Top of the Class

#8 How I Got In - Why Georgia Tech was Angelika's Dream School for Aerospace Engineering

June 09, 2021 Crimson Education Season 3 Episode 8
Top of the Class
#8 How I Got In - Why Georgia Tech was Angelika's Dream School for Aerospace Engineering
Chapters
Top of the Class
#8 How I Got In - Why Georgia Tech was Angelika's Dream School for Aerospace Engineering
Jun 09, 2021 Season 3 Episode 8
Crimson Education

UK student and self proclaimed space nerd, Angelika, recently gained admission to Georgia Tech to study aerospace engineering.

Georgia Tech isn't as well known as some other big name colleges but for engineering degrees, it is up there with the very best

Angelika talks through the challenges of the essay, what she learned about asking for feedback and her all important extracurriculars including winning an international competition!



Show Notes Transcript

UK student and self proclaimed space nerd, Angelika, recently gained admission to Georgia Tech to study aerospace engineering.

Georgia Tech isn't as well known as some other big name colleges but for engineering degrees, it is up there with the very best

Angelika talks through the challenges of the essay, what she learned about asking for feedback and her all important extracurriculars including winning an international competition!



Alex 

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another very special episode of 'The How I Got In' podcast as part of the 'Top of the Class' podcast of course. And today, I am delighted to be chatting with Angelika. Angelika, tell us a little bit about yourself.


Angelika

Hi, guys. So my name is Angelika and I've just finished my A Levels in maths, further maths, physics and computing and I'm a huge space nerd. That about sums me up. And I've gained admission into one of my dream schools, Georgia Tech, where I will be studying aerospace.


Alex 

Fantastic. So talk to me about how the interest in space even came about?


Angelika

Yeah, so I was in year nine and I just became really interested in the planets and Space Science and astronomy. So I decided to take an astronomy GCSE, which wasn't taught, it wasn't really an option but I just wanted to take it by myself. I thought it was close enough to physics, I could probably  use my physics teacher and go with it and teach it myself. So that's how it started. That's how I did that. And then after I did well, in that GCSE, I went into sixth form. And then I realized very quickly that I preferred the physical aspects of astronomy and of space and doing something. So that's where engineering became a thing. And I looked into engineering, and I just got involved into every single club that was related to engineering. And then I combined those two and decided that aerospace engineering was the best option for me.


Alex 

Now, excuse me for being a little bit ignorant about exactly what aerospace engineering is. But is it more like commercial airplanes, fighter jets, these kinds of things? Or is it space shuttles and satellites?


Angelika

Yeah, so it's actually both. So in some universities, instead of calling the aerospace engineering, the aeronautical engineering, and it fits  the aeroplanes and that like everything that flies in the air, with space, rocket space shuttles, space stations, it's all of that. But I definitely want to focus on more space elements when I go into my career.


Alex 

But is there any particular thing that you want to be working on when you're at Georgia Tech?


Angelika

Yeah. So during one of my internships, I actually became really interested in the propulsion of the different spaceships and the spacewalk kids. So that's something that I really want to do research in during my undergrad, and then hopefully go into that for my post grad as well. Yeah, propulsion is definitely a niche that I want to focus on.



Why Angelika Applied To Georgia Tech 


Alex 

Fantastic. Well, let's talk a little bit about the application. And I want to start with why Georgia Tech was your dream school. Because I think a lot of people would look at the universities and say, ‘The prestige of Stanford or the rankings of Harvard or MIT’, whatever it might be. But you went a little bit deeper and found that Georgia Tech was your dream school. So tell us a bit more about that.


Angelika

Yeah. So I wanted to apply to the US because I liked the focus on a different education system and the well roundedness and everything like that, but I only wanted to go there if I knew that that school was going to be better than any other school in the UK. So I did go down the rabbit hole at the beginning of thinking I need to apply to Harvard, or I need to apply to only Stanford, MIT and all of those. But very quickly, I realized that Harvard wouldn't be able to offer me anything that I really, really wanted that could help me in my aerospace career later on. So I had to just look into universities that actually made sense. And I only found four in the end that made sense and Georgia Tech was one of those unis that not a lot of people know about it, but it's so good in aerospace, it's definitely a leader in aerospace and the career prospects it has are insane. The internships that you can do during undergrad and you get paid for them and the research options they have. So it was silly not to apply in the end to Georgia Tech.


