ideas and learn about myself, and even to express myself to my parents.  My parents were very supportive of my going to Branksome Hall. 

One distinctive aspect of BHA is that we are girls only. The school taught me to spread the idea of empowerment wherever I go in the world. It is hard to describe, but BHA taught me that I am a cool and smart person. I learned I can do something for this world and make changes.

I have some advice for parents and future Branksome students. Application to universities is a stressful time. It is Ok not to know everything about the process. Parents worry about the process for Grade 10 and 11 students. I would like to tell them that there are people at BHA to help you. You will gain confidence when you do your research independently. Students need to communicate and ask for help when needed.  They will gain confidence by doing this.

Also, when you graduate, you are going to smile and relax, so take your time. Everything will be OK.