Vietnam high school student wins 13 American scholarships

The former ‘smartphone addict’ capitalized on her bad habit

Phan Thi Hanh, a 18-year-old Vietnamese student who won 13 U.S. college scholarships, is seen in this supplied photo.

Phan Thi Hanh, 18, is a self-described ex-“smartphone addict.”

The senior from the Specialized High School of Vinh University in Vinh City, 300km south of Hanoi, decided to take that bad habit and capitalize on it in her college essays, impressing over a dozen U.S. college admission officers with her writing on the impact of smartphones on young people.

Thirteen U.S. colleges have so far offered scholarships to Hanh, the largest of which amounted to more than VND800 million (US$34,760) a year, an enormous figure compared to Vietnam’s 2017 GDP of $2,343.

After weighing her options, the young student decided to take her talents to DePauw University in Indiana – a school lauded for its social sciences, language, and biology programs.

Commenting on her choice, Hanh said that although the scholarship DePauw offered is lower than those offered by other schools, she feels it is a great fit in terms of academic fields, extracurricular activities, and future career options.

Hanh claims the key to her ‘scholarship success’ is her essay writing skills. For her personal essay, she focused on the negative effects of smartphone use amongst teens.

“My roommate buries her face in the phone all day and all night. She actually gave me loads of ideas to write about. I tried to make it clear in my essay how I would reduce the dependence of young people on smartphones,” she explained.

Phan Thi Hanh (fourth from right, bottom row) can be seen with her high school classmates in this supplied photo.
Phan Thi Hanh (fourth from right, bottom row) can be seen with her high school classmates in this supplied photo.

A passion for English

During her middle school years, Hanh’s passion for English helped her stand out amongst her peers.

“I wanted to explore cultures and make friends with people all over the world,” she said.

She channeled even more effort into learning English after her admission to the Specialized High School of Vinh University.

“I spent 30-60 minutes every day practicing my listening, pronunciation, and vocabulary. My roommate helped me out a lot with my practice,” she shared.

“In my free time, especially on long bus trips, I would speak to myself, talk to a friend in English, or just listen to English songs.”

That hard work paid off in the form of high IELTS and SAT scores, opening her door to U.S. universities even wider.

Adding to her résumé is her involvement in the S Project – an initiative aimed at preventing the sexual abuse of children.

“I am most proud of this project because I’m actually doing something for the community. It has also made me more mature and confident in my social interaction,” she said.

At this very moment Hanh is bracing herself up for her upcoming “overseas study dream” by signing up for soft skill training sessions.

She is also studying coding, video rendering, and American culture.

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