Alex 

Right. And because it is not such a well known school outside of the US, did it take some convincing for your parents, etc, to say, ‘Yeah, Georgia Tech is actually going to be the best school for me’?


Angelika

Definitely, at the beginning, my parents were also set on the very top schools, but they trusted what I did. And it made sense when I spoke to them and explained it. It's not like it's a bad school, either. So it wasn't like I had to give something up. And they knew that I really wanted to do aerospace. And I wasn't really in the position where I didn't know what I wanted to do. I wasn't even in the position that I didn't know what in engineering I wanted to do. I'm very set on aerospace, and Georgia Tech focused on that majorly. So maybe a bit of convincing, but I knew it was right for me. And I think that came across when I was talking about it. So everyone just went along with it.


Alex 

Does that then mean that aerospace at Georgia Tech is super competitive?


Angelika

It's definitely more competitive than the other degrees. At Georgia Tech, most people are engineers of some kind and I think it's one of the most competitive courses there because so many people want to go into it. So yeah, I would say so.



Angelika’s Extracurriculars


Alex

Can you take us through what your activities list ended up looking like and how did you showcase your interest in science through your activities list?


Angelika

Yes, so my activities list was very space related. I focused on my internships, and then on one extracurricular that meant the most to me, those were the things that were the main bulk of my activities. And then I had loads of smaller things and presidencies of engineering clubs and astronomy clubs, things like that. The main thing was my UK space design team activity. I was the Vice President of Engineering. So I overlooked all of the engineering at the competition. And it was a school team, we went to competitions four times a year, and we competed in creating a space station to fit a brief. And we actually went into the international competition, and we won the international competition in 2020. So that was crazy. It was the most stressful experience of my entire life. But yeah, so that was the main thing, because we won the international competition, it took a lot of my time. And then I had an internship that I managed to get, and they are a startup in the UK, and they're looking into asteroid mining. And that's something that really interested me, because I never heard of asteroid mining. The first time I actually heard of it was that the UK space time competition was at the regional. And we had to make a base that had to also have provisions for mining asteroids and sending them back to Earth. And so I only briefly heard of it. But when I saw this company, I just emailed them, and I was like, ‘Oh, I did this competition where I had to design an asteroid mining settlement, I'd really love to work with you.’ And they actually took me on, which was crazy, because I was 17 at the time, and all the other interns were like 22. So it was a bit scary, but definitely one of the best experiences. It was very technical. So that's where I like looking into propulsion and instrumentation, and the more technical aspects, which I think 17 year olds aren't usually told about. And we did a report and developed their social media as well. And hopefully, the work we've done is going to be used for the 2027 mission that they're going to have so fingers crossed. It's really exciting.


Alex

Wow, laying the groundwork there for some asteroid mining, which is pretty cutting edge stuff there. So are you a maths and physics genius?


Angelika

I wouldn't call myself a physics genius, but I definitely really like maths. It's hard to say because it's very weird to say I like maths, I just think math makes up everything. It's very useful. And then physics is my favorite application of it. I guess they’re my favorite subjects that I’ve always scored well in so yeah, I tend to focus my energy on that.


Alex

Okay, now, let's get into the other sides of the application. We can start with the SAT or the essays, which one would you prefer?


Angelika

Oh, both of them were a nightmare. Let's start with the essays and get the worst one out of the way.



Angelika’s Essays


Alex 

Okay, I know the essays are a challenge for a lot of people. And it is probably a very different piece of writing than what you have done in the past. And I just want to know what your process was with that, and I'm going to guess you had some Crimson support at that stage as well?


