Top of the Class

Wrapping up 2020! What We Learned from Guests and College Admissions News

December 24, 2020 Crimson Education
Top of the Class
Wrapping up 2020! What We Learned from Guests and College Admissions News
Top of the Class
Wrapping up 2020! What We Learned from Guests and College Admissions News
Dec 24, 2020
Crimson Education

With Santa on his way, Top of the Class co-hosts, Jamie and Alex, reflect on what they've learned from the students featured on the show and give some tips for listeners to make the most of 2021.

Jamie also talks about the latest news coming out of an extraordinary year in college admissions.

On a personal note (Alex here), thank you so much for supporting the show! If you're feeling in a giving mood, please write us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the show with friends and family.  If there's anyone you want to hear on the show or if you want particular questions asked, make sure to tweet me @TopoftheClassP1.

The Top of the Class podcast is powered by Crimson Education. If you want to learn more about your path through high school to top US, UK or European universities, click here to request a free and private meeting with an Academic Advisor in your area.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Jamie and Alex

Show Notes Transcript

With Santa on his way, Top of the Class co-hosts, Jamie and Alex, reflect on what they've learned from the students featured on the show and give some tips for listeners to make the most of 2021.

Jamie also talks about the latest news coming out of an extraordinary year in college admissions.

On a personal note (Alex here), thank you so much for supporting the show! If you're feeling in a giving mood, please write us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the show with friends and family.  If there's anyone you want to hear on the show or if you want particular questions asked, make sure to tweet me @TopoftheClassP1.

The Top of the Class podcast is powered by Crimson Education. If you want to learn more about your path through high school to top US, UK or European universities, click here to request a free and private meeting with an Academic Advisor in your area.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Jamie and Alex

Alex Cork  00:00

Hello, and welcome to the Top of the Class podcast. I'm your host Alex Cork and today I chat with my co host, Jamie Beaton. It's almost the end of the year, we're wrapping up a great 25 to 30 interviews that we've conducted so far with the top of the class. And we're just kind of going through what we learned was one of the things that stood out to us, and obviously chatting about the recent college admissions as well. I hope you've enjoyed the episode so far. Hope you've been getting a lot out of it. Make sure to subscribe, make sure to share it with your friends. And we look forward to having more fantastic episodes in 2021. Let's get to the chat between myself and Jamie Beaton. Hey, Jamie, how you doing? 

Jamie Beaton  00:55

Good, good. Wow, almost Christmas time crazy to see how the years flown by just getting some final presents wrapped up under the tree. What about you? 

Alex Cork  01:03

Doing the same thing. I mean, Melbourne is coming out of the COVID lockdown, and we're doing pretty well here. And I think it's the first time we've had a Christmas tree in a while as well, to be honest. So looking forward to Christmas. I know it's been a really long year for everyone. But obviously like the Top of the Class has been a really interesting learning process for me in particular. And I know you've been working with like high achieving students for a long time. But you got the opportunity to chat with Ben Zhang as well. And you who else did you interview? 

Jamie Beaton  01:32

I also spoke with Soumil as well. Yeah, and John Key as well, yeah, that was really fun, I'm getting that you hit insights, I think kicking things off was really good, because, you know, he went from basically a stay at home, you know, what kind of government funded home with a single mother and when he was very young, and then he went to a public school, and then ended up being of course, Prime Minister of New Zealand and you know, making 10s of millions on Wall Street. And so that story of kind of, you know, the end to end impact of education was very inspiring. 

Alex Cork  02:05

Yeah, I think it's always good to get some perspective and where like that education journey can take you. But I know from my side, chatting to a lot of the students, I've probably done like 25-30 interviews now with some amazing students from around the world. And it's really challenged, I guess, my views and my perceptions of what high achievers quote unquote, actually are, and and what kind of drives them. And I think one of the things that I'm starting to see is like, there's common threads from my side, it's a big thing, from your perspective, what you see is common threads with all the students that you've worked with, in terms of US and UK applications, but some of the common threads that I tend to save from the students is particularly self learning, and the ability to kind of like go above and beyond the school curriculum, like they find an interest. And they follow that down a significantly long rabbit hole, right. And, you know, they're, they're not just kind of like googling how to something rather, they're like going into Google Scholar, and they're kind of reading research papers, and they're talking to people finding communities, and they're doing that all have their own back. And I feel like that's one of the big differences between one of these big common threads that makes these students so far and above what I guess the common student would be, and instead of just found a passion, 

