The entirety of the Class of 2024 endured a months-long college application process before landing at Cornell. For Jessica Zhang ’24, this journey was a public one, displayed on her TikTok profile for hundreds of thousands to watch.
With more than 500,000 followers and over 8 million total likes on her account, Cornell’s Class of 2024 includes at least one growing TikTok star. Zhang rose to social media fame through sharing her college admissions journey, which ended in her acceptance to Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics of Management.
Zhang posted her first TikTok in March about awaiting college admissions decisions, which reached 17.5 million views and 2.8 million likes.
Since then, Zhang’s most popular videos have continued to center around the college admissions process, ranging from sharing her test scores, giving college essays tips and condemning what she sees as a college process that advantages the wealthy.
“I feel like it’s very rewarding because lots of younger students email me and reach out to me telling me how much I’ve helped them,” Zhang said. “I really like this area I’m in right now.”
Zhang recounts how she has already started seeing the effects of her fame after posting in the Cornell Class of 2024 Facebook Group to find roommates.
“There have been lots of girls that have reached out to me saying that they recognize my face or they’ve seen my TikToks before,” Zhang said. “It’s just kind of a surprise that I’m coming to a new school and I’m not anonymous like I thought it would be.”
The Dyson School admit said she was drawn to the prospect of attending a small business school within a larger university.
Relating her current and academic interests, Zhang sees her TikTok account as a platform to grow as an entrepreneur. She’s already on her way, as companies have reached out to her about sponsorships.
“My dream is to start my own business and be an entrepreneur,” she said. “Having a social media platform can be really helpful for that type of field because I’ve already started seeing some of the effects from the marketing side.”
Zhang is currently social distancing at home in Portage, Michigan. Like many high school seniors, Zhang’s plans for prom and graduation are uncertain. But she remains optimistic by highlighting the positives of quarantine life, such as how it has given her lots of time to explore creative pursuits.
She said she had not heard about President Martha E. Pollack’s email announcement that the University is working to determine the status of the fall 2020 semester, but she expressed her desire to attend college in person.
“I just feel like if we didn’t have school on campus in the fall, we’d all be missing out on a large part of the college experience [because] I’m not trying to attend ‘Zoom University,’” Zhang said.
Zhang looks forward to joining the Cornell community in Ithaca when students are permitted. On campus, Zhang wants to participate in the Cornell Fashion Collective’s annual Fashion Show and join Greek life.
“I’m most excited about meeting the people, because I’ve already gotten to talk to so many amazing and diverse students that are in my class, so I’m just excited to meet them all,” Zhang said.