Our 2019 College Scholarship Winner: Nathaniel Tran

Meet Nathaniel Tran our 2019 Carol Phan College Scholarship winner.

Congratulations, Nathaniel!  

Nathaniel will be attending Pomona College majoring in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.

Nathaniel submitted two resumes for his scholarship application. Very clever, must read 🙂

Go here to see all the scholarship recipients since 2011.


Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days. This CV of Failures is an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective.

Johannes Haushofer
, Associate Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University

While working as a research associate at Princeton a few years ago, my brother-in-law showed me Dr. Haushofer’s Curriculum Vitae of Failures, something that transformed my perspective on the meanings of failure and success. Considering that my lifelong passion has always revolved around challenging myself, learning from my errors, and making a positive impact on the world throughout this process, I believe that this application is a great opportunity for me to spread Dr. Haushofer’s message.

As such, I present to this scholarship committee two very different resumes. The first is a rather typical resume, outlining all the things I am doing to make Tracy a better place before I head to college. The second is my very own Resume of Failures, outlining all the mistakes and struggles that developed me into the person I am today. Hopefully, these two resumes will help dignify the sacrifices necessary for true, positive growth, regardless of whether they are big or small, beautiful or ugly, proud or shameful.

After all, the For Carol Scholarship was the product of an unimaginably tragic accident, but it is now making an unbelievable impact on the lives of many deserving Tracy High students. To me, being one of these students would not just be another way to pay for college – it would be an obligation to honor Carol’s legacy as much as possible.

Thank you for consideration, and I hope you enjoy my work!

Nathaniel Tran
Tracy, CA

Academics Tracy High School, Class of 2019 Cumulative GPA: 4.844 IB Diploma Candidate Class Rank: 1 out of 469 Pomona College, Class of 2023 Major in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics

Extracurriculars Chairman, Tracy Young Democrats Committee August 2018 – Present

● Connect students with opportunities for community involvement and political activism

● Canvass potential voters in neighborhoods and commercial centers around Tracy

● Engage youths with elected officials to learn about local, state, and national issues

● Recruited over a dozen members from three high schools, with numbers growing

Communications Coordinator, Tracy Homelessness Task Force August 2018 – Present

● Direct social media outreach for the Task Force and City Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom in order to understand citizens’ concerns about homelessness and public safety

● Collect and analyze survey data regarding local opinions on homelessness policy

● Research housing issues in the San Joaquin Valley, and advocate for solutions to local officials and community leaders

Technical Assistant, Tracy Historical Museum December 2018 – Present

● Update museum’s computer software and photographic archives

● Train staff in better photography and videography techniques, and edit museum photographs for publication and distribution

Campaign Aide, Catalina Olvera for City Council July 2018 – September 2018

● Designed, configured, and maintained campaign website

● Helped Ms. Olvera revise and rehearse speeches, formulate policy positions, and network with volunteers and prominent community figures.

Awards and Acknowledgments National Merit Scholarship Finalist: Recognized for top-tier PSAT and SAT scores.

California Boys State: Selected as one of California’s most promising teen leaders, and underwent a weeklong intensive about municipal and state government.

Organizing for Action Fellowship: Received training and scholarship for skilled community activism.

California Scholarship Federation Member since 2014: Honored for maintaining straight As throughout all four years of high school.

Nathaniel Tran Resume of Failures Projects I did not commit to

Interviews for Diversity, Empathy, and Action (IDEA) July 2017 – December 2017

● IDEA was my ambitious plan to improve campus race relations by surveying students, interviewing faculty, and proposing social-justice reforms to Tracy High’s administration. Instead of achieving any of these goals, however, I recruited as many friends as possible without delegating any significant responsibilities; I spent countless hours micromanaging each aspect of the project. Soon enough, no one was interested in supporting IDEA, and by December, my initiative had become an undeniable failure. Shocked by how terribly I had failed, I began suffering almost-daily panic attacks between February and August 2018, which finally ended when I discovered a new passion for community activism.

Tracy High Model United Nations April 2018 – June 2018

● My girlfriend planned out and started a Model UN club at her school, and I was excited to do the same at mine. Still, balancing my mental wellness with my academic obligations, as well as my club officers’ much more packed schedules, discouraged me from taking the leap of faith necessary to bring Model UN to Tracy High School.

Extracurriculars I did not commit to

Tracy Youth Advisory Commission (YAC) July 2018 – August 2018

● I applied to the YAC hoping to help my hometown engage youths like never before, and in my interview, I presented the Parks and Recreation Commission with a comprehensive agenda of ideas to achieve this lofty goal. Unfortunately, my anxiety disorder kicked in shortly after the YAC’s first meeting, pushing me to believe that I would not be able to turn any of my dreams into reality — just like another IDEA. Not wishing to waste the YAC’s time or resources, I resigned before the second meeting could convene.

Tracy High Academic Decathlon (AcaDec) August 2016 – February 2018

● Much to my surprise, I managed to land a spot on the AcaDec starting team as a mere sophomore, and from there, I earned the second-highest scores both on the team and all of San Joaquin County! Then, my AcaDec coach retired, and the starting team and I tried to help her successor as much as possible with transitioning into his new role. However, this new coach proved to be very uncooperative, and the starters and I lacked the support and motivation of the previous year. We ended up winning a close victory at the county competition, but after the coach mocked my team’s performance at the state championship, I decided to quit.

Tracy High Mock Trial August 2015 – February 2017

● I was the one of the most-improved members of my mock trial team in freshman year, so I became captain as a sophomore. Suddenly, my team’s attorney-coach quit, leaving me clueless about how to run the team or improve my own work. At that year’s competition, Tracy High Mock Trial demoted from San Joaquin’s second-best team to its fifth-best, and my scores were the lowest in the entire county. And you thought AcaDec was rough!

Tracy High Junior Varsity Swim February 2015 – April 2017

● I began in freshman year with a minute-long 50-yard freestyle, and left in sophomore year having cut that time in half. However, my very last swim meet event ever was a relay with three of my teammates. Despite being JV captain two years in a row, I mistakenly dove into the pool while my friend was still swimming, nearly injuring him and getting my entire relay squad disqualified. Last year, I promised to rejoin the team but could not bring myself to return. This year, I am electing to receive swim lessons from my girlfriend in our free time.

Opportunities I did not interview for

Tracy Historical Museum Scholarship April 2019

Golden 1 Scholarship April 2019

Daughters of the American Revolution Scholarship March 2019

Boys Nation July 2018

State Assembly Internship July 2018

Jobs I did not interviewfor

Out of the ten minimum-wage, entry-level positions I applied for in the past three months (ranging from cashier at Panera Bread to host at Chili’s) only two responded: Staples and the Tracy Parks and Recreation Department. Both rejected me without an interview.


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