Zara Shipchandler


Salutatorian Zara Shipchandler poses in front of the University of Texas at Austin tower on April 18, 2021.

Yoonsoo (Seth) Choi, News Editor

In 2019, Zara Shipchandler spent three weeks of her summer at an immersion program at Harvard University.

“The summer I spent at Harvard was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had,” Shipchandler said. “I learned a lot in the course that I took, but more than that I was able to learn so much from the people around me. Everyone I met was so unique and intelligent, and I met some really great friends there that I am still in touch with today.”

Though she won’t be attending Harvard for college, Shipchandler will be graduating as the salutatorian and majoring in computer science at the University of Texas at Austin.

“I want to major in computer science because it combines both of my passions: problem solving and creativity, while also allowing the opportunity to make a positive impact in the world,” Shipchandler said. “ I applied to a couple dream schools out of state and I ended up getting waitlisted to Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science. Though it is an amazing program, I decided against putting my name on the list after visiting UT.”

She chose the University of Texas at Austin because it has one of the best computer science programs in the US, and many of her friends will be attending the university as well. 

“I absolutely fell in love with UT’s campus and the general lively and enriching atmosphere of Austin,” Shipchandler said. “From the diverse and delicious restaurants, to the beautiful nature trails and hikes, I am thrilled to call Austin my new home.”

Shipchandler hopes to participate in the Women in Computer Science (WiCS) organization at the University of Texas at Austin.

“I am a huge advocate for more women in STEM and hope to close the gender disparity inherent in computer science,” Shipchandler said. 

In high school, Shipchandler was a math tutor for Mu Alpha Theta and vice president of philanthropy and programs for the National Charity League. However, she spent most of her time in band, playing the flute and serving as the vice president of events for Music in Motion, a volunteer music organization. 

“I was an active member in the band for three years, and it is where I found my closest friends and had the most memorable experiences in high school,” Shipchandler said. “However, I unfortunately had to quit my senior year because of the pandemic. It was an especially difficult decision for me since I lived for band in high school and had just earned the Drill Instructor position for the flutes, something that I had worked really hard for. However, I made the decision to drop band since my grandparents were living with me at the time, and we were being extremely careful with any covid exposure, and though the directors did an incredible job with safety procedures, I just wasn’t ready.

As a result, she co-founded an initiative called ZEL Tutoring. 

“ZEL Tutoring is a free, online-based tutoring service run by volunteers that was created to assist students in the abrupt transition to online and virtual learning due to the pandemic,” Shipchandler said. 

Additionally, she took up drawing.

“I am completely self-taught and my favorite medium is charcoal,” Shipchandler said.

Drawing helped her de-stress before the AP exams, but there were many other reasons for her academic success, including being named a National Merit Finalist.

“I think the most helpful trait of mine was discipline and time management,” Shipchandler said. “Especially with time consuming extra-curriculars like band, I barely had time left at home to do any homework or study. But, being able to manage my time and work ahead allowed me to finish a lot of the work I had in school itself, utilizing time like 2.5 and free periods to get a lot of my homework done and to get ahead in my classes. Something that also helped me is that no matter how much work I had, I used to always try my best to get seven hours of sleep. Although my friends made fun of me for sleeping at 10:30 every night, it really helped me be fresh for school and be extra productive during the day.” 

Shipchandler believes these traits will help her succeed in college and beyond.