Angelika

Yeah, I had some very, very necessary Crimson support with my essays, I am definitely not an essay person. And I did all the STEM subjects so from the start of sixth form, I didn't really write any essays, which was not helpful in this scenario. But then again, these essays are so different, like you mentioned, they're not like formulaic essays explaining some piece of writing, they're very personal. And you have to strike the balance of being really nerdy and quirky for these schools, but also being yourself but also being interesting, but also being well rounded and a student that would fit on campus. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm not that much of a sentimental person so that's where my app mentor, Catherine, I love Catherine, she helped me so much with that, and actually brainstorming what I would write about, because there's a word limit to these essays and you want to show the best sides of yourself. Actually, there was one thing about the essays. I remember, it was six days before one of the deadlines and we were looking through my applications with my strategist, there was something that she didn't quite like, and I could see it in her face. And then she said would I consider changing two of my essays? And I thought, ‘Oh, no, there's six days until the deadline, how can I change the whole essay?’ And so that was incredibly stressful. But I mean, in the end, it was definitely worth it. When I read the essays, they were way more convincing and way more me. So yeah, I mean, my Crimson team helped me the most in the essays definitely.


Alex 

Yeah, it's that whole tricky side of putting yourself on paper, and trying to not rely heavily on your achievements, but more try and convey who you are. Can you give us a little bit of an insight potentially into what your common app essay ended up being about?


Angelika

Yeah, so my common app essay was about the developing interest I started to have in aerospace. So I spoke about an experience I had when I went on holiday to Greece. And we were looking at the stars. And that's when I first saw Saturn, that was the moment that I was shocked because it was just Saturn up there. It was yellow and it had a ring around it and you could see it physically with your own eyes through the telescope, which was crazy. And I remember loads of kids came up and we were talking to them about it. So I spoke about that experience, and then how that led into me starting astronomy at school, and then developing that into aerospace. And I think the need for aerospace in my eyes in society and how that can develop our technology further. So I think it's a balance between being really nerdy, but also I think I explained why I was actually interested in aerospace and why people should be interested because I know I get a lot of these debates, especially from humanities students at my school who are like ’Why are we going into space?’ So I wanted to explain why I just disagree with that, and how I think aerospace is extremely useful for our life on earth and beyond.


Alex

Was that a long process with Catherine? Like, how does that even go? Because I've never actually been in the inner circle of a student talking to an App mentor about their common app essay.


Angelika

Yes, it was definitely difficult. I think the first thing that was most useful was I just had like an hour long conversation with Catherine. And she asked me loads of questions about different areas of my life. And then at the end, she suggested five topics that we could focus on, that I presented the most convincingly when I was talking about them. And then it was up to me to either go with those five, choose another five, or mix and match my ideas. And we went through the different elements of the essay and I actually had two separate essays that I liked. I had one about travel, because I travelled a lot across Europe during my life. And then another one about space. And why space is useful. So we connected them. And I think, because travel was so significant in my life, we could link that with the space element. And it all just made sense and then we just wrote a first draft, and then it just went from there.


Alex 

Did you read it to your parents at all?


Angelika

I read it to everyone, everyone was forced to sit down and listen to this. I think it did get to a point where there were too many opinions flying around the place. So I calmed down, because I think it gets to a point where you have to just stop and just accept the essay and go with it If you're happy with it. But definitely, 100% my mom and my dad read through all my essays when we were going over applications. And yeah, they liked it. I was proud because I've never written anything like that. So it was definitely unlike me. And I think that's why it was extra shocking.


Alex

And then you had your supplementaries as well. Can you remember what they were?


Angelika

One of them was the traditional ‘Why do you want to study your degree? And why do you want to do it at Georgia Tech?’ And the other one I did was about a significant moment where I helped my community.


Alex 

Okay, did you have to think long and hard about those ones? Or were they pretty natural for you?


Angelika

After a while the essays repeated. So a lot of the ideas I just shuffled and copied and pasted paragraphs and reworded them a bit. So I can imagine if you're applying to more than four schools, it becomes very repetitive. But yeah, I mean, for the Georgia Tech one, obviously, if you're explaining why you want to go to Georgia Tech, it has to be completely from scratch. But I knew exactly why I wanted to go to Georgia Tech.If you do research, you know exactly why you want to go. And if you don't, then why are you applying? So that one was quite simple. And then the one about what did for the community, I spoke about something that wasn't really related to aerospace, but I did link it to wanting to go into a career in aerospace. I spoke about how I helped at my church with the youth and kind of took what I learned there about leadership and brought it into my school and how I want to bring that into my aerospace career in the future.



Angelika’s SAT


Alex 

Fantastic. Now let's talk about the SAT. How did you go on that? 