Jamie Beaton  03:19

I couldn't agree more. And it really feels to me like there are students who have an interest, but then kind of hit a wall, so to speak, and to stop exploring, versus students who know how to keep digging to the next level, whether that be you know, hopping into the regeneron science competition, or whether it be doing the Olympiad, or whether it just be joining an interesting slack community that, you know, enables you to really probe deeper into a topic, I think the thing that always I come back to honestly, is you can go pretty far by yourself, but you can go so much further with even just two or three other like minded people helping you, you know, I guess shine a light on the path forwards. So I think about, for example, Bintang who bribed and the chemistry Olympiad, in the biology Olympiad. And, you know, he was able to push well beyond what anyone had done, you know, within his high school in New Zealand, and he, you know, really, I think, exemplified that idea of, you know, pushing the pushing the pushing deeper. And I think it's also an important trait, you know, we've sent more than 40 kids to Stanford through crimson, of course, and a number of them, you know, they really do demonstrate this intellectual vitality without pushing to explore things you can only access in the high school. And so an admissions officer will see the student and I'll think, Wow, like, this person's obviously got a clear passion for this, because they've just they've just really gone so far beyond what you normally expect of a high school student. So I couldn't agree more. And I think the other thing I'd add to that is, you don't just get, you know, that's coming through through, you know, through academics, but it's this little characteristic that helps to build entrepreneurs because entrepreneurs inevitably have to keep overturning wars and obstacles to keep getting to the next hurdle. That's unsurprising to me that many of these students are also doing quite entrepreneurial projects as well outside of academics. 

Alex Cork  05:01

Yeah, I think it's what you said about that support networks having like two or three people to help them out. That's really interesting. And I've been talking to students about like, what role their parents play, or who is the five people, they spend the most time with that kind of quote about you being the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And I think in the majority of cases, students have said that their parents have been super supportive of their extracurriculars and their other passions. I think that's a really big tip for students, as well as parents is that, you know, while school is really important, and getting a grade, and a score is really important, when you see that your child has that kind of all, as a student, if you've got that passion, it's worth pursuing. And if it's about having that conversation with your parents, I know some of our students, and some of the guests on the show, have said that they've had like that sit down conversation with mom and dad to say, hey, look, this is what I'm interested in. It's not necessarily related to a score at school, right, it's not going to help me get a better SAT score, or a better ATAR score or whatever it might be. But it will kind of make me a more interesting person and make me more interested in what I'm learning at school. And I think a lot of the students that we've had on the show, they can see that what they're doing outside of school and their extracurriculars is making them a better student within the school walls as well. And I think once they explain that to their parents, their parents are willing truly on board. 

Jamie Beaton  06:19

I think kind of building on that. The other thing that I've noticed on lots of these students is some initial success can really give the students a lot of confidence that propels them forwards and quite a big way. So I think about the student who doesn't who's just kind of averaged everything at school, and doesn't really have an identity built around any one thing. But I see some of these students for examples on a call recently with a girl who was in the Forbes 30, under 30, in Asia Pacific, when she was 18. And I think she's 14 now, but then a big one just fueled her confidence and pushed it into all kinds of deeper things within, you know, the tech world, building apps, etc. And I think it's really important for youngsters who are ambitious to find some niche, they can dominate and doesn't, it doesn't need to be math Olympiad, it could be, you know, quite an obscure activity, but just go with the process of competing, you know, developing your skills in the area, you know, winning, it just kind of puts you in a, I think, a high for mental state than somebody who's never experienced that kind of challenge and what it feels like to go all the way. So I think for many of our listeners, I'd really challenge you hitting into 2021 to think about, you know, what is one niche? You know, what can you dominate? What, what, what activity can you pick up, you can really be best in your country, or even higher. 

