Top of the Class

#2 How I Got In - Stanford Admit and Her Strategist Talk Authenticity, Scores and Essays

May 01, 2021 Crimson Education Season 3 Episode 2
Top of the Class
#2 How I Got In - Stanford Admit and Her Strategist Talk Authenticity, Scores and Essays
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Top of the Class
#2 How I Got In - Stanford Admit and Her Strategist Talk Authenticity, Scores and Essays
May 01, 2021 Season 3 Episode 2
Crimson Education

Australian student and recent Stanford admit, Maggie, is joined by her Crimson strategist and Harvard graduate, George, in discussing Maggie's application including her extracurriculars, scores and essays as well as providing advice for future applicants to top colleges.



Show Notes Transcript

Australian student and recent Stanford admit, Maggie, is joined by her Crimson strategist and Harvard graduate, George, in discussing Maggie's application including her extracurriculars, scores and essays as well as providing advice for future applicants to top colleges.



Podcast Host  00:17

Hello, and welcome to a very special episode of the top of the class Podcast. I am delighted to be joined by Maggie and her strategist, George. So Maggie, over to you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself.


Maggie  00:31

So Hi, everyone. My name is Maggie and I just graduated from high school last year. So I'm from Melbourne, Australia. And yeah, I applied to the some US colleges last year, and I was obviously guided by my wonderful strategist, George. So um, yes, that's who I am. I guess that's my story.


Podcast Host  00:55

Not all of your story. Where are you headed?


Maggie  00:57

Well, I was recently accepted into Stanford University, which is my dream school. So definitely very excited for that and to see what might happen in the future.


Podcast Host  01:07

Absolutely. That's the story that is to be written over the next four years for you very, very exciting times. And George, over to you. I mean, for the people who've been listening to the podcast for a while, or at least the webinars that we do at crimson, they would be familiar with your lovely voice, but give us a little background as to your story and how you ended up helping Maggie through our application.


George  01:29

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I could start way back from the beginning, which is the from the UK. And I studied at Harvard for my undergraduate and then knew that I wanted to come to work for Crimson, and work with students like Maggie, because I had such an incredible experience. When I went over to the US, it was like life changing, it was the right decision through and through for me. And so I wanted to give back and I wanted to be able to help students who, who found themselves in similar positions to me where they, you know, they knew that maybe their home education wasn't quite fitting for them, and that the US or, you know, wherever the UK as we serve as well, was going to get a new experience. And, you know, that's how I came to work with Maggie. And I've got so much to share on what a wonderful experience it was to work and guide, Maggie. 


Podcast Host  02:13

For you, Maggie, is that a story that you kind of gel with? Or you have some kind of understanding that that's your story as well that you kind of saw the options here in Australia and thought, Oh, look, I'd love to see what else is out there around the world and throw your hat in the ring for the US? Or is that something that your parents recommended? Like? How did you even come to decide that US was for you for higher education? 


Maggie  02:35

Yeah, well, I think my first contact or introduction to you know, like a higher education in the US was that my sister actually applied before me and she actually underwent all the process, you know, the college application process, and I was able to, you know, just be like a bystander to see how the whole thing worked, as well as how you know, now that she is in uni, how many opportunities are being offered to her right now given, you know, with this education, so I was definitely quite motivated, seeing my sister, you know, go to university overseas. So that was basically when I first introduced to this, but I really wanted to experience something new and experience a different culture, to meet different people from all around the world. So I think that's one of the main reasons why I wanted to go there.


Podcast Host  03:24

And why Stanford because obviously, like Stanford had some of the most competitive applications that we've ever seen this year. I think the admission rate is below 5%. Or there abouts. It's some crazy figures this year. Yeah. So Stanford super competitive. Why for you, was that your dream school?


Maggie  03:43

Well, it's kind of funny, because I think I've, you know, the moment I really decided that, you know, Stanford was my dream school was actually by a video that was released on crimsons YouTube channel. And it was basically this vlog of a Stanford student who took theater and performance studies. And you know, she guided the tool person through the school, I was like, wow, this is exactly the place where envision myself you know, spending, for example, the next four years in one particular instance, I remember her describing the Sims, they call it the improvisation theatre group at Stanford, and the production that was on that season, I think it was basically a play that took place in the toilets of the Memorial Church at Stanford. And to me, I've never ever seen, for example, a theatre production that was so unconventional, so out of the box, and to me, I feel like that really represented Stanford's, you know, deep rooted culture of like innovation and, you know, that encouragement of the students to push themselves creatively. So I think that's what really appealed me to Stanford, that stood out from the rest of the colleges. 