Angelika

So I only took it once. I don't think I had many opportunities to take it. COVID really did not help the situation and it was very stressful because at the time, I didn't know that they were going to get canceled so I took it once and I got a 1500 which I was happy with. I thought, like, this is completely fine. So yeah, I think the maths was simple. It was simple especially since I take further maths but the reading, the reading was awful, absolutely horrible. It was so weird, because in the UK, when you do your English GCSE, you have to explain your point of view and any point of view is correct. You just have to explain it and use evidence and write your essay. But here, there was one correct answer because it was multiple choice. And I could never pick the right answer. I could argue every single one of those answers in an English essay in England. But I had to pick one that was apparently correct. So that was very difficult. But I think it just comes down to practice papers and understanding what they want you to see. I spent the whole summer doing these practice papers, and I never got as high as 1500. So when I got that in the end, I was so shocked.



Angelika’s Teacher Recommendations


Alex 

Yeah, hats off to you for taking that and getting a 1500 which, as you said is a great score and you just got to move on from there. Let's move on to your teacher recommendations. It sounds like you're an All Star student so you must have been full of options when it came to getting some teacher recs?


Angelika

It was actually quite the opposite, because I moved schools so no one knew me at that point. And I had to rely on that one year of knowing a teacher and bearing in mind that one year was like four months because of COVID and the lockdowns. And I had to rely on that for my teachers to write my letters, which was very stressful. But I mean, it definitely worked out. So I'm very happy about that. So yeah, I mean, I didn't have to focus on  keeping in contact with these teachers during lockdown knowing that I was going to have to ask them about writing letters. And then of course, MIT and some of the other schools had to have a humanities teacher letter of rec. And I didn't do any humanities. And so I had to email some of my teachers from the previous school and ask them, and obviously I hadn't spoken to them in a year either. So I think letters of rec were the most difficult. But in the end, the teachers were super helpful.


Alex 

That is a very interesting situation. So I think for students who are applying this year and are listening, definitely stay in contact with your teachers, no matter where you are in the world. Now let's chat about what you're looking forward to most about going over there?


Angelika

I'm going in mid August so I'm going to be starting uni very early. But I'm looking forward to everything. I'm looking forward to the weather. I'm looking forward to the city. I think Atlanta is gorgeous. I can't wait to go there. Obviously, I'm looking forward to the degree and to all the internships and the research that I can get involved in and the independence as well and the change. I feel like it's going to be so exciting just to be in a whole new country. Like, I know no one in America and I love the American school spirit. I think there's no place like America for school spirit. And I can't wait to go to football games and basketball games, I think it's just going to be an amazing experience all round.


Alex 

Now, what would be your advice based on your experience for students who are about to go through this themselves?



Angelika’s Advice for Future Applicants


Angelika

I think my most important bit of advice is just start early, especially in my experience in the UK, the final year of high school is so stressful, and it all comes at you so just start early. That also ties into all the essays, I think just start them early. And don't worry about the first draft, the amount of drafts you're going to make the first draft isn't going to even matter. So I think just write it and you always change it anyway, it doesn't have to be perfect. And I think once you've got something on the page, it's much easier to go from there. And as I said before, you just have to go with your own opinion and with the other few opinions that matter, and then just move on. And other advice, I think don't get stuck on one specific uni. I feel like I've seen that being very detrimental to people when they really want to go to one place and they don't get in, I think just apply to the schools you really want to go to and make sure there's a few of them. And then whichever one you get is going to be so exciting anyway, so don't really stress too much. And sometimes if something goes wrong, it's not really going wrong. It's just going differently to what you expected. So just remind yourself of that. And just make the most of every situation. I mean, I thought it was impossible to get any extracurriculars during lockdown. But I had some amazing internships during a lockdown that we did over zoom, I had an opportunity with Warwick University as well, which they did because of lockdown. So loads of people are coming out with initiatives that you just have to research and do. And if they're not, then you can start your own thing and you know, start your own business or start your own website or whatever. Everything's going to be really impressive if you actually enjoy it and the unis will see that too.


Alex  

Great advice. Angelika, it's been great to chat and to hear about your journey all through the application. I hope you enjoy your time at Georgia Tech.