The Power of an Impact Project Combined with Research
Listen in to learn how to take advantage of research opportunities and turn them to be impact projects.
I was recently asked to speak to Lumiere students to hep them understand how to use the academic research they are doing to help them stand out in college applications.
We discussed how powerful it can be to combine academic research with an aligned impact project..
Too many people are overwhelmed, stressed out, and frustrated about college admissions prep. I created this podcast to help you build a standout college profile and boost your confidence. Enjoy!
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Welcome back to season two of the Ivy League Prep Academy Podcast. Equipping you to successfully pursue the college of your dreams. We believe everyone deserves to reach their full potential, and the admissions process shouldn't hold you back.
So I'm thrilled to work with Lyn Year and to be able to speak to this particular audience, to speak to you guys, because this is just I think it's amazing. You are on the right track. A lot of the things that are going to allow you to stand out and really communicate to colleges that you're ready to communicate or to contribute to the freshman class, to the campus at large.
And you're the kind of person who's going to graduate eight in four years and go make the world a better place, which are all these kind of secret things that they're actually looking for. Doing research in high school sets you on that track, and today we're going to learn how you can take what you've been doing well and really leverage that activity to stand out in your application. So a lot to look forward to.
This link here. TILC t O podcast. This webinar is only 1 hour.
There are about 200 episodes on that podcast that go into a lot of detail in a lot of things that would be impossible for us to cover in one podcast. So grab a screenshot or just write down that mini URL. TILC Codcast you're welcome to take advantage of that.
I believe that the world needs you to reach your potential. Our teenagers are amazing. The more that I work in college prep, the more optimistic I am for the future of this planet.
I believe that the future of the planet is in good hands as I work with outstanding teenagers who are working to make a difference in their smaller communities. And we'll talk today about how that's actually the key to standing out. And so we want to help you reach your ambitions to go to a college that's one of your reach schools, one of the dream opportunities for you.
And today we're going to figure out exactly how to do that. But I want to start with a true story. This is a stock photo.
This isn't the actual person, but we're going to call her Jacqueline. And every detail in this story is true except for the name. And of course, this picture is not her either.
Jacqueline was a hard working student. She worked her tail off, but it wasn't just in the classroom where she was a straight A student. I believe she got an A minus or two, but she was even in the IVDP program, very rigorous curriculum.
She was also a varsity athlete, and she was a musician, and she was heavily engaged in student council and in model United Nations. She did everything that she could to become competitive for her dream college, which was Stanford. In fact, some well meaning people told her all the advice that you've probably heard before as well, about how to get into one of these top tier colleges.
And so, for example, even though she was really busy, she squeezed in a distance learning economics class at Stanford during the summer, right before her senior year, just so that she could have a little bit extra there to stand out. And long story short, I think you might know where this is going. It was devastating news for Jacqueline.
When she heard back from Stanford, she was rejected. And she was actually rejected from every school that she applied to, even though she had straight A's. Her lowest grade was an A minus, and she had a couple A minuses, but she had very good grades, very good extracurriculars, very good everything.
And the harder thing to swallow, and maybe you've seen this as well, is that Jacqueline was denied to all the schools that she applied to, but some of her friends with less impressive GPAs were admitted to the same schools that she was rejected to from. So she was rejected, and some of her friends that she knew well had worse GPAs were accepted. And it just felt so unfair and absolutely devastating.
And the thing that I hope that we all understand is Jacqueline's story is really, really common. And there are a lot of issues that created that situation where Jacqueline was rejected from so many schools, she needed to apply a little bit differently. She needed to create a narrative.
There was a whole bunch of things we'll talk about today that will help put this in perspective, and she probably needed a different list to be sure. But the situation is still a situation that's relevant to all of us, right? Because let's define the problem really quickly. Nothing new here.
Everyone knows that just 30 years ago, these were the acceptance rates at these schools. And by the way, I chose these four universities, but literally, I could choose any college in the top 50 ish. And you're going to see the same trends.
Upan went from a 39% Admin rate just 30 years ago, and even Stanford and Yale were at 22%, harvard at 16%. And then, of course, we have data from 2020 here, but the data from 2022 is even more extreme than what you have on this slide here. So admissions rates are going down substantially.
And of course, we all know about this trend, and we know about the headlines. When I created this slideshow the first time, it took me about 30 seconds to find these headlines, and it wouldn't take any longer to do that again for updated headlines similar to this acceptance rate, lowest ever, ivy League acceptance rates shockingly low, et cetera. We already know all about that.
So here's what people are going to say you need to do in order to get into a top tier college. They say, look, the admissions rates are so low and across the world. I'll be shocked if any of you hear different advice than this.
And you're welcome to type in and chat if you agree or if you've heard different advice. But generally, what you're going to hear is the same four things and sometimes five. So number one, you're going to hear if you want to go to a highly selective college, you need to, number one, take the most rigorous classes available at your high school and get nearly perfect grades.
Number two, take and retake Sat or act tests until you get near perfect scores. Now, that has shifted, of course, with the test optional environment over the last three years, but that's still a critical component for a lot of people when they advise others on how to get into top tier colleges. Number three, demonstrate leadership in as many ways as possible.
And this is the sort of thing where you get bonus points if you've got multiple areas of leadership. So you're the captain of a sports team, plus you're in student council, plus you do music or debate or something else. All right? But demonstrate leadership in as many ways as possible.
