Case Studies

An interview with David, one of the only students from his school to go Ivy League this past year

Ivy League admission

Q: What do you think helped you to stand out during the application process?

A: I’m not entirely sure, but my sense is it’s because I did my own thing versus following the crowds. I also think because I wasn’t at an international school, I really had to work a lot harder to find resources, create opportunities, and find the right mentors to help me work towards my goals.


Q: Do you really think there is a huge difference between going to an international school versus a local school?

Yes. International schools have a lot of resources, their student bodies are more diverse, and their matriculation statistics are generally better for U.S. and UK schools. That said, my personal point of view is that any student can make it if they really want, regardless of where they go to school. I do appreciate that the local school education system trained me well with my logical thinking and analytical skills.


Q: So, is it because you dared to be different?

A: It’s not just that. I think for me I just really really loved economics. I’m a bit of a hardcore economics nut, and I would read anything I could get my hands on related to economics. I also worked hard to get exposure to the world of economics through internships, summer programs, and even creating a few of my own opportunities such as starting an economics club on campus, seeking out economics research opportunities with a professor, etc.


Q: Did you have a college advisor?

A: Yes. I engaged an external college advisor because my school counselor had too many students and simply didn’t have enough time to have a conversation with me that could make a difference.


Q: How did your college advisor add value to your application process?

My college advisor added a ton of value way beyond just applications. Like all other high school students, I was once lost, unsure and confused about my future education path and career choice. My advisor really helped me figure out what mattered to me, helped me figure out my goals, and helped me figure out how to get there. It was about a lot more than college applications. He was my life coach and mentor.


Q: Do you feel like you could have gotten this offer without an advisor?

A: I would have gotten in somewhere, but I probably wouldn’t have gone Ivy. It was a learning process for me, and as I continued to grow and engage through high school, I naturally became a much stronger candidate. I’m very clear that my advisor helped me get into a much better school than I could’ve gotten into on my own. My advisor didn’t only help me check all the formal boxes to go Ivy, but he guided me as a mentor as well, and used his experience to help me figure out which program was the best fit for me.


Q: Do you think having an advisor is a must?

A: I think it depends on the student and the advisor. I think fit is incredibly important from both ends, but assuming there is a good fit, an education advisor has the ability to add a tremendous amount of value in the educational process. College applications can be a daunting and complicated process, and the reality is that this process doesn’t start in the senior year, but years ahead of time. Having an experienced coach, mentor, or advisor can really help applicants avoid major pitfalls along the way and make sure that time and efforts are wisely invested.


Q: Lastly, any advice for other students looking to go Ivy?

A: Yeah. Two things. The first, it’s not all about grades. If you’re spending all of your time on grades and SATs, then you have missed some of the key components of the admissions process. Secondly, don’t do things for resume; do things because they matter to you. Authenticity is something I think admissions officers and and peers would value. Plus, living inauthentically seems sub-optimal.


This article was originally published as “An interview with David, one of the only students from his school to go Ivy League this past year” on SCMP Education Post.



US Advisor

Columbia, UCL

Dan’s Story

Dan has over a decade of experience helping students get accepted at top boarding schools, as well as undergraduate and graduate programs at the Ivy League and equivalent level. He was formerly an active member of the Columbia Alumni Representative Committee and interviewed candidates for admissions.

Dan received his Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and a Master of Laws with Distinction in International Banking and Finance from University College London. He also graduated magna cum laude a year early from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History, Religion and Neuroscience.

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