Student Spotlight: Rachael Yuan

Nihara Lijan

Throughout high school, Rachael has always been described as a hard-working person. Moving onto the next step of her future, Rachael will be attending University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and will be double majoring in Neuroscience and Public Health Policy. This reflects Rachael’s love for working with children and her love of learning together. 

Rachael visiting UNC Chapel Hill during April break. (Yuan Family)

When asked how she felt about finding out that she was valedictorian, Rachael claimed that she honestly “felt the same as before, except [she] was surprised. There was also a sense of newfound gratitude since it was not an independent endeavor.” Rachael felt honored but there was a lot of reflection on her whole high school career that came into play.  

Rachael has said that, although she is a valedictorian, that necessarily doesn’t mean that she is the best time manager. She claims to be a major procrastinator sometimes; however, she does have helpful study methods that have proven to be useful. Some of her tips include creating study guides before zooming in on specific topics, studying smart and hard at the same time, and using retrieval practice such as practice tests instead of re-writing notes. This way the information is integrated well. She also adds that it is very important to take breaks in between so that you don’t burn out!

Rachael also mentions how AP Psychology taught her a lot in terms of studying. For example, she learned how to be a better student and learner. When you take the class, you learn to become a conscious learner and critically think about your learning. So she recommends AP Psych as a class to take as well. In addition, she recommends AP Language and Composition. Rachael says, “Dr. Kellett is so eloquent and teaches material that is applicable to everything in everyday life. Everything she teaches, you can use to connect with people and you are guaranteed to pass the exam with that class. Also, reading passages from influential people inspires you all the time.” In addition, Rachael’s love for science strengthened when she took AP Biology and AP Chemistry, so she recommends those classes especially for students who are hoping to pursue a major on the pre-med track in college. Rachael reminds everyone that you should embrace collaboration and don’t look at your class or peers as a competition

Rachael on a road trip with her family to Savannah, Georgia during April break. (Yuan Family)

There were times when classes were especially challenging, but Rachael never took that as an excuse to fail. Rachael has mentioned that she was burned out a lot by sophomore year with the addition of AP classes, but at the same time, she wants to encourage students to still take AP’s that they like. According to Rachael, the difficulty of a class should never deter you from it. For example, she mentions that AP Chemistry is hard, and although many people don’t stick with it, those who do understand that it is a good test of if you want to go into pre-med or science college. 

“Don’t view AP classes as a hurdle. View it as an outlet to challenge yourself,” she explains.

As for her future, Rachael cares a lot about mental health and wants to go into pre-med and specialize in psychiatry. Rachael’s grandmother had suffered with mental health issues and since it is really stigmatized especially in China, where her grandmother lives, she wants to go to China and help change that. As mentioned previously, she is double majoring – the main reason for this being that she wants to be interdisciplinary and connect more to the real world. 

So how did Rachael accomplish this position of valedictorian? 

Rachael says that, “academic standing is so minute and reflecting yourself in your college applications is more beneficial”. She speaks on how being a valedictorian or salutatorian tends to get glorified, but everyone works hard in different ways to accomplish many things that may not fall in the academic category but are still worthy of recognition.  

“I think being a valedictorian is a privilege but there is no need to strive for it or make your whole high school goal,” she adds. “The rankings are differences within the thousandths place of a decimal so if I made it my goal and didn’t end up getting it, I would be devastated.”

For Rachael, although COVID-19 impacted her, she still made sure to approach things with a grateful heart and be happy with what she had. “Sometimes there isn’t a perfect solution to things,” she says, and adds that in times of hardship, it is important to stay connected with friends and family. 

Rachael’s driving force was her desire to improve the lives of others. She has always wanted to use her own education to help others especially for those who may not be able to access resources to help themselves. 

Lastly, Rachael’s favorite quote is “be the change you want to see in the world” which was said by Mahatma Gandhi. 

Amazing accomplishment Rachael, and we wish you the best of luck in your future!!