Develop some kind of spike X factor, some kind of wow factor, whatever the verbiage is, whatever word is used. But develop some kind of hook, something to help you stand out. And then some people add a fifth piece of advice, which is volunteer to show that you're a good person.
All right? This is the advice that people are getting all throughout the United States and all throughout the world. I have taught IBDP, I've taught IBMYP, I've taught A levels, which you may or may not be familiar with. That's the British curriculum.
I've taught AP, I've taught honors. I've taught regular classes. I've taught college classes.
I've taught high school. I've taught middle school. I've taught private school.
I've taught international school. I've taught public school. I've been in a lot of different school environments, and it is consistent across the board.
And then when you travel abroad, I've taught on three different continents in Europe and Asia and the United States, you hear the same advice. And that should be a little bit of a warning sign, a little bit of a red flag. If everyone is getting the same advice, how well do you think your application is going to stand out if you follow the advice too? Right? So just think about that for a second and let's talk about why this advice is broken, okay? Oh, before we get there, the mindset that we see among ambitious teens and their parents, right? Oftentimes, teens like you, you took an hour, or parents like you, you're taking an hour out of your evening to come and join us today so that you can learn one more strategy to stand out in your application so you can be just a little bit more set up, better set up.
And ambitious people like you who have joined us today say things like, look, my teenage years are short on the whole rest of my life to benefit from these these few short years of sacrifice. As long as I can just get into that one college, man, I know it's going to take luck, but if I could just be lucky enough, I can get into that school and then everything will be okay, right? Maybe it's worth it to give up my front, my fun, my friends, give up sleep. It's a small price to pay.
I'll stay up an extra hour and be better prepared for the test or whatever. And if I can get into that dream college, it'll all be worth it. But here's the thing.
Oh, and before I even get to why that perspective is a little bit short sighted, I want to let you know, look, my time at Harvard was better than I ever dreamed it could be. I'm very sincere. And if we had multiple days to talk about this, I could share amazing stories about how much I grew as a human being, not just as a student, not just as a community, thought leader or anything else.
As a human, I became more empathetic, more kind. I believe I've become a better person because I attended Harvard. And I think that trying hard to attend a really prestigious university, trying working very hard to get into a top tier college, it is a goal that is worthy of your highest ambitions.
It is worth pursuing. I want to be really clear about that. But as I say that this strategy get the top grades in the most rigorous curriculum available, top act scores, no matter the cost, demonstrate leadership in as many ways as possible, some kind of wow factor, and maybe volunteering, depending on who you talk to.
That strategy is broken. And it is broken for several reasons. I am not going to go into all the details today, but let's talk about what you are sacrificing.
You're sacrificing fun, friends and sleep so that you can work harder than everyone else, so that you can show these admissions officers that you work harder, that you're more worthy of attending class, right? Attending school in that university. First of all, sleep, the science that has come out of the Sleep Science Center out of UCLA and Stanford is just phenomenal. This last five years, what we've learned about, in particular how teenagers respond to sleep deprivation.
I want to ask you, would you ever dream of showing up to school drunk? Would you ever dream of going to school intoxicated? No one here that attends, that has any ambitions to go to college, let alone an outstanding college would ever consider showing up to school intoxicated, right? How could you possibly learn? How could you do well on your tests or your exams or your homework assignments or anything else? How could you think? How could you remember? Your learning centers are muted. You'd be completely ineffective if you show up to school drunk. And yet the science out of the UCLA Stanford Sleep Science Center is showing without debate.
It's not something that's really up for discussion right now. The evidence is pretty conclusive. Your performance cognitively when you're sleep deprived is equivalent to when you're intoxicated.
And there's different levels of intoxication, right? There's being a little bit tipsy where you're drinking just a little bit too much and then totally drunk and you can't even walk straight. And there are different degrees of sleep deprivation where you're a little bit tipsy and can't quite think straight all the way to can't even walk straight. And sleep is just I mean, it is such a critical thing to be able to learn and to be curious and to think and to develop.
And by the way, the last part of the brain that develops is your prefrontal cortex, which is exactly where all your executive functions are, right? Your emotional intelligence, your self awareness, self efficacy, your metacognition, problem solving, strategic thinking, or critical thinking. All of that happens in the prefrontal cortex, the last part of the brain to develop. And sleep deprivation, we know, stunts growth.
We know that growth hormone is released during deep sleep and we know that the brain develops more slowly when you're not sleeping enough anyway. We are literally sacrificing sleep so that we can get ahead in school not realizing that sleep is our best friend to get ahead in school. And it's not just sleep by the way.
Okay, let's be clear. Fun and friends is a bigger thing than we may realize as well because the way that we develop some of those metacognitive skills, the prefrontal cortex skills that are so valuable to admissions officers, right? The way you build empathy, the way you perspective adopt, the way you adopt other people's perspectives and think through other people's shoes is by interacting with them, playing with them, socializing and cutting out. Too much of that is actually really detrimental to a healthy teenage growth trajectory.
So the reason I'm saying ball all of this and there's so much more, there's so much more science here. There is so much more to talk about short term, how you're learning. Actually your short term memory transfers to long term storage during deep sleep.
It's the last thing that happens at the end of your sleep cycle. I mean, there's so many ways that when you think you're sacrificing your fun and your sleep and your creativity just for a few years so that you can get to a better college boy, we just don't realize how much we are sacrificing. Here's an even bigger deal.