Alex Cork  07:31

I totally agree. Actually, I was chatting to Mahesh, whose episode hasn't come out yet. But he won the child genius Australia, and he's a Crimson student as well. And he memorized an entire deck of cards in 30 minutes, and was able to recite the entire deck in less than two minutes. And he did it with a really interesting method involving FIFA and soccer players, and all this kind of thing, which is all going to be in the episode. But it was really interesting that he said, one of the most common questions that he gets from students and other people is like, how did you do that deck of card things, right. And I was like, it's interesting how we use the word genius, a lot of the time, and a lot of the students that we have had on the show have been labeled as a genius by their friends and peers and whatnot. And he's like, Well, you know, sometimes it's about having a really native skill. I mean, IMO, like international Maths Olympiad. That's like a really general one. And a lot of students know about it. Obviously, winning gold is an amazing thing. And I know, we're going to have a couple of gold medalists on the show next year. But it's interesting how like, you could solve a Rubik's Cube really fast. Or you can be really good at memorizing a deck of cards, or some kind of like pretty niche thing that you might be all of a sudden, as you say, the best in the country or the best in the world in and everyone's like, Oh my gosh, genius. And then it's about how you kind of cope with that title, like how that title sits with you, whether it negatively impacts your schooling and puts pressure on you, or whether it gives you confidence to do more and better things in different areas as well. I think it's really interesting to say how a lot of the students that we have on the show have gone really deep into one particular area, and have been, as you said, like us that confidence to get better in a lot of other areas as well. 

Jamie Beaton  09:12

I think it's really well said and once you have found that particular niche area, I think it also tends to propel you into leadership roles and schools. Well, you know, because that initial success often gets you you know, up on stage and assembly, you know, a lot of peer respect. And that inevitably means when you create clubs, other things, you've got a bit of, you know, legitimacy behind you, and that I can turn into you know, being head boy head go. I think of the student, Helen Wu, who actually I think of quite a lot when I meet younger students because she joined us when she was about 13 or 14 and your backbencher goes through the head girl of a school but she was quite new to leadership at that point. She hadn't had much experience. And I think about kind of the set of activities she went through. You know, she got some wins getting into, for example, Harvard and Yale Model UN and other types of activities, and then she ended up being the head girl and now she's at Stanford doing computer science. And I think that's also really exciting. I think when you can get wins when you're 13, 14, 15. And that hit you up before other kids sort of taking high school that seriously in many parts of the world.

Alex Cork  10:13

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. One thing I've also been interested in, and I think I'm going to throw this question to you as well. But it's really challenged my perceptions of what student achievement is. And some of the students that we've interviewed, and Ellen, in Episode Two comes to mind, jack Byrne, and his charity fundraising comes to mind and a couple other students as well, who are working on real world problems. And I often ask them the question of like, Do you ever feel kind of out of place? If you're like a 1415 year old tackling this world problem? Do you ever feel like there's must be other people who are older and more experienced than you working on this problem as well, who probably have already kind of thought of what you're thinking of that type of thing? And it's interesting, I remember Kara said, this is well, Kara, one, the 3M Young Scientists Challenge. She said, well, I hadn't seen it, you know, in store yet, I hadn't actually seen it physically, she created a nano silver liquid bandage. It's like I hadn't seen it that day before. And then if someone else was working on it, then it's a race, right? Like, I don't care if the other person who's working on it is like twice my age, it's a race to get it out there. And so she just kind of set a mind to working on it. But it was also that mindset of like, a lot of the students believe that they are the right person at the right time to work at this problem. And I think a lot of students kind of get stuck in that. Well, I'm just a teenager kind of mindset where I think a lot of the students we have on the show, are not really burdened with that mindset. They're like, I've got a great skill set, I've got an interest in this area, Why won't I be the person to solve it? Like, you look at Fionn, right, who won the Google Science Fair, extracting microplastics from water? And he was like, why can't it be made to help solve this problem? So and I think they also kind of look at it as not necessarily trying to come up with a solution to a global problem, but just being a part of the solution. So they're not trying to kind of burden themselves with that, oh, I need to kind of solve everything that just say no, I'm just going to contribute to the solution as well. So I think that that mindset of like, understanding that you as a student have like a very real, very useful skill set, and that you don't need to solve everything you just need to contribute to the solution can really help you go like very far beyond what you're doing at school and really help you contribute to society on a global scale. And is that something that you see in some of the students that you know we have through Crimson is that kind of like students who who are really going above and beyond the student mindset, and see themselves as being able to contribute at a, at a really big scale?

Jamie Beaton  12:44

I would be just taking a step back for a second kind of, from my own experience, building Crimson around the world, I think what you're describing is so important to any entrepreneur, because whenever you start a problem, and you have vision, you can never achieve the vision, you know, quickly, it's the problem is always too big, too challenging. So you need to break that up into you know, a sliver of a sliver of sliver, and hit that problem. And society rewards you for, you know, validation of a part of a strategy, right. So in our case, we first of all started helping ambitious high schools in Auckland, and then we got some good results, and they were able to raise some investment, money and move to more markets. The same thing is true for high school students, when they you know, they can't solve global poverty, but they can do an interesting social impact initiative within their backyard and get some quick wins, you know, get some media coverage for that correction. We theme as a bit of a leader, wasn't their community, recruit more members get the ball rolling? I think the ability to slice up the problem and then and then really figure out what strand is most approachable is a, you know, mission critical skill, for sure. And on your question about, you know, I guess Crimson, I do definitely see this characteristic across many of our students, I think it's very important for students who are aiming for these ambitious goals like Harvard, Stanford, etc, to, you know, find some leadership initiatives, they can commit to early to find the social impact problem they're really passionate about that really motivates them. And I see time and time again, that those that find those passions quickly, and find sort of a way to attack the problem, you know, get a lot more momentum, and those sort of sort of a bit lost in the dark. 

Alex Cork  14:12

Yeah, well, just on passions, because I know that students everywhere get told to quote unquote, find your passion. And I chatted about this with Hannah, about like, how to find your post school career pathway type of thing. And it's that idea that passions don't arrive overnight. It's one of those things that if you start looking into something you're curious about, and something that you're interested in and spend some time with it, it will over the course of six months, nine months, maybe a year or so become a proper passion of yours like that will become your niche that will become your area of expertise. I think a lot of students kind of look at them sells, you know, in the mirror and they say what am I passionate about, but they haven't yet found anything that they're really interested or curious about, or they've got something they're interested or curious about, but they've kind of stopped at that level. Right. They're like, Oh, I'm good at maths, I guess that's what I'm interested in. And they haven't really kind of gone above and beyond that, and said, Well, how can I use this skill in other areas to solve other problems or whatever it might be? But yeah, I think that whole kind of concept of students needing to have a passion is a challenging one for a lot of students. And I think one of the things that I've seen on the the guests that we've had on the top of the class is that they've been able to kind of find their area of interest, first, the area of curiosity first, and then after six months, nine months, a year or more, it becomes that passion. So I think that's like a very key takeaway from me so far from being the host, or co host, I should say, is that there's a lot of students who feel like because they don't have a passion that they must somehow be value or whatnot, but sometimes it's just starting with your interest or curiosity. That's the best place to start.

Jamie Beaton  15:50

Yeah, and I think this is very well said, I also feel like when you don't have that clear passion, yet, there's students who proactively go and try and find one. Yeah, and there are students who kind of wait for them to come in and sort of smack them, you know, like, smack themselves in the face, accidentally. So in the first note, what I often recommend students to do is go out there and think, Okay, what are the 10 things the 10, most likely things that you could potentially be interested in. And it's very rare students got an idea, often they know what they don't like. And then you go see that cause of different people could be Crimson mentors, you know, an owl in our community around the world could be people in the community, the parents know, whatever. And that helps to do more filtering, and helps to tune out some things and get us into what actually could be quite exciting. And so I'm a really big advocate of active discovery. You also can seek active discovery through certain books, like for example, if you understand artificial intelligence, you could read AI superpowers, figure out if you really like it. You know, if you're interested in finance, you could read, you know, Ray Dalio, his book principles, somebody who has figured out what you like, I would say those haven't found a passion yet. That's all good. But you know, you should begin the active discovery process rather than just kind of passively waiting. Because the faster you have a bit of a niche, you know, the more momentum you can get quickly.

Alex Cork  17:00

Yeah, 100% 100%? Well, I think it's been very interesting to say kids, who I shouldn't say kids that they are young people, but they do come across as much older, more mature, many. But it's interesting that they've often found their interest and curiosity and build upon that, through meeting people networking, and that kind of mentoring side of things. And a lot of students I found are on LinkedIn. And it's been a fascinating, well, obviously, possibly, they're, they're mostly on LinkedIn, because I'm finding most of our guests on LinkedIn. That's where I'm going to define a lot of our student guests. But it's been really interesting for me to see how many students are on the platform, how the demographic of that platform has changed a lot. And also, as you mentioned, as well, like slack as a community group, where a lot of students are getting on there. I mean, five years ago, all students who were you know, talented, and doing really great things were meeting on Facebook groups, like getting outside of the school bubble and meeting on there and chatting on there. But it does seem like there's been a pretty seismic shift to both LinkedIn and then slack slash discord, to try and kind of find these global communities of students. And that really helps them get outside of their bubble and really helps them deepen their passion or interest and learn cool things like AI and machine learning, coding, these kinds of things that they probably won't see at school in a typical day, really helps them get outside of their bubble and find those communities. So yeah, I think that that whole kind of shift, like if listeners are there thinking, Well, how do these students get started? And how do these students find like minded people? It's probably because they're not on tik tok? Yeah, like, you know, some of the students I've interviewed, they're like, Yeah, no, 100%, I'm not on Tik Tok, but they are doing things like Slack, LinkedIn, and to a lesser extent, Instagram, and they're networking through there as well. So I feel like that's an interesting kind of angle to take in terms of finding a community.

Jamie Beaton  18:48

Yeah, totally. What I'd say to that is, I also do see some people that probably spend more time, quote, unquote, networking and doing it's a fine balance, for example, take in Dang, he probably didn't spend much time at all on many of the social media channels, he put his head down, figure out as nation just really worked hard at it and had a couple of people two or three around the world he'd go back and forth with. So I think you don't have to necessarily be spending all the time on these platforms. Sometimes a lot of young people, they make the mistake of sort of like overselling kind of, you know, some pretty basic activities, they've done spending a lot of time promoting that online. And when they could use that time to further their, you know, their actual achievement. So I think it's a balance, you know, you don't want to be sort of spending all your, you know, free time on these things. But you also, you know, don't sort of operate in a silo in your room. So I think this delicate balance, you probably want to find one or two online communities. Great. And you can really give to and get back from and then yeah, then you can go hard with with the niche you've found.

Alex Cork  19:42

Yeah, absolutely. I think there's an interesting balance between advocacy and action. And I was talking about that with another student Adara, who's going to be on the show in a couple of weeks when her episode comes out. But yeah, she was like, advocacy and action work really well together. But she was in that kind of fight. Where she felt like advocacy was, you know, which was networking and education was very beneficial. But she didn't feel like there was no action behind that. And then she went totally the other way and did all action, and kind of drop the advocacy part. And she was like, Oh, hang on a sec, they actually do work well together. So that students are in that kind of phase where they are doing more networking and kind of education around whatever they're interested in, that's great. But there is also certainly a room for you to take action and start an organization and start raising money or start actually having some tangible results around what you're interested in. And I think that's what we're seeing from a lot of the guests on the show that they've gone beyond the initial education side of things. And they're actually seeing that they can take action. And then they might combine them a little bit later on as well. So yeah, it's really interesting to kind of see how these students come to be on the show, and like their profiles that they have pretty amazing, but usually involves some kind of action that they've taken along the way, which is pretty impressive. It's admission season at the moment. We've got I mean, people think it's Christmas season, but for many kids around the world, their biggest present. Yeah, it's admission season, the biggest present, they're going to get as an acceptance note from these top universities from around the world. Is there any kind of trends or you know, things to note that you've seen from university admissions in the early decision round? That is notable or different? I know, obviously, this year, there was a lot of students who applied because there was no requirement for testing due to COVID. Like they dropped the SAT and a lot of these universities, has that been a factor in affecting admissions at all?

Jamie Beaton  21:32

Well, I guess Firstly, I'd say I'm pretty proud of the Crimson team here. We've landed offers from basically all the top schools that have come out so far Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Dartmouth, Columbia, brown, you can The list goes on. And so we've really, I think, had a great year for our Crimson kids around the woods. We're very proud of them. This is this is Christmas present around here. Yeah, as far as key trends, what I've seen basically is, as you mentioned, there's been a rise of between 3010. Some cases, given the number of applicants, many of those haven't, for example, so the early admission rate plans from you know, basically around 20% or so back in 2014. To Simpson or so. And the earlier on this year, off the back of the pack, there are so many more applicants applying. What that has meant is that many schools sort of don't know what they're going to expect to the regular outs, they're being quite conservative in the early round, taking less students who haven't had way more applicants, but actually took less students this year than they normally do in the early round. The other thing is, some people were debating whether or not test optional would change, who gets accepted. And it kind of has because 25% of people that got into some of the Ivy's didn't have any standardized tests. And generally those applicants have some potentially, you know, disadvantaged background, or there's some context behind why they couldn't take the kids. And so a lot of schools have been celebrating their recruitment in those areas, which is definitely something to be applauded. But on a go forward basis. There's an interesting question as to, you know, the role of standardized testing. In general, it's still a good idea to take because basically, if you don't take it, and you'll know you're from a community or school in which most people do, they'll raise questions about why you haven't done it. But that's an interesting trend to note. So a lot of our students are really happy with the early results, you know, others are writing their applications ready for the regular round. But it's definitely a very exciting and unique year for the college admissions season. I also had briefly touched on we we had a company or hence a couple days ago, and we had a really talented student of ours from Brazil. He was on a scholarship through crimson and had gotten to Stanford, which is pretty life changing for music came from pretty low income community. And he had done the full first year of Stanford remote online. And it was fascinating to hear him talk about that experience Stanford and run a really impressive remote first year, lots of interesting online collaboration tools, the book many great friendships. But it was interesting to hear about those kids that had sort of had the first year of college through COVID. I fortunately, I suspect, fingers crossed lots of achievers just got an early cycle, you know, we'll be able to go in person come 2021 timber, given the printer, the exact things and everything. But definitely an interesting time in the college admissions world for those that have gotten in, and also those who are now applying and even current college students.

Alex Cork  24:11

Yeah. And it's a super interesting time. And I know that a lot of the students that we have on the show, they might be 14 or 15 years old, but they already kind of have a rough idea of which universities they want to go to or what they might want to study after school. My main thing on that is don't necessarily buy into the question of what you want to be when you grow up. If you're a student out there, like if you hear that kind of question, just kind of respond with Well, this is what I'm actually doing now. Like don't actually wait to grow up before you start, you know, working on environmental science or working on coding or machine learning. Like that's a another big thing that I've seen from top of the class guess is that they don't wait until after school to start doing the things that they see themselves doing in the future. They kind of make a start now. And a really kind of having a one eye on the future and seeing where could their profile take them potentially

Jamie Beaton  25:00

Well said Alex, and I got to say, you know, have a Merry Christmas to the family. Have a great time. You know, I think it's been really fun building this out with you over the last little while. Many, many families have found this to be a really inspiring, you know, voice of direction for them during a very challenging time. And I think it's only going to get more exciting for top of the class and a wonderful student community around the world in 2021. 

Alex Cork  25:23

Yeah, well, we're interviewing the Times Magazine, kid of the year Gitanjali Rao on Monday, my time and Sunday, her time. And then we've got amazing interviews coming up in January as well, with some global kind of student celebrities. I think a lot of students would be familiar with their stories. So we really look forward to sharing those episodes in the coming months. But yeah, Jamie, you stay safe there. I hope all our listeners are staying safe and well over the Christmas period. I know it's going to be really challenging one for a lot of people. But yeah, just maintain that kind of positivity and, you know, stay safe and keep well.

Jamie Beaton  25:55

Chat soon Alex, have a good one.