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TMSAtalks Session: Declassifying High School and The Art of Winning

By Rahul Bhatia

On Friday, March 24, TMSAtalks invited Ashwin Punj, a senior at Enloe Magnet High School, and is also an accepted applicant to UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University to share his high school experiences with TMSA students and what they should do to prepare and to stand out to colleges.

Ashwin Punj is seventeen years old and is currently a senior at Enloe Magnet High School. He plays several sports and competes in dance competitions. In sixth grade, he founded a volunteering group focused on helping those in need, and every year the group raises more money, and grows in strength and reach. Over the past 6 years, the group’s total has exceeded $50,000. He plans to join the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill later this year and pursue a career in biomedical engineering.

During his presentation, Ashwin talked about his high school experience and what you should do to stand out to colleges.

Here are some key points from the presentation:

How can you stand out to colleges?

  • When it comes down to it, grades are extremely important for college applications
  • Extracurricular Activities are essential. It’s best to have one or two activities that are important to you and to stick to them

What can you do to make applications easier?

  • Use the CommonApp Portal. This is a college admission application that you can use to apply to 500+ universities.

10 Things that Ashwin would tell incoming freshmen:

  • Never procrastinate
  • Use class time wisely; Instead of spending free time during class talking, dedicate that time toward working on assignments from another class.
  • Keep focus on the big picture by setting small personal goals; Having small goals will help you get to where you want to be.
  • Get as much sleep when you can; high school keeps you on your toes, and more importantly, it keeps your eyes open
  • Get involved; find something in this school that you want to do, that interests you, and stick with it for as long as you can. It’s great personally and on your application, if you can stick with a club or sport and eventually gain a leadership position.
  • Slow down and take a deep breath; sometimes things can get overwhelming but if you can slow everything down and tackle one problem at a time, everything works out.
  • Keep good relationships with your teachers; if you have their back, they’ll have yours.
  • You will not pass every test; high school is hard, and it’s meant to push you to your limit.  You won’t get amazing grades all the time but it isn’t the end of the world.  Just keep pushing!
  • Don’t indulge in illegal activities, even if your peers are participating in them
  • Distractions are okay, but be prepared to block them out when necessary

You can visit the TMSAtalks homepage at this link:


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