What are we actually saying? We're saying, look, the way you get in is great grades, great test scores, demonstrated leadership, wow factor kind of a hook and you go off and you find someone who got into the school that you want to go to. So let's pretend that's MIT, right? And you say, Look, Uncle Joe's cousin's friend's daughter got into MIT, and this is what she did. So if you do what she did, then maybe you can get into MIT too.
And what is the teenager hearing? So for those of you who are parents, teachers, mentors, guidance counselors on the call today or listen to the recording, what are the teenagers hearing when they hear that? Not immediately, but the underlying message is, it doesn't matter what you think is important. You as you are operating today, you're not good enough to get in. But she is good enough to get in because she got in, right? So if you can pretend to be her, maybe we can trick the admissions officer into thinking that you're good enough too.
And no, that's not what anyone is trying to communicate. I know that. And no, not every team gets that message, because some people are better at communicating the actual message than others.
But way too many teenagers hear that message. At some point along the way, they hear the message, you know what? What I care about what I think is important doesn't matter because I'm not good enough. But man, if I could just work hard enough, maybe I could fool the admissions officer.
Maybe I can get lucky and I can get in. Way too many teens think this way, and it's because of the way that the adults in the room, their mentors and their guides, their teachers are communicating. We can do better.
And this is really critical. I want to be loud and clear that plenty of my friends and classmates from Harvard lead frustrating unsuccessful lives today. And of course, plenty of Ivy League rejects go on to be incredibly successful and incredibly happy.
The difference doesn't depend on which school you go to. If we take a long term perspective, we discover that your self efficacy, your friendships, your ability to see problems as a challenge and not a stress, your ability to collaborate and influence like all of those things, are far more consequential to long term happiness, long term success than the location, the school where you earn your degree. And I know I said earlier, I love Harvard.
Absolutely. I'm amazed by the benefits and the advantages that attending Harvard and getting a degree from there has made in my life. It's been a difference maker for sure, and it can be for all of you.
But we shouldn't be thinking, man, I just hope I'm lucky enough to get in. And instead, our teens should be thinking, look, I know who I am. I have a track record of doing really cool things, of solving real problems in the real world.
Whichever school I choose to go to will be lucky to have me, not, I hope I'm lucky enough to sneak in. Okay? And here's the kicker. We do all that work.
We sacrifice all these things. We have this message that's a little bit unfair, totally unfair, a little bit toxic, potentially very toxic, about I'm not good enough, but let me pretend to be someone else and then it's not a good strategy anyway, okay? Because top colleges are not looking for 2000 clones of the same person. If you listen to what admissions officers are saying, they do not want a class of clones.
Even if they're the superstars, even if everyone's a superstar, they don't want all the superstars to be the same. And they'll say this out loud. They want a rich, diverse class of students full of different interests, different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions, different ethnicities, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Because that creates an ecosystem where the parts can reinforce each other and create a stronger whole than would otherwise be possible. All right? So top schools want to shape a diverse class full of different people. And the last thing that they want, they already have a Uncle Joe's cousin's, friend's daughter who's already a sophomore or a junior at MIT.
They don't need another one, right? They might want you, but they don't want you pretending to be her. They do not want 2000 clones of the same person. The best description of this, I think, was President Drew Faust, all right? She was the Dean of Admissions at Harvard up until 2018.
And she was an advocate over and over and over again for shifting the way that people say, just take the top classes, top test scores, demonstrate leadership and wow factor, right? She said in one exasperated interview, she said, look, we could fill each freshman class twice over with just valedictorians. On another occasion, she said, and we'd have leftovers. Beyond that, put yourself in the shoes of the admissions officer, okay? If you're the admissions officer, how do you decide which valedictorian is smarter than the other one? How do you decide which valedictorian is harder working than the other valedictorian? How do you decide which valedictorian is more qualified than the other valedictorian? It's a fool's errand, right? And so we think that admissions officers are piling up all of these applications and saying the hardest working, most impressive, best, most qualified, smartest applicants on one side, and then we'll have this kind of this continuum on this side.
We'll get to the laziest least qualified students over on this side, right? And then what we'll do is we'll just take the 2000 from this side of the continuum, the 2000 smartest, hardest working, most qualified people, and reject all the rest. And that's how most people envision admissions officers reading these files. And that is not at all what happens.
We don't have time today to look at actual quotes, but I'll tell you about an opportunity next week, if you're interested, to join a workshop where we can tell you actual. We'll get into greater detail about what admissions officers are actually looking for, but they are not looking for what we think they are, right? They're looking for a rich, diverse class that can support itself, an ecosystem. So more important than being qualified is being memorable.
How do we become memorable? We tell a great story. So what should we do instead? This is a bird's eye view. We can't get into all the details in a 1 hour kind of limited scenario.
And also I want to give you time to ask questions so that I can get to specific questions. By the way, if you have questions as I'm speaking, feel free to type in those questions as we go. I'll probably save them until the end and not answer them until the end, but I'll try to have time to answer questions at the end of the webinar.
And so the first thing that we need to do is understand activities that are going to help you get in versus activities that are wasting your time. And of course, everyone wants to figure that out, right? Let's do an activity audit. Tell me which activities are wasting my time and which activities are helping me get in because I want to stand out.