Podcast Host  04:54

Yeah, yeah. Well, Stanford is a very beautiful campus. I was lucky enough to visit in January of 2020. Just before that, The whole COVID lockdown started happening. And yeah, it was fantastic. Like it's such a massive campus like you, you're going to either get very fit by either walking or bike riding everywhere. So yeah, it's a it's a fantastic campus in terms of its just size and its number of different opportunities that are going on there. It's beautiful. So from Georgia's perspective, when a student like Maggie comes to you and says, Hey, George, I really want to apply to Stanford, and you knowing how difficult it is to get in, what's your first reaction?


George  05:32

Yeah, I mean, given that this year, as well, the the acceptance rates were even lower than they've ever been. Right, Alex, as you said, they haven't actually released Stanford's admissions rates. But given that the ivy plus universities were all 4%, sub 4%, you can't imagine it's different. You know, it's, it's always my first, it's always my first response to any student, no matter how incredibly well positioned they are, to say that this is a big test, the likelihood is that we won't get in. And that's not to deter whatsoever, that's to add reality to the situation. But to know that you can match reality with ambition, right? And that you don't need to look at a 4% acceptance rate, which is one in 25. Right, you have to be the one out of the room of 25. You can be that one. But you just need to know what you're up against. Right. And and so, you know, I my first response when Maggie approached me and said Stanford, because I remember us having these conversations last year, we were going back and forth on where we would apply early. And a lot of it was to do with, you know, where we were currently at with our activities, where we currently were at with our standardized test scores, and where we could put ourselves. And I think, you know, we spent, we spent a little bit of time going back and forth on whether it was the right choice. But ultimately, you know, Maggie herself, was able to convince me beyond any convincing, I needed to do it myself that she was a good fit for that place. And I think, ultimately, without going into too much detail on what I think really made the most successful applications this year. You know, Maggie writes with such authenticity, and what she does, she does from the heart. And I think that that ultimately read and does read. For these top universities, it was very clear for me that what she was doing what she was writing about, she meant, and it was really who she was. And so when when Maggie originally said to me Stanford is the place I want to go to Stanford a healthy dose of reality, while also matched with getting on board with Maggie and matching her ambition to get her to where she wanted to go.


Podcast Host  07:35

That's awesome. Well, you also gave me a natural segue there into the essays because obviously, for students aiming for top universities, and this is something that the student that I interviewed earlier, Sylvia alluded to, for those top universities, everyone's got great scores, everyone's got great extracurriculars. And really, it comes down to, in some cases, what you write in your essay, and how genuine and authentic your essay is. So over to you, Maggie, can you take us through, I guess, your process in writing this essay, because I know that like, you may have seen it from a standards perspective when your sister was going through it, but it's a very different process when you're actually going through it yourself and having to self reflect and think about how am I going to sell myself to these universities in 600 words, right?


Maggie  08:24

Definitely. I think both George and I, we brainstormed a lot as to like, what are perhaps some of the most as you say, like the authentic ideas that we can present to the college. So um, I basically started off by going way back to, you know, my childhood and thinking about the times and the experiences that made me who I am, you know, with my family. So I basically wrote about just my family's progression from, you know, a family of perhaps quite a lot of conflict, and ultimately into a family that was, you know, that is now living very harmoniously, and, you know, with who have a lot of love for each other. So I think all of these personal experiences really bring out as you say, like the genuineness that you want to convey to the admission officers, because at the end of the day, I think that's what really will touch their hearts and convince them that perhaps you are the right person for the uni.


Podcast Host  09:22

Yeah, that's beautiful. When you talk about your family and that experience, is it a different essay than you thought you would end up having to write like, Did you think that it was going to be mainly about, you know, your achievements, or, you know, your kind of wins in life, rather than about like family conflict and the progression of your family to now living harmoniously? Like, how different is the essay from what you thought it would be? Yeah, I


Maggie  09:48

mean, you know, before starting the essays I you know, I watch a lot of videos, I do a lot of research, you know, I think, oh, what is the formula, you know, but at the end of the day, you you realize there's no formula or you No, you have to just stay true to yourself. And for me, what really reflected my growth as a person is the experience I had with my family, and not really like my achievements and my wins, you know, either academically or, you know, for extracurriculars. So for me, I think that was really what stood out for me, you know, just those experiences.


Podcast Host  10:21

Yeah, exactly. life in general. Right. Well, for you, George, when you're brainstorming these type of topics, how do you know which one could be the one that you end up going with?


