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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

18 Questions for Top of the 2023 Class: Hao Tam Tran looks forward to pre-med track at UCLA while balancing hobbies

Chloe Kang
Senior Hao Tam Tran dresses in a medical lab coat as she prepares to major in biology at UCLA and holds up the drawing she made for her Advanced Placement Art portfolio in February. (Illustrations by DaHee Kim)

Question 1: How do you feel as one of the 18 valedictorians?

Answer: I feel kind of intimidated because the other valedictorians deserve it much more than me, but I’m glad to see so many familiar and friendly faces who went on this journey with me. Those who break down over grades together stay together.

Question 2: What are your plans after high school?

A: I am currently planning for pre-med while majoring in biology at UCLA. Pray for me.

Question 3: What are your career aspirations?

A: I’m currently on track to becoming some sort of physician, but I would also like to pursue something creative like creative writing or art since I don’t really want those parts of my life to die under the pressure of academics and science. I would definitely love to write or draw stories in my free time in the future — if I have any free time where I’m going — since I just find making up stories and characters fun.

Question 4: How did you handle stress and manage your time effectively?

A: I didn’t. But really, I just made sure I did almost everything on time so that I didn’t have to stress over catching up, and I don’t have a life LOL, so I didn’t have too many extracurriculars bogging me down. I’m not the best to look for advice on this, though; my friends will attest to that, judging by my atrocious sleep schedule. 

Question 5: What extracurricular activities or leadership roles were you involved in?

A: I have been a member of Art Club for the entirety of my time in high school and was the social commissioner for the last two years, aiding in managing our Instagram account and helping plan events and projects like the campus murals. I have also tutored at Algebra Center and drawn some comics for the club.

Question 6: What was the class that threatened your valedictorian status?

A: Definitely first semester AP [Advanced Placement] Physics 1. I’m still holding on to the theory that Mr. [Chris] Peoples took pity on me on that final by giving me literally just enough points to keep my A-. Thank God I got used to the class by second semester and AP Physics 2.

Question 7: What were some of your academic failures or setbacks, and how did you bounce back from them?

A: My first test grade in AP Physics 1 was absolutely abysmal, and it just became a pit I had to climb myself out of throughout the first semester. Thankfully, I managed to adapt to the style of tests and questions, at least enough to stay afloat — barely.

Question 8: Were there any teachers or mentors who played a significant role in shaping your academic journey? If so, how?

A: Mr. [Brian] Wall was definitely a huge influence because he was my first art teacher when all I had been taking up until then were academics. I loved the friendly and less stiff atmosphere of his class, and the laxness helped me make really really close friends that I would never have made before. So thank you Mr. Wall, and I’m sorry for how chaotic we were! Mrs. [Jennifer] Kim also gave me a lot of confidence — maybe a bit too much — in my writing ability, and her class was tough but fulfilling in a way that spoiled me for high school classes moving forward. 

Question 9: How did you navigate the college application process, and what advice do you have for other students going through it?

A:  I definitely started much later than I should have — and by that, I mean within two months of the due date — so my advice would be to get it all done during summer so that you can relax during the beginning of your senior year. As for the UC [University of California] application essays, definitely find examples online and guides that tell you in detail exactly what the admission officers are looking for for each question. Use transitions and read your writing out loud to check how well it flows because the worst thing to do is to write an essay that is annoying or difficult or boring to read, especially considering they spend so little time reading your essay anyway. But at the same time, don’t stress too much because honestly, college applications are a game of chance on whether you get good admissions officers on a good day, so you just have to have a little faith.

Question 10: Whether it be school-affiliated or not, were there any specific projects or assignments that you feel were particularly impactful or rewarding?

A: Working with Art Club on the two on-campus murals was definitely a highlight because I am able to see the fruits of our labor every day whenever I pass by. They always bring memories of the frankly chaotic sessions we’d have together, making inside jokes, burying a lizard in a grave and nearly falling off of ladders — good times. But seriously, I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish, and I hope future Lancers will enjoy it for years to come.

Question 11: What was a specific study habit or routine you had that helped you excel?

A: If cramming the morning of is a study habit, then sure. But really, what helped me was just trying to absorb the information throughout the year during the lectures and classes themselves and not just in small pockets of study time you endure after not paying attention in class. It’s important to really digest what you learn so you can retain and recall it later, not only as something that you memorized from your notes intending to forget it later but as general knowledge you’ve incorporated. It’s also important to learn the logic behind this information. Rather than simple memorization, find out its relationships to other parts of the course or the reason/processes behind why it occurs; this way, even if you forgot the information itself, you can reason or logic it out with the other information you do remember. 

Question 12: What is your most memorable experience or highlight from your high school years?

A: Making friends in my art classes was definitely one. It’s such a different environment from my academic classes that gave me the freedom to simply have fun and be incredibly unhinged every day — I’ve learned that people no longer consider me soft-spoken and timid after having an art class with me. A lot of art club activities like painting the on-campus murals and the annual national water competition murals also stick in my mind as really enjoyable bonding experiences with the rest of the club. Actually winning the competition in freshman year also tickled my fancy quite a bit. 

Question 13: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: Hopefully in 10 years, I’ll be preparing for a career as a doctor. Hopefully. 

Question 14:  What will you miss most after you graduate?

A: I’ll definitely miss the unhinged chaos me and my friends get into, but according to all the incoming UCLA students I’ve come into contact with, I will definitely find that chaos in college. Other than that, I’m going to miss the slower pace of the classes here; I am terrified of the quarter system and praying it doesn’t kill me.

Question 15: If you could go back to freshman year and redo high school, would you?

A: I definitely would because there are a lot of people I’ve met — especially in senior year — that I really regret not being better friends with. Curse my unsocial, non-confrontational self. I am also terrified of having to move on to adult life, so spending another few years without that responsibility sounds like heaven. Having to relearn and study and do all the homework for everything would really suck though. I think I would actually die if I had to redo physics.

Question 16: Tell us a life lesson you learned at Sunny Hills.

A: Find some kind of support system, and find it fast. Make friends, have people to talk to and help you when things get rough and make extra sure you set up an environment where you feel comfortable to go to them for anything. Sadly, hiding behind the excuse of being shy and timid will inevitably lead to a tiring and lonely and monotonous or difficult lifestyle. It is the worst feeling when you feel like you have nowhere to go or nowhere to belong.

Question 17: As a valedictorian, what last message do you have for the underclassmen?

A: Being a valedictorian doesn’t make me super smart; it just means I’m not super attached to a healthy sleep schedule.

Question 18: What was the most useful advice you have received from someone about high school?

A: Relax. Who cares what other people think? Because no matter what you do, you won’t be seeing the majority of these people again after high school.

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Jaimie Chun, Editor-in-Chief
Senior Jaimie Chun returns excited and grateful to lead The Accolade as the editor-in-chief. Since her first year on staff two years ago, The Accolade newsroom has become a home away from home. She looks forward to each issue, story, audio and video reaching the biggest audience possible and bringing the community together. Chun will continue honing her skills as a journalist to ensure that her storytelling is informative and empathetic. Because of her love for print journalism, she hopes that The Accolade's publications will be read by many people and equally appreciated. When Chun isn't in the newsroom, you can find her searching to try new food, exploring new music or reading in the nook of her room.
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