We'll hear that all day, every day. But the truth is, I can't do this for you. Because the things that actually help you get in depend on you.
They depend on your core values. This is the crazy part. The crazy thing is in a mountain of applications that all look the same, where everyone took the hardest classes and got great test scores and demonstrated leadership in as many ways as possible and has some kind of hook.
Or some kind of wow factor. The only differentiating element there is. Whatever the hook is, whatever the wow factor is, everything else looks the same, right? What happens when there are 40,000 applications that fit that category that I just described and there are 50,000 total applications? 40,000 of them took the hardest classes available in school, got great grades, got great test scores, demonstrated leadership in lots of ways, and have some kind of hook or wow factor.
So we have 40,000 applications that are all in that bucket. Out of those 40,000 applications, do admissions officers want to admit some people into their rich, diverse class? Do they want to admit some people who took the hardest classes and got great grades, got great test scores, got demonstrated leadership and have some kind of hook? Of course. Of course they want to take some people from that bucket, right? But they have dozens of buckets to draw from.
And it just so happens that that bucket has 40,000 applications and the other ones have a few hundred each. And so as they're trying to shape their class, they want a few people from the really hardworking but they work so hard that they don't even know who they are. They don't even know what their own values are.
And they can't communicate those values because they spent all their time in high school just working so hard so that they could get ahead of everyone else because they felt like admissions was all about proving that you're harder working or smarter than other people. So it's all a race to take the hardest classes and do better than everyone else. Take the same classes, but do them better.
The only way to stand out is by doing all those same things that everyone else is doing and doing them better than everyone else. And we kind of forget that everyone else is also trying to do them better than everyone else. And it's an arms race or a marathon that is hard to get off that track, right? You get on that track and you're running, trying to be first in line, and actually they're just going to take the whole they're not going to ask who's first and second and third.
They're going to look at this whole body of people and say, well, man, how do we choose between 40,000 applicants that look so similar? Well, let's take however many we want from there. Maybe ten, maybe 20. And for those people, it feels like a lottery.
But for the rest of the buckets where it's the, oh, we need someone who's kind of a glue person, the kind of person that takes different ideologies and helps them connect, help them find ways that connect. So where's our bucket full of people who are glue people, right? We need kind of people who specialize in social justice. Where's our social justice warriors? Where are the people who are really helping make this element better in society? Where are the people who are doing this? Where are the people who are doing that? Where are the people who care about kindness or care about issues that most people don't have time to think about? We need to pull from those buckets.
Also, it just so happens that those buckets have 100 or 500 people in them, and we still need two or three people. And this bucket of 40,000, we need maybe even ten or 20, but still the odds are not in your favor. So when we talk about what are these activities that help you get in and which activities waste your time, we actually have to begin before that to figure out your core values, right? Because if you can communicate your core values in your application through your essays, your letters of recommendation, if they communicate that the teacher says, man, I've never had such a thoughtful student, a self aware student.
If you communicate things that everyone else who was so busy trying to be better than everyone had no time to figure out. And your essays, instead of trying to be as impressive as possible, your essays are just really thought provoking and insightful. Not even trying to humble brag when all the other essays are trying to squeeze in humble brag opportunities.
You can imagine this if you're, if you're a few years away from applying. That's what almost every essay looks like. Once you've read two or 3000 of them, you really get sick of reading about people winning the game or overcoming this challenge or that challenge.
And when you read something that's just so insightful and not even trying to humble brag, it's just such a breath of fresh air. And so then you read about this person and you say, oh, wow, they have these core values. And with these core values, I know where they would fit into this class that we're shaping.
Let's pull this person out of the bucket of just work so hard being best at everything that they have no time to figure out who they are. Let's pull them out of that bucket and put them into the bucket of the whatever your core values are, right? This kind of equity diversity, equity and inclusion bucket. Let's put them into the glue person bucket, all right? Et cetera, et cetera.
So the values that actually help you stand out need to be aligned with your core values. And in order for that to happen, you need to figure out your core values. You need to figure out how to communicate what matters most to you.
Now, that has the added benefit. Think about this for just a second. If you can stop doing the things that you think you need to do, even though maybe you don't love them because they're not necessarily aligned with your core values, but you think you need to do them because you think that's what the people who stand out are doing.
And you stop caring about what everyone else is doing, and you start focusing on what matters most to you. Guess what happens to your satisfaction just during the day? Guess what happens to your ability to overcome friction and diversity and setbacks while you're trying to solve problems in this thing that's aligned with your core values? You have tons of energy. What happens when we described trying to duplicate Uncle Joe's cousin's daughter whatever, who did whatever to get into MIT? When you try to do what someone else did, but you ignore the fact that they were doing that because it aligned with their values, and that's why they were able to get to such a high level of performance.
Then you start to wonder, man, they're good enough, but I'm not. I can't do what they did. And the reality is, no, you can't do what they did because they were aligned with their values.
And because they were aligned with their values, they woke up every morning excited to do the thing they were doing. They went to bed proud of the day that they just completed, and they worked hard, but they're proud of it and excited about it. And you you try to duplicate that, and what happens? You use self discipline and willpower to try to duplicate their results.
And that's a fight that's not fair. You're going to lose that fight every single time because self discipline and willpower drain your batteries and doing activities that align with your core values. Recharge your batteries.