George  10:33

Yeah, that's a great question, Maggie, I think you should try to be a strategist, although you may already be trained. Because your your point about there the no formula, having spent so much time researching and understanding that, like, I couldn't have said it better myself, I think, especially this year, again, and this was, this is a very, very unique year, because he, you know, because COVID meant we had differences in acceptance rates, and it was very, very low. Here, you're going to read and you're going to find many different how to guides, and what are good essay topics, and you want to Wow, them, you want to make them cry, you want to do this, you want to do that. But ultimately, when you write something that is telling us a lot about you, that gives us great insight into what you would bring to a community. And remember, in the USA, they are all about community, they're all about wanting to have a community built of diverse people that will all learn and grow from each other, and maybe learn and grow from each other in ways that involve a little bit of conflict. And you know, not nothing is always harmonious, right. And so that's where, you know, the complexities of who we are, as human beings come into play, they want to see that you're writing an essay where they see the complexities of who you are, they don't want to see an essay in which you are singing from the rooftops your achievements, because, Alex, as you said, like, you know, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, any university in the USA could accept four or five times over the amount of students that they get if it were based on grades and achievements alone. But as well as not wanting those big achievements to be written about, because we don't need to do that they speak for themselves. They also don't want somebody who's trying too hard, right. And trying too hard means that you think you know what they want to hear. Yeah, if most impactful thing that happens to you, or one of the most impactful things that's happened to you, that defines who you are, was a day, the day trip that you took to the theme park, where your experience on one particular ride changed your life. Find That actually sounds like an entertaining story. If it was one single conversation that you shared with a grandparent, you know, that's not necessarily this huge, exciting story that's going to have a big entertaining story arc. But if that is really what has defined you, as impacted you and has made you who you are today, chances are you're going to write on that in a way that's going to be far more compelling than anything that is written for the sake of entertainment. Right. And I think, Maggie, that's what you were able to do with your common app essay, right? Like, I think you're a fantastic writer, it was as well as being very compelling. It was entertaining to read. But ultimately, the most important thing that you take from that essay is, Oh, I know much more about Maggie than I did before. And I really firmly believe that Maggie will be somebody that fits very well in a community where she will learn from others and others will learn from her. So, you know, I think it's a frustrating answer, but you kind of just get a feel, you know, when somebody is writing authentically, and you know, when somebody is writing for the sake of trying to impress you. So Maggie knocked it out of the park with that one?


Podcast Host  13:37

Yeah, well, Maggie, I'm interested in your experience, when you're putting pen to paper and writing something very personal. And then it's George's job in this instance, to give you feedback, and to tell you how to improve that writing that is very personal to you. I mean, I know from my side if I was writing something very personal, and I was very proud of that piece of writing. And then someone was giving me feedback on it. Even if it was their job to give me feedback, I would be naturally a bit defensive and be like, hang on, this is my story, what makes you think you can change it? So what's that relationship like between students and strategists? In this case, when you're trying to trust I guess that George won't leave the essay astray and will still leave it as intended the way that you wanted it to sound and the way you wanted it to feel?


Maggie  14:27

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I personally think my relationship with George, I find it a very comfortable and very safe one. And I never felt you know, judged by him for whatever, you know, experiences I've had. So working with him has always been a very smooth ride. And I think we're both very open with each other as well. I'm obviously open for criticism. I know even though it's like a very personal story. And sometimes I feel the need to maybe defend myself but at the end of the day, I think George he hasn't been experiences to help guide me through this process and everything he does. He doesn't force the ideas onto a student, he suggests. And I think as a student working with him, it was just a lot easier to, for example, accept the criticism. It was very just a very comfortable journey when working with him in terms of writing the common app essay. So yeah,


George  15:24

I mean, thank you for sharing that, Maggie, I really appreciate that. You know, as strategist Crimson, we don't have it's not our birthright to give criticism, and then you accept it, right? Like we have to earn that trust. And I would say in response to that question, Alex, that really learning how to receive criticism and have that humility is going to be something that will shine through in an application, if you have that quality, that humility, that willingness to learn and grow. So my hope is that students have that shining through and maybe can learn how to navigate that through the essay writing process. But that doesn't mean that they should just have it right. And like, I think it's so important that we as strategists and as mentors, and that I give a shout out to Myles as well, he did a wonderful job, you know, like it is our responsibility to work with our students and make them feel that they can share, you know, things that they would maybe not want to share. Like you don't always have to share, like these hyper vulnerable stories. So don't get me wrong, but you just want to share something that you you feel comfortable sharing that will show a lot about you. And so I'm really glad to hear that it's Maggie. That's how you felt and and delighted that we could strike that tone. Just a quick question, how


Podcast Host  16:34

long have you guys been working together on this application or this in general push towards the US,


George  16:40

Maggie, I had to check just before that it was one of the last things I checked in preparation for this today. I was like when I get assigned Maggie as a student, and it was the I think it was the 18th of June 2019. So it's been It was 18 months of 18 months of work that we had together. Time flies when you're having fun


Podcast Host  16:55

her. So from your perspective, George, when you first got assigned, if we can go back to that time, and you're looking at Maggie's profile, and you're having those first initial conversations, what did you see as some of her strengths? And what did you see as some of the areas for improvement?


