“I listened to the radio every morning”: The secrets of success of Paul, a 16-year-old student at the Faculty of Sciences

At only 16 years old, Paul Dumont-Le Bellec is one of the top students accepted to Sciences Po in September 2023. While Paul is preparing for his undergraduate studies at the Lycée Condorcet in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, he is also applying to the prestigious university college ‘Institute of Political Studies’. The student, who had an exemplary record, a very good grade in the oral examination and a “very good” grade in the baccalaureate with an average of 18.8/20, was successfully accepted. He delivers Student of Figaro the secrets of his success.

I also looked at the teaching model to clearly demonstrate that I understood the teaching at Sciences Po and what the school expects from candidates in the exams.

Paul Dumont-Le Bellec, Sciences Po student

LE FIGARO. – How did you prepare for the Sciences Po competition?

Paul DUMONT-LE BELLEC. – I had learned many things in advance about the admission process, including the file to be prepared and the oral exam. I had also learned about Sciences Po campuses in Paris and also in the region, and about the school’s dual-degree (e.g. mathematics, philosophy or history) courses offered at the Sorbonne or Paris-Cité. I also looked at the teaching model to clearly demonstrate that I understood the teaching at Sciences Po and what the school expects from candidates in the exams. You should anticipate your application to avoid being overwhelmed. In order to start the process with peace of mind, I recommend you complete your 10 wishes and sub-wishes via Parcoursup in January.

How can we strengthen our Parcoursup file?

At Parcoursup, Sciences Po asks us to answer 4 questions. This can be scary because you may say you don’t have much to say when it comes to professional experience. I was just babysitting. I explained that this gave me maturity and self-confidence. The whole point is to “storytell” your life, to tell a story. My undergraduate grades were 17/20 in history-geography, geopolitics and political sciences (HGGSP) and 19/20 in economics and social sciences (SES). I also took the Italian LV3 as an option as well as the additional math specialization.

What are your tips for passing the exam?

You must plan ahead. There are 5 possible options. In my case, I was asked to give the Nobel Prize to someone who had not won it. I chose to attribute this to the people who discovered the rabies vaccine. My choice was related to current events because I talked about vaccines and the evolution of science.

I listened to the radio while having breakfast or on the way to school.

Paul Dumont-Le Bellec, Sciences Po student

What about oral?

Follow the news as early in the year as possible. This does not need to be done by reading the newspaper every morning as this can take up a lot of time. Personally, I would listen to the radio while having breakfast or on my way to school. It had become a habit that didn’t require much effort. Additionally, on the day of the oral exam, you are required to analyze an image for 10 minutes based on current events and your knowledge. It’s so long, you need to know what to say. My oral exam was during pension reform, so I had written about that and also about 49.3. You should not neglect the 2-minute presentation at the beginning of the interview. “What is your favorite book?”, “Which course would you like to take at Sciences Po?” I prepared myself to answer their questions. or “Why do you want to go to Sciences Po?”

What differentiated you from other candidates?

I applied to the Poitiers campuses dedicated to Latin America. I underlined that my French-Peruvian dual culture, that I can speak Spanish well, that I have traveled a lot in my country, and therefore opened me to a certain literature and Latin American cinema. I also said I was interested in current events on the continent so I could stay loyal to campus. I also talked about my observation internship at the survey company Ipsos in my freshman year. It was an internship I did in hopes of attending Sciences Po a few years later. I learned a lot about human behavior and the dynamics of French society.

So what criteria should you focus on most when applying to join Sciences Po?

For me, you should focus on your personality and relational experiences, such as tutoring or politics. All Sciences Po Paris candidates are good students. Therefore, our life outside of high school is interesting to show that even though we are young, we can be a caring citizen.

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