When Gabi started as a camper at App Camp for Girls, or what the organizers call a developer, she was only 13. For the next few years she was a volunteer, but at 16-years-old the staff shook their heads and wondered what on earth they would do with her.
Gabi was too old to remain an intern yet too young to become a project team manager. Some organizations would have just told Gabi to come back when she was older. But the leadership at App Camp for Girls is far too brilliant to let something like established norms interfere with hanging onto young talent. So, they created a new position, the “Lead Developer Intern,” or what they affectionately call “The Gabi Job.”
Gabi’s experience solving a particularly difficult coding riddle at the camp is the subject of her common application essay. As an award-winning playwright and National Merit Scholar, she has the sort of brain that craves learning, challenges, and the thrill of overcoming obstacles.
And this outlook was precisely what Gabi needed as she set forth to find the college that was right for her—because not only were many of these universities extremely challenging to get into, they required a lot of writing.
In fact, Gabi warns future applicants against underestimating the time commitment applications require: “I began mine at the end of August, which meant that I was writing essays while trying to get schoolwork done and things started to pile up,” Gabi remembered. However, she does credit staying organized with saving her sanity. “I kept a massive spreadsheet of colleges I was looking at, which really helped me narrow down my choices later and stay on top of everything.”
A lover of spreadsheets, Gabi herself cannot be confined to any box. She enjoys both coding and musicals and can write an algorithm for the NCAA basketball tournament or a new play. When it came to the right school, Gabi wanted a place where she could major in both mathematics and English or some variation of the two. While some strive to be well-rounded, Gabi’s balanced mind seems to be both her motivation and her operational default. When it came to colleges at the top of her list, Gabi said she was attracted to schools with a “quirky student life and interdisciplinary approach to education.”
When Gabi received an email notification that the University of Chicago had her acceptance results—an institution famous for driving inquiry, challenging conventional thinking, and innovation—she was studying in her high school library. With a 5.95% acceptance rate this year, Gabi admitted to expecting rejection, but instead clicked the button to read "CONGRATULATIONS!” She said, “It took me a few minutes to process, but, once I did, I wanted to dance around and scream. Unfortunately there was an English class in the library, so I couldn't, so I quietly cried instead.”
With other acceptances and scholarships to a number of terrific schools, from Tufts to Northwestern University, from the University of Washington to the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, Gabi felt she had a menu of options that made choosing a college exciting and potentially a bargain, depending on her answer.
Ultimately, she said her choice came down to affordability and desirability, which made UChicago a surprisingly easy answer. “UChicago has a fantastic financial aid program that makes it cheaper to attend than all of the other schools I applied to besides the University of Oregon,” Gabi noted. “Once I was accepted, I also realized that UChicago had been my top choice school all along: I had just been too afraid to admit it.”
While an accomplished English student and writer, Gabi admitted that personal narrative writing presented her with a different challenge, and she was able to master the skill of working in chunks. She also learned something that many personal narrative writers discover: the ability to write about your life and yourself is powerful and persuasive. Gabi believes this heightened ability aided her in receiving National Honorable Mention for the National Center for Women in Technology’s Aspirations Award this year, as she had to submit additional narrative essays to be considered.
What does a driven young app developer and creative thinker do after they complete thousands of words on their application essay? If you’re Gabi, you write a play and submit it into a national competition. In unrelated/related news, Gabi’s other play Ismene was selected to be workshopped at the International Thespian Festival this year, selected as one of four plays by teenage playwrights across the nation.
Is there anything that Gabi can’t do? Probably. But more than what she can or can’t do, she shows young girls that difficult problems are nothing to fear, especially in the face of motivation, determination, and a healthy dose of ambition.
You can read Gabi’s essay, along with other stellar college-bound students writing here.