George  17:14

You've been reading the George Baxter book of languages. improvement, that's for sure. And I think the the areas of clear strength, you know, Maggie already came to Crimson with with a strong resume with a strong CV as especially if achievements at school, and of like school related activities. And that to me show that Maggie naturally, but I wouldn't, I wouldn't say naturally because of course, it was down to Maggie to build this competence over time was a leader, she was somebody who, with the right direction given would be able to change the world, right and use her skills and use her abilities to make a big difference. And clearly, that was already happening. grades were fantastic, you know, grades, were in a really great position. And you know, there's always time to build these things up. You know, even with 18 months ago, if Maggie and I had started working together, and Maggie wasn't showing these things, there's still plenty of time to get this all together. I think the thing that that Maggie showed room for improvement, which was actually just because we didn't have anything there quite yet, is something that a lot of Australian students and many international students have a challenge with, which is to look extensively for ways in which they can engage with activities outside of school. You know, I went to school in the UK, and the culture of activities and extracurricular activities in the UK is the same as Australia, where the strongest students are the ones that are president of club captain of a team, head girl, head boy, Head of School, prefect. And there's the ceiling and maybe feel like there's not much more that can be done, because when they look around them, they're really at the top of their game. Unfortunately, the US is not going to say the same thing, right? Because there are, on occasion, as we have sitting here today, as students who do go above and beyond. And when universities have to choose one in 25, they're not going to look at the ones who didn't go above and beyond and say oh, but you know, context allowed. They didn't do it, because context allowed in the same country, other students did. So I think it was a matter of working with with what Maggie already had, knowing that she has the potential to be this change maker, matching her her confidence, because she did have the competence there to go and do it. And as we see from from the podcast, that she has always put together which is an incredible achievement, and just making sure that she you know, she knew what was expected of her. So you know, effectively serving I think the best thing that I could have done was serving as some kind of mouthpiece for the university where she may not have had that had she'd been working solo.


Podcast Host  19:45

Right. Yeah. So it's kind of like saying, okay, looking from the perspective of what an admissions officer might view your CV as they would probably say, you're not doing enough outside of school at this stage. And so let's get to work on that.


George  19:59

Right. Exactly, yeah. And And specifically, you know, obviously, because you got into Stanford but us admissions officers, because they're a different breed of admissions officer to what we see in any other country. Yeah, exactly. Now, Maggie from your side,


Podcast Host  20:12

when you joined crimson, and I'm, you know, obviously joined with a strong CV. Is that a shared view that you thought your extracurriculars was an area that you needed more work on? Or did you think that the academics was the thing you needed more work on? Or was it just a bit of everything? Well, you weren't too sure. I mean, like, it's one of those things that a lot of people come to Crimson thinking they know a bit, but then realize that there's so many more complexities to the whole application, then they first thought,


Maggie  20:38

Yeah, definitely. I mean, when I first you know, joined crimson, I wasn't too sure of the entire process, you know, I wasn't too sure what the whole application process involved. So, you know, coming to Crimson and kind of getting more exposed to this, you know, journey just made me kind of, throughout the way realize, oh, wow, there's a lot I need to prepare for, and a lot I need to do. But I think what's really great is that I have like a whole team of people who are just so supportive of me, you know, along the way, for example, in terms of extracurriculars, I work, you know, directly with Lily, I was working with her, you know, on a almost even like, weekly basis, just trying to brainstorm ideas, think about what activities I can go for. And, you know, she was able to push me to understand the fact that, you know, just sometimes you can stay satisfied with what you got, now, you have to really push yourself to achieve the best. And I was always just, I was very lucky to have her by my side, because she was also very supportive friend as well. Well, I


Podcast Host  21:40

know, it's always a bit tricky when students hear that in the pointy end of their high school career, that they need to be doing more on top of an already stressful final year of high school. So what activities did you end up rounding out your application with in the limited time that you had?


Maggie  22:00

Yeah, I think I was quite lucky in the sense that I knew where my passions lied, I knew that I was very, you know, passionate about theater, but at the same time, was also very passionate about, you know, giving Global Education rights to children. So, you know, I had two very clear ideas of where I want to have center my extracurricular activities on. So the whole process of thinking about what what maybe capstone project I might focus on, you know, it was just became very clear to me. So, obviously, one of my most I think central project was this podcast that I created, where I was reading stories for immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. So I really related my own experience as an immigrant to it. And I was just doing it wholeheartedly and poured my everything to it. And yeah, I think extracurriculars for me, it was just, it wasn't engineered. In a sense, it just came very naturally to me, because I was very passionate about it.


Podcast Host  22:59

George, I'm going to guess as a strategist, you're super happy to hear that, that she wasn't engineering her extracurriculars to fit the application that it was more coming naturally. So when you hear a student is able to articulate that that was her story that she was pushing through the extracurriculars and the application in general, does that make your job easier?


George  23:22

It definitely does make my job easier. Of course it does. Because I think one of the one of the big challenges that we we have when working with students, and I was the student myself when I was younger, is knowing what our main interests are. And I hesitate using the word passion, right? Because passion is very overused. And we don't need to know our passion at 1718 years old, which really exam we never need to know a passion, it's not something that is like, like, You failed, if you don't think about that, figure out what that is. But we all have things that we really enjoy, and that really take up a lot of our of our energy and can take up a lot of energy. And, you know, I think, Maggie, I can't quite remember if it was just before just after the you went in Nepal to go and volunteer to teach English, which I know was a very influential experience on then creating this podcast. And eventually the two of us coming together and saying, Okay, this is what I think we want to be remembered for our application. But I think a really good test as well, especially if you're a big project or a leadership project that you put together independently of whether it is authentic, and whether it is not actually engineered, so to speak is if once you've submitted your applications and you've got an in, is it something that you sustain? Is it something that you continue with, it's something that you really enjoy, because, you know, as many Maggie's as there are, there will be other students who will create something. And then the day after they submitted their applications, they'll never pick it up again. You'd be surprised admissions officers read 1000s of applications and somewhere somehow they will pick up that that is your your motivation, and they'll pick up Maggie's application instead and they'll see somebody who was was driven, passionate. I use the word passionate but passionate about it. And really wanted to actually make a difference. So it did, it did make my job easier for sure.


Podcast Host  25:05

It's interesting, because you know, we've been speaking about formulas. And when it comes to essay writing, there's formulas. And when it comes to extracurriculars, there's often this kind of thought that there are formulas out there for what extracurriculars you need to do. So I'm sure students have come to you and said, Oh, but George don't need some kind of service piece here and don't need some kind of leadership thing here and trying to create or engineer their extracurriculars to fit in what the what they think the formula is, when in actual fact, like, it's more the reason why you're doing these things, not just what you're doing. So if you're doing things like a podcast, and the reason for you is very deep and personal, and you have a really strong connection to that, that's when, as you said, like the admission officers, they read so many applications, they can, they can see that this is not just a application activity. This is a personal thing that she's doing outside of school that she really loves, and will probably still have some role to play in this space, maybe not as a podcaster. But maybe there's something else in the future as well. Like she's got a connection to this community, this group and this purpose that she's found through this activity. So Maggie, is that something that you feel like really drove your application in terms of extracurriculars? Was this overriding why so to speak, like you found your why to help this refugee community? immigrant community?


Maggie  26:25

Yeah, definitely. I think it was just, I was very clear what my purpose is, you know, even though I'm, you know, still quite young and inexperienced, I realize deep down my heart would, you know, where my purpose in life lies, and that's, you know, to be of service to other people and to help other people. And I think that just to me, you're really shone through in terms of like, you know, my activities and my projects, is that I just stay true to myself. And, you know, I identified the people that I really felt the need, and I really wanted to help.


Podcast Host  26:58

Well, it must be very difficult, though, not to kind of fall into the formula trap, though, right? Like, when you hear all this, you did a lot of research yourself, when you see all these people saying, Oh, you need to have a service thing, you need to have a leadership thing. Did you have any anxiety or doubts about your application at any point thinking, Oh, my gosh, am I doing the right thing? Like, Is this enough? All these kind of questions were perhaps coming to the fore as you were nearing the end of the application? And you're about to submit?


Maggie  27:26

Yeah, for sure. For sure. I mean, you know, there's so many people, for example, on different platforms, kind of advocating many different things. So at the I think, at the nearing the end of the application, when I do experience, you know, anxiety in terms of, you know, fearing whether I did enough, or could I have done more, I always just remind myself, you know, it's okay to be different, you know, sometimes you don't need to do so much. Or sometimes you need to do more, you know, once again, I just realized, because there's so many case studies out there, I just realized that there really is no formula, there's no secret sauce in that sense. So I just, you know, once again, stay true to myself. And yeah, just reassured myself everything was going to be okay.


George  28:10

And having the courage to commit right to commit to what you're working on, you know, the admissions committees aren't going to say, oh, Maggie's podcast was better than x person's podcast, because Maggie's podcast got 10,000 views and, and this person got 9500 views, right? Like they they're not going to compare in that way, they're going to, of course, see how you fit within the larger profile of the students that you're up against. But they ultimately are making decisions based upon the human being or based upon the ultimate numbers at the end, they want to see that you've left an impact, but it is, you know, it's it's in that courage to actually commit to something and say, you know, even though I know that there are going to be times when I doubt it, and times that I, I feel like I've made the wrong choice or times where I feel like I'm not doing enough. It's about you know, continuing on


Podcast Host  28:59

wall from your side. George, we're talking about Maggie having some deaths. How about you from a strategist perspective? Knowing that you're applying with Maggie, I guess it's kind of like a partnership, right? Like, it's you and Maggie applying in a way, right. But Stanford, obviously dream school there. Did you have any doubts? Or did you feel reasonably confident? Of course, like there's no certainty, right, as you said, like, there is a healthy dose of reality that comes with applying to these top schools. But what was your kind of feeling going in reviewing the application one more time checking all the, you know, the crossing of the T's and dotting the eyes? Did you feel like it was a very good chance?


George  29:39

So, of course, there's no way of knowing and I'm there with the students, like I'm in I'm in the pulpit, with the students going through the motions as much as I possibly can be, you know, disappointed, upset, delighted, whatever. And at the same time, I'm going through my own previous experiences of applying to universities, and so of course there of course there are doubts. There's that This is you know, this is a, this is a human experience. But actually, Maggie was originally deferred she applied early was deferred. Now Stanford is renowned for deferring and very, very few students. So they actually don't defer that many whatsoever, I believe that they accepted about 11% in or maybe even around 10, or 11%. And then they differ about 10%. It's like not many at all. So if you're differ by Stanford, it's a real good indication that you got the stuff like you really do. And that they ultimately truly do want to see how you kind of compared to the regular call. And then there was a moment in January, February time where Maggie shared with me that her podcast had been picked up by what it was maybe in in December, but it was picked up by the Red Cross, which is huge, you know, is a huge achievement and a testament to the work that she put in. And that left me with some hope, some more hope, right? Because we no longer had to convince Stanford of, of how impactful this was. Other people were doing that for us, you know, so it was almost like an extra teacher recommendation of sorts, right? Like, you've got the teachers corroborating and saying that you're fantastic. And now you have recrossing that as well. And so, I mean, that gave me hope. And then up until the moment when you receive that that news from from Maggie or from the student, of course, they found a minute, you're like, Oh, no, I don't know what's gonna happen. I'm so nervous. And, and I actually, because I'm in the UK, I had to go to sleep baggy, I couldn't, I couldn't stay awake, because I would just like tiring myself out through anxiety, woke up the following morning, and looked in my in my inbox on the Crimson app and, and saw that I received an all caps message from Maggie. And I was like, what what that is and Clayton, I was so excited. So yeah, of course, of course, you have doubts, and you don't know what's going to happen. But at the same time, I knew that we weren't hitting in and getting nothing in return, I knew that there was a great chance that it could be a success.


Podcast Host  31:48

Well, maybe take us through your initial reactions when you opened up the email or portal or whatever it is, that said that you had gained admission to Stanford.


Maggie  31:59

Oh, gosh, okay. So I think this year, especially, it's like IV days, just right before the day Stanford decisions aren't released. Now the thing is, on IV day, I got rejected by all of the Ivy's apply to it was, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, it was very devastating. It was a very disappointing moment for me. And it took a long time for me to just process, you know, the, the information, you know, and I think, with Stanford coming up next, I think we all know that Stanford's of highly, you know, selective school. And honestly, I was kind of giving up hope. I was like, you know, I just have to expect the worst. And you're I was preparing myself to see the I'm very sorry. first few words. But um, I think leading up to the moment, I was just, yeah, China, just in some sense, I still held on to a little bit of hope, just hopeful for perhaps the best result, but wasn't expecting much at all. So I had my mom next to me. And when I think it said status update on when you refresh the page, and it says status update, and it's highlighted. Oh my goodness, those like those 10 seconds felt the longest and I was like, Oh, mama, what do I do? Should I should I press on it and my mom was obviously very supportive. She's like, it's okay. Everything will be alright. And you know, as soon as you see the confetti, the ribbons, I was like, oh, my goodness, this is, you know, it's a dream come true. Honestly, it's a dream come true. And yeah, we were just all very happy and ecstatic. Yeah, it was a great moment. And of course, I had to tell George straight off. It was like, writing to George George


George  33:39

devastatingly went to sleep five minutes before you send that message to me. And I was like, five more minutes, and I would have heard a nightmare.


Podcast Host  33:46

No, that's fantastic. And and such an amazing moment. And it's interesting that you had that journey between deferred and then getting admitted regular round, and then getting rejected from all the Ivy's it really is a roller coaster, and there's nothing that really rhyme or reason to the application process. I think a lot of people will say that there's, it's very, very difficult to predict. But one thing that we need to go over and I know that a lot of students are going to ask, what were her scores, and I know this is way less interesting than talking about the moment you got admitted. But I think it's definitely worth discussing, because I think going by the school has kind of helps you understand whether you're in that ballpark to start off with. So you did the VCA I'm guessing the local Victorian curriculum, right? Yes, yes. Right. You go on that.


Maggie  34:33

So I got a nine 9.3 for that one, which I think is just within the range in terms of like, you know, are you competitive enough for selective schools, but I also do want to mention that honestly, like I usually don't buy like what people say about scores like all like it's okay. You don't need to have the best scores. But having gone through this myself, I personally really want to say that your scores on everything For me, personally, I, I actually received seven B pluses in my whole report. And I was like, No, I really felt that surely this was going to be like, you know, something that's going to bring my application down. But you know, I guess it just goes to show that really your grades on everything, if you have something else that shines even more, it's all okay. Yeah,


Podcast Host  35:25

yeah, absolutely. Well, for our international listeners, 99.3 is around the top point 7% of scores in the state. So you did very, very well on that, like at 99.3 is an extremely good score in your VCA. And for your si t, or AC T, did you end up sitting that? Yeah, I


Maggie  35:44

did, I think with last year as well, you know, sometimes they would just cancel very, you know, late,


Podcast Host  35:51

it was crazy.


Maggie  35:52

Yeah, it was crazy. It just like unexpectedly, you just receive an email like a week before, like, oh, no more, no more tests. So I think having, you know, gone through that I wasn't really expecting to have an opportunity to take the test. But I was actually quite lucky in October, just right before the ITA, you know, round for Stanford to take the test. And I received a 1540 for that 115 40.


Podcast Host  36:17

If you're doing PSAT 993 VCA, which is very solid academics. I think students are still curious about that kind of thing. That that's the kind of academic pace that you're going to have to keep when you're on campus at Stanford. And speaking of which, do you know roughly what you're intending to study? Obviously, like you're passionate about theater? Is that an area that you're going to be studying or doing a minor or majoring?


Maggie  36:41

Yeah, definitely. So I'm considering perhaps, you know, double majoring in, first of all, obviously, theater and performance studies. I really like that. And also, sociology as well. I'm thinking,


George  36:54

undergraduate at Harvard, so I'm totally here for that. Yeah, I


Maggie  36:57

think these are the two majors. I'm thinking of taking Stanford. Yeah.


Podcast Host  37:02

Fantastic. And is there any other opportunities that you're particularly keen to take part in or take advantage of, whilst you're on campus at Stanford? Was there any like one activity that you're really wanting to do? Whether it be I know, they've got like the fountain hopping? They're in Stanford, or they have a, you know, famous rivalry with UC Berkeley? I think it is. All these things are going to be going on campus? Is there any particular thing that you're looking forward to?


Maggie  37:27

Yeah, I mean, the fountain huffing definitely sounds like a lot of fun. So I'm definitely looking forward towards that. But I also you know, heard that a Stanford they kind of like, you know, right before, as you say, like the rivalry between like UC Berkeley and right before like the big race, we actually ride like a student directed musical. It's called the gateways. And I'm really interested in that one on that activity, for sure.


Podcast Host  37:52

Right. So you're going to be writing a musical about the love hate of mostly hate relationship between UC Berkeley and Stanford, then,


38:00

I guess.


Podcast Host  38:03

I think one of the things that as an international student you need to be aware of, and I've got a bit of a taste of this, when I've been in America a couple of times, is that they take their rivalries and particular college rivalries very seriously, like very seriously. So yeah, don't go like sweating about with UC Berkeley, people make sure that you know, your Stanford through and through is that sound advice, George?


George  38:26

Yeah, having been somebody that had to staunchly despise Yale? Very, very good advice, for sure.


Podcast Host  38:33

Absolutely. And, George, is there any other advice that you would give to Maggie to Ward's her college journey? She's about to embark on four years at Stanford, you've been there. You've done that at Harvard? What advice based on your experiences would you give to someone who is about to go to a place like Stanford?


George  38:50

Yeah. Wow. I mean, firstly, I just want to say that I wish I wish I were you right now, like I am. So like, I so want to do that, again, I want to do that experience, you know, you're gonna have the most incredible time. And of course, make the most of it. It's kind of a balance between two, like, it's like a paradox. It's like, obviously, like, try and try and take it in and try not to, you're trying to take days where you're not taking it for granted. You're like, wow, here I am, look what I'm doing. But at the same time, you know, this is going to be an incredible experience. And you're going to have wonderful moments, but it's also your life, right? And you just, I just want you to just let just let it sink in just just like take it as it comes. Just make it your own. It's difficult to know what yeah, there's so much that advice that I want to give to you. The one thing that I did when I first started was I like sign up for every single extracurricular activity that I could and then cut back. And I have a close friend who did the opposite. It was like I didn't do too much my first year because I wanted to just let bad myself in. But, you know, I would say yeah, throw yourself into things, you know, see what you enjoy. And most importantly, I'd say you know, it's the people that you're going to meet that are going to like are going to change your life. That's why my life was changed and That's like maybe the thing that I would encourage you to think about when when driving decisions, like, you know, Where, where, where can I find the most wonderful people? Where can I, you know, build the most wonderful friendships? And you'll never go wrong? If that's what's your guiding principle?


Podcast Host  40:16

Yeah, you guys certainly have a fantastic friendship that's really driven through this application. But I can't leave. You know, for our listeners, I'm sure they're pretty keen on hearing your final thoughts on the application advice and how they might go about it. And I know that it's a really difficult one for you both to, I guess we've kind of talked about it already. where it's like, there is no formula, despite what you might say, in the case studies you read, it's really about you, and how you present yourself through this application, and being as authentic and genuine as you possibly can be. And I think that's an both a simplified version of it. And also very complicated in that, like, what is the authentic may? What is the genuine way that I can show admission officers and make it sound impressive at the same time? But are there any final thoughts from yourself, Maggie, for people who are about to go through this journey? Or perhaps, you know, there might be a couple years away from going through it, but are still thinking about applying to these top colleges?


41:15

Yeah,


Maggie  41:16

I think my advice really is to, you know, I mean, having gone through this myself, again, I just want to say that sometimes I feel like they will moments where, you know, you push yourself a bit too hard, or you want things to happen really quickly. But I think my advice to, you know, older students on preparing for it is to, it's okay, to take it slow. Sometimes I actually, you know, I remember when nearing my final exams, I was reaching out to George, because I was very stressed I, I had no idea if I were able to have the time to you know, complete all my studies, and I was, you know, sending messages out to Georgia, like, what do I do, I feel really stressed, you know, because obviously, it's the final moments where you really just, you feel like you have to push through. And I mean, his advice to me, I'm still, you know, living that advice every day, it's, it's just that, you know, it's okay to sometimes take some time off, it's really okay. And you know, after that you find yourself like, you know, recharged with, you know, all this energy to continue on. So I think my advice to all the other students is, it's okay, everything will be all right, everything will be alright.


Podcast Host  42:27

Particularly when you get the confetti going down your screen after opening an email from Stanford, that certainly makes things all right. Absolutely. Read from your side, George, you know, a strategist has worked with many students going through this process. What kind of advice would you give that perhaps, you know, could sum up some of the things that we've talked about already today?


George  42:46

Actually, I just wanted to say on top of what maybe what you just said, like, you know, when you're a high achieving student, the day does come when you realize that you aren't, you can't do it all like that day does come. And I feel like that was one of the days that kind of came, you know, when we had that conversation, Maggie, and it was like a moment where I, I breathe a sigh of relief for you. Because I was able to say to you take a day off, you're a human being you need it. Right. And that was so you know, I'm glad to hear that you're you still like take that advice to heart. And that kind of is what my advice is. This is new advice. I'm giving students now as well, which is we spend so much time on these applications thinking that we need to celebrate how extraordinary we are right? or What have I done that's extraordinary. What have I done? That's amazing. What have I done? That's like changing everything. But these universities, they're interested in you as a human being, and they just want to bring like, good people on campus, like good kids, I'm going to say you're gonna use that word very specifically because young people and live young lives and they've done things that young people do. And that's and that's what makes us human beings. Right? So they also want to see on your application, what makes you a good kid, what makes you what makes you tick, what do you enjoy doing? Like, like they want to see to hear somebody like that enjoys spending time with friends and and just has like a ordinary life as well. So I guess my advice is like, on your applications, when we think about that authenticity and things like that, celebrate what makes you extraordinary, but also celebrate what makes you ordinary. If you can get that on your application, you're going to be far more compelling than somebody that thought that what they needed to do was just impress, impress, impress. And that often is when we're working with students at Princeton, especially the high achievers, that's a really natural inclination to think they need to impress. So celebrate the ordinary as well as celebrating the extraordinary and I think that you're you're onto a winner.


Podcast Host  44:35

Wow. I love that advice. I think that's such a great way to sign off the podcast. Maggie George, it's been an absolute pleasure. I so look forward to sharing this episode far and wide. And hopefully it gives a bit of hope to students everywhere. That there is no perfect application that it really is just you being authentic, and you can celebrate the ordinary in your life, which I think is fantastic advice as well as you more extraordinary moments that you've had as well. But thank you again and I look forward to sharing the episode far and wide.


George  45:05

Thank you so much, Alex.