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May 30, 2024


From High School to Medical School: Leon Zhao's Path to Brown University

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Embarking on a journey from high school to an Ivy League university's medical program is no small feat. Leon Zhao, a third-year medical student at Brown University, shares his unique experience and the lessons learned throughout his academic and personal journey.

Early Aspirations and College Tours

Leon's journey began with aspirations formed during his early school days, solidified by a college tour of New England during his eighth grade. His early exposure to Ivy League campuses, including a memorable stop at Brown University, planted the seed of his ambition to pursue a career in medicine within an academically challenging environment. Jump to YouTube section

Choosing the Right Path: The Application Strategy

When it came time to apply to colleges, Leon adopted a strategic approach by applying to 16 schools, including both standard four-year programs and accelerated BS/MD programs, like the one offered by Brown. His choices were motivated by a clear goal to enter the medical field, guiding him to apply to programs specifically tailored to streamline education directly into medical training. Jump to YouTube section

Academic Excellence and Beyond

Leon's academic prowess was evident from his SAT scores and GPA, but his involvement in extracurricular activities further bolstered his application's strength. These included running track and field, engaging deeply in his local church, and dedicating significant time to volunteering and shadowing in medical settings, showcasing a well-rounded profile that extended beyond the classroom. Jump to YouTube section

The Role of Passion and Authenticity

A critical element that Leon emphasizes is the importance of authenticity and passion in both the application process and life choices. His commitment to activities he genuinely enjoyed, like running and community service, enriched his application, making it not just a list of achievements but a reflection of his true interests and character. Jump to YouTube section

Life at Brown and the Road Ahead

At Brown, Leon found an environment that valued collaboration and learning for the sake of knowledge rather than grades alone. This approach resonated with his values and has profoundly impacted his educational experience, allowing him to thrive in a notoriously challenging program with an acceptance rate of around 1%. Jump to YouTube section

Reflections and Advice for Prospective Students

Reflecting on his journey, Leon advises prospective students to engage deeply in activities they love, start preparing for college applications early, and maintain authenticity throughout their applications. He stresses that passion drives success and fulfillment more than merely striving for accolades. Jump to YouTube section


Leon Zhao's journey from aspiring medical student to nearly completing his medical degree at Brown University is a testament to the power of early ambition, strategic planning, and genuine passion. His experiences offer valuable insights for students aiming for highly competitive university programs, highlighting the importance of authenticity and dedication in achieving one's dreams. Jump to YouTube section