So this person over here is recharging their batteries after school so they have full batteries to go and do well in class. And you are draining your batteries in school and then you're draining them even further, trying to use self discipline and willpower to duplicate their extracurricular activities. And you can see that that's a losing battle.
Eventually you're going to feel like, man, I just can't do it. You burn out and you feel like you are not good enough. There's something wrong with you.
But really it's not you that's the problem. There's something wrong with your approach. There's something wrong with your strategy of trying to duplicate what someone else has done.
Okay, I hope that that all makes sense. It's not a good strategy for you and your mental health and your ability to grow and be confident, but critically important. It is also not a good strategy for standing out when you apply to college.
So the first thing we do is we identify your core values. Then this is where I love the fact that I'm speaking to a Lumiere audience, right? Because you spent time niching down and becoming an expert in something you're genuinely interested in. That puts you head and shoulders above so many other applicants already.
You get to the point where you can actually be an expert in something that you're genuinely interested in. Now, some of you may have done research in something that you're not super interested in, but you did it anyway. You used willpower and self discipline and you pushed yourself all the way to the finish line or you're pushing yourself now and you're going to get there.
That's still useful, let's be clear. But if you're doing that, then you know how exhausting that is. It's not sustainable.
And so you'll want to use what you've done and align that somehow with your core values. So these two steps should be fully aligned, figuring out your core values and aligning your activities with those core values and then niching down into something you're super interested in. But here's the next level from lumiere to next level.
What if instead of just taking an academic approach and saying, here's the issue in the academic world and here's what our research is showing, might indicate this or that about the issue, right? Instead of stopping there, what if you said, now that I understand clearly what my core values are, I'm going to look around in my community and identify issues that violate those core values. And I know that all of my peers in high school are all saying, I better work really, really hard because college is coming, right? I understand that. They're all saying that and they're preparing for college as if college is when life begins, right? So better work really, really hard because something real is about to happen.
And so right now is the time to prepare. Life is about to begin. And we forget that.
What were you told when you were literally, like, in elementary school? You're in fourth grade. And the fifth grade friend says, man, I wish I could go back to fourth grade. Oh, you better work hard because fifth grade is coming.
Fifth grade is so much harder than fourth grade. Or it might have even been like, second grade and third grade for you. But we hear that middle school, you better work really, really hard in elementary school, because middle school is coming.
Throughout middle school, you better work really, really hard because high school is coming. High school, you better work really, really hard because college is coming. And what happens to teenagers, preteens and teens, as we hear that all throughout our lives, what we're hearing is, someday I'll be qualified, and I'll begin to live my life for real.
And that doesn't happen, does it? What actually happens is you get to college and people start saying, you better work really, really hard so you can get that first internship, so you can get that first job, and your first job comes and you better work really, really hard so you can get your first advancement, your first promotion, your first management position, your first this or that. And people live until they're 40, 50, 60 years old and suddenly wake up and say, man, when am I going to go do that thing that matters to me? When am I actually going to live my life? Because I'm still preparing. I'm still working really, really hard because something else is about to be here.
Something else is about to begin. So when I was at Harvard, I'll tell you, I couldn't believe how many of my classmates, how many of my peers did not think that way, did not think I'd better work really, really hard in high school because college is coming. So many of them thought, no, life has already begun.
There's this issue that violates my core values today, and maybe I'm not ready to face that issue head on, the way I will be in ten years. Maybe I'm not ready to solve it on a big scale like I hope to be in ten years, but I can do something now, and I will. I can't tell you how many of my classmates at Harvard, their mindset in high school and even in middle school was, I work hard in school so I can learn these things, and then I go and figure out how to do something real with it.
So many of them had that approach. And you guys, as Lumiere students, you're in such a great position to say, I've already done some research. Now, how does the problem that that research is addressing, how does that problem impact people in my community or people that I'm familiar with, and how can I take that research and use it to begin solving this problem in the real world? Right? And that's what you can begin doing.
That's the next level. And what is really cool is this can go backwards. This can go the other direction as well.
You can start solving the problem and realize that you're a bit naive, that in order to solve this problem, you need to answer these other questions. And so you get into research. It can go both ways, but it's a virtuous cycle of academic research leading to real world problem solving, right, leading back to academic research leading to real world problem solving.
It's this virtuous cycle, and nothing what I'm describing right now is the way for you to just love high school, because you're doing something, solving a real problem that you care about, and then it ties directly into academic endeavors. Right? And yes, you still have classes that you don't love, and you'll need to drain your batteries a bit to do well in those classes. But then you can recharge after school because the rest of your time, you've let go of all the activities that are not aligned with your core values.
And you can recharge your batteries through this through these extracurricular activities that are aligned with your core values. And when I say extracurricular activities that can be deceiving, you're creating the activity. You don't have to join a club or join an organization that already exists that adults created.
It's far more impressive for you to say, whatever the issue is, let me figure out how to solve it. And then you can see step C here, the best outreach, and we start small, and we build momentum. Okay? So don't feel overwhelmed as I'm describing this.
I'm describing the big picture, even though there are small steps that we take to get there. Okay? So the big picture is at the right time. This includes outreach to professors, which you're already familiar with, working with professors to do the research that you've been doing, other professionals and experts, and even media.
How do you reach out to media to let them know about the problem you're solving so that you can get publicity about the things that you're doing as a high school student? How do you reach out to professional organizations and experts in your field and begin getting their advice about how you can solve the problem that they've been solving in a different sphere? Right? And we've got example after example after example of this. We've got some of the most impressive 14 and 15 year olds in the world who are I'll just give you one really quick example. A girl named dashida Identified.
So she loved math and science. She was doing math and science Olympiads, and she thought that was her way to stand out until she kind of went through this process with me and discovered, man, there's a much better way right? So she dropped out of all these really time consuming activities, even though she was good at them. And she focused on, man, what do I care most about? One of those things is environmentalism, and she loves science.
And she identified that in her community, there was a big problem with food waste. And in the U. K.
Legislation had been introduced a couple of years ago that effectively reduced food waste by a significant amount. And so she began reaching out to the experts and the researchers in the UK who helped create the initiative that ended up in legislation that ended up getting passed. Now she's saying, Now I want to do that in my community.
She lived in Singapore, right? So she said, Now I want to do this in Singapore. I want to start solving this problem in Singapore. Because there's a massive carbon cost to food waste, and the food waste is unnecessary.
And this is something that I care about. It's aligned with her values, and there's a massive scientific element to this. So I can be doing research and then solving a real problem and going back and forth.
And when she submits her proposal for new legislation to the Singaporean government, her name will be the first one on the list because she's writing the proposal, and it will be followed by PhD after PhD after PhD. All these scientists and experts from around the world who are collaborating with her and saying, here's our data that we used to convince the legislators in the UK. You use this over in Singapore.
And now she's collaborating, and it's just a beautiful thing. And this sort of thing happens over and over and over and over again. Okay? So the best outreach after we have this kind of symbiotic virtuous cycle of research leading to problem solving, solving leading back to research leading back to problem solving.
And this beautiful cycle, we get to the point where we need to work with experts, with professionals. We need professional communication. And we can actually get that story out to the media, which, of course, adds a whole new level of credibility and is very exciting.
So I call that your Impact project. And I know that's my term, it's my terminology, although I have begun to see it. I've been using this term for a few years, and now I'm seeing people use the word Impact Project now outside of my communities, which I'm excited about, because admissions officers don't care that much about your passion.
They want to see how your passion leads to impact. What are you doing with that passion? Because ultimately, we said we would tell you what admissions officers are looking for and what colleges are looking for. They're not looking for the smartest, the hardest working, the most impressive, or any of that.
They want to shape a class. But what brings the college prestige? First of all, yes, the US. News and World Report ranking so your GPA, your stats, these other things do factor in.
They do. I don't want to underrepresent that, but ultimately beyond that, of course, those are kind of an important first step. Beyond that, they're trying to figure out how are you going to fit into this class? And we talked about that with your core values.
And the last thing is that we haven't talked about yet is who among these applicants is going to go on after they graduate from college and make the world a better place? I don't think that it's possible. I'm going to give you a quick example. I don't think it's possible to get a degree to earn a degree anywhere in in all of the schools at Harvard.
I don't think it's possible to earn a degree without learning that eight US. Presidents went to Harvard. I don't think it's possible because I heard it over and over and over and over again in the classrooms.
Why did I hear it so many times? Why did I hear so many times that more US. Presidents went to Harvard than any other school? The second highest is Yale with three eight presidents went through Harvard. Why do I hear that so often? Because Harvard cares.
And they want to figure out among these 50, 60, 70,000 applicants, which one might end up being the President of the United States one day, or the president of some other location. And they're trying to figure that out, and that's hard to figure out. They're trying to figure out who's going to go on and write a New York Times bestselling book, who's going to go on and earn a Nobel Prize or win these big awards and bring prestige and honor back to Harvard or back to whatever that your school is that you're applying to.
They do want to figure this out, who's going to go make the world a better place? Because when they make the world a better place, that brings honor and prestige back to our school. Well, the best chance that you have of convincing them that you're someone who is capable of going and making the world a better place is if you have a track record of making your small world a better place before you get to college. So right now, as a high school student, your world is small, your community is small.
But can you take your interests and your values and can you do things to make an impact in your small community which provides a track record that says, if I can impact my small community with no resources, imagine what I could do after four years at your university with all the network of support and everything else that we have available to us at Yale or MIT or Princeton or whatever it is. Right? Imagine the way I could impact the world then. And that's how admissions officers are thinking.
And so an impact project just clarifies. These are my values, and I have all the soft skills that I need, because you need communication and leadership and all these other things. You need all of that in order to execute a real impact in the real world.
And I actually did it right. So I have the soft skills, I have clarity around my core values. And this is the impact that I make in my community that tells you what kind of impact I will make in the college class that I'm a part of, how I will positively influence my peers because I positively influenced my peers in high school.
And when I graduate, I can make the world a better place. I have evidence for this. I'm not just telling you I have a real impact.
And here's potentially some media publicity about it, et cetera. And eventually we scale that, which talk about later. So, really quick, here's a case study.
Iris, different from Jacqueline, different situation, because Iris wanted to graduate a year early. This is a real person. I've interviewed her twice on my podcast.
You can listen to her story from her own in her own words there. But she wanted to graduate a year early because all of her friends were a year older than her. So she had all the right statistics.
She took twelve APS, had fives, in all of them outstanding student government leadership, she was a varsity athlete in music. In fact, she played a solo at Carnegie Hall. Straight A's.
Everything, right? And as the perfect candidate, she applied to Stanford, which was her dream school. She applied to several Ivy League schools, and she was a junior, remember, because her friends were a year older than her. So she made all the arrangements at her high school so she could graduate a year early and all would be well.
She was excited to go to Stanford with her friends, but I forgot to put the slide in there. She was rejected from Stanford. She was rejected from all of the Ivy League schools that she applied to, even as this perfect applicant.
And so, of course, Ivy Day is a little bit late. It took her a while to recover from the shock of being rejected from everywhere. But eventually she decided to come back for her senior year, and she dropped everything so that she would have time to refocus.
She took time to figure out her core values. This is kind of the timeline for that. Last summer, before her senior year, she took quite a bit of time to figure out her core values, and then her application changed.
How did her application change? Well, her personal story was really, really clear. Once she could clarify her narrative, once she could clarify her core values. And I'm summarizing very quickly, because we're out of time here, but the quick summary, the Reader's Digest version of the summary is she discovered that one of her core values was gender equity, and she loved economics.
And one of the things that violated her core values just made her angry, was the fact that every single textbook that she ever read for economics was gender biased. And she felt like, it's just why? Why would it be this way? Why are all the pictures, why are all the examples targeted at a male audience when we should be encouraging more females, more young women to be studying economics? And so she worked with a professor in her area at a local community college. It didn't take a ton of effort to find the right people, but she worked with someone to write a gender neutral economics textbook for middle school students.
Wrote this Economics 101, but, like, Pre 101 Intro to Economics for Middle School Students, but it was all gender neutral. And she wrote the textbook, she published it, she distributed it to a couple dozen schools, and she couldn't get it done in time for early action or senior year. She barely got everything done in time for regular decision.
But she applied regular decision to Stanford and several Ivy League schools. And her second time through, she had clarity around her narrative. I have these core values.
This is how I'm going to impact this is how I've impacted my community because of those core values, and this is how I might impact the Stanford community or the other schools that she applied to. And with different letters of recommendation, different essays, different application, less APS, no varsity sports her senior year, no music, she dropped out of orchestra, did just let go of everything that wasn't this right, and with what you would consider to be an inferior application, less rigorous classes, or senior year, dropped everything else. But she had a really clear story about how she fits into the class and how she impacts her community the second time around.
She was admitted to several Ivy League schools. She was also admitted to Stanford, where she is now a sophomore studying economics. And so I love Iris's story because she's the exact same person junior year as she was senior year.
But she changed her approach from, I'm just going to show that I'm the hardest working best grades. I do more than everyone else, and I do it better than everyone else. She changed from that approach to A, this is who I am, and this is what you're getting, and this is how I fit into the class that you're shaping.
Clearly clarifying that by saying, these are my core values and this is the impact that I make in my community because of those core values. All right? And so this is significant because you can do this too. It might feel like the examples that I shared with you, iris writing a textbook, or ishida who is proposing new legislation in her country.
It might feel like these are impossibly. Large impact projects. Like these would be impossible.
But we start small and we build momentum. And so this next week, I am going to be hosting an entire workshop to go deeper into every single element of this. And Lumiere has been so kind to be willing to let me share today the kind of bird's eye overview of how all this works.
But I would love for all of you to attend the workshop throughout next week. On March 6, we're going to talk about and every class will be about an hour, be about 50 minutes, and then Q and A after that. So on March 6, what colleges actually want, we're going to go into a lot more detail of what they want and how we know that that's what they want.
Actual quotes from admissions officers and so on. Day two, how you present yourself so that colleges want you, how you stand out and become more memorable. Day three, a step by step guide for how to do that right.
And then there will be a bonus day on the fourth day for those who want to attend and listen to actual students who have been through this process and they can share their experiences with you, you need to register in order to participate in this workshop. And in order to register, just go to TILC to hack, okay? And because the name of the workshop is called Hackingcollege Admissions TILC T O Hack, you need to register so that you can get all the zoom links and everything else. And you're more than welcome.
For those of you who are parents who have joined, there's a way to join the Facebook group that is for this workshop. If you're a teenager and you don't have Facebook, don't worry about it. Just make sure that you get the correct email address in there and you'll get links to all the zoom calls and everything else.
Okay? And so I really want to emphasize that you can do this. This is fully within your ability to create a clear theme that is grounded in your core values. And what happens when you do that is you disengage from that strategy that is using willpower and self discipline to try to duplicate other people's work and shifting away from doing things you don't love and towards being more curious and doing things that align with your core values and then making an impact in those exact areas.
If you can make that shift, then some magical things happen. During high school, you're far more confident. During high school, you get more sleep.
And because you get more sleep, studying comes easier. It's easier to focus your attention when you know that you're going to prioritize your sleep. When you do this, you start doing things that matter to you.
And so you learn all of the leadership and the professional communication and all of these critical skills that actually help you stand out amongst a pool of applicants that all get great grades in difficult classes, all get great test scores, all have demonstrated leadership, all do the same things, and suddenly you have this story that clearly says, these are my values. This is where I fit into the class that you're trying to shape, and this is the evidence that I have these values. I'm not just telling you in my essay, this is what I've done in my world because of that.
And I love it because you can take the research that you've already done and just magnify that and scale it on a larger scale. All right, so I have just a few minutes left, and I would love to answer any questions that you have. To this point.
No one has typed in any questions, and that's fine as well. I encourage you let me just go back to this slide here. I encourage you to attend.
We just got a question. Is the workshop free? It is. It's 100% free.
You just need to register and you can attend. Just like today's workshop. There's no cost registration, is there, so that we can send you the links and make it easy for everyone.
And so, no, there's no fee associated with it. It is free. Thank you for that question.
Any other questions or thoughts? How do we balance our impact project with all our other extracurriculars? Should we drop our other time consuming activities? That is such an important question. So one of the first things that we need to do is an activity audit, and we do learn about that in the workshop. You're absolutely right.
Your impact project is going to be time consuming, but you need to craft your impact project around the reality that you already have in place. So if that means we let go of some of the extracurriculars that we thought were impressive, once you really understand what admissions officers are looking for, you might discover that some of those time consuming extracurriculars are not actually helping you at all. They're what we call average Joe activities.
And even though they take a ton of time, they don't help in any way. They don't help you stand out. So it may be a situation where you need to drop activities.
It may be a situation where you need to be smarter about the way you use your time and energy so that you shift your focus away from one way of using that time to another way that is more impact centric. So there's not a one size fit all answer to that question. Excellent question.
But balancing your time and your energy is really an important part of successful high school life period. So that's an excellent, excellent question. And I don't have any other questions, although I'll maybe kind of delay.
Okay, we do have IBDP 43, predicted grade eleven, taking the Sat on the 10th. Love Neuroscience. How might I be able to amplify this project to become something that has greater impact in the community? Well, neuroscience, so I don't know what your research paper is on right now, but congrats on a 43 and full IB diploma program.
That's phenomenal. I taught IBDP, and I know the kind of pressure that you're under to get a 43 predicted grade. That's phenomenal.
So neuroscience obviously is a wonderful field. There are so many ways that because people either don't do things in a way that's healthy, it diminishes their mental health, or their brain health, right? And there may be things that happen in your community that are obviously bad for stakeholders in your community, for people in your community, but there's just not awareness around that. And for you to be the agent of awareness might be exactly the thing that your community needs.
Or it may be that you've asked an outstanding question. And what we would want to do is workshop around this rather than kind of spitball it out of nowhere. What we would want to do is we want to look at your core values, look at your interests, which we have.
We have neuroscience as an interest, which is wonderful. You like video editing. Awesome.
So now we're getting more information, and as we get more of that information in, we can start to say, okay, here's my strengths, here's my interests, here's my curiosities, my academic interests, my values kind of in the middle. And we kind of identify where those things come together, and we say, there are these issues that violate my core values in the world around me. Some of them are on a bigger scale.
Some of them are on a smaller scale. Right? So I have these issues that violate my core values. Now based on my strengths, my interests, my academic interests, my values, what's something I could do to positively impact members of my community in these areas that violate my core values.
And for some people, that's going to be social justice. For some people, it's something else. What I do in my process is I take you through one of my favorite classes at Harvard was my design thinking class.
And we go through the nine different frameworks of problem solving to see the different kinds of impact projects that are out there. And what you would want to do is you take all of the things that you know about yourself and then listen to different examples of ways that people impact their community through these different frameworks of design thinking and say, man, I could do that, and I could do that without taking too much time. That's actually something I could add to what I'm already doing.
But if I shift my focus in this one way or that way, I could start being impact driven instead of theoretically driven or whatever. That is what makes a huge difference. We got another direct message, a personal question that says, when you say core values, do you mean personal qualities or interests? Really, really good question.
So personal qualities should reflect your values. Your interests may or may not have anything to do with your values. To be honest, you can be interested in something that doesn't necessarily align with your values.
I don't want to take too much time to answer this question, because it gets complicated, okay? But here's the thing. We all have a mask that we wear, right? And we wear this mask because people we don't want people to see the real I don't want people to see the real me. I don't want people to know that underneath this kind, caring mask, I'm actually a selfish jerk.
I have thoughts that are selfish and that are self interested, and I don't want people to see that. So I put on a mask, and I'm more polite and more whatever else when I interact with people around me, right? And maybe I take off that mask a little bit when I'm with my family or with my close friends, but most of the time, I put that mask on. What we don't realize when we do that day in and day out, is we think that that layer underneath the mask is the real me.
It's not. I created that selfish whatever, that other version of me. I created that to protect myself.
Because at my core, I have things I really care about. And I've been hurt before. When I was little, I was vulnerable, and it stung a few times.
And so I decided I didn't like being vulnerable. And so I created a persona that protected me from being vulnerable. And what we need to do is not be afraid to explore that selfish version of me underneath the mask and go one layer deeper, because that's the real me.
And when we go there, we're going to find things like, I really value growth, for example. So this is an interesting example. If I were to say, for example, that I thought I valued winning, winning was so important to me.
But then when I go through these exercises and I figure out my core values, I actually love the growth. And it's the growth that I value so much more than winning. So this is just an example, right? But once I know that, once I understand that it's growth that I'm after, suddenly winning can be put into perspective.
And let's say I play tennis or golf or something, and I go to a tournament. I may win the tournament and not grow and feel like, man, that wasn't a good use of my time. For example, the best competition couldn't make it because of an injury or because of whatever they forfeited, for whatever reason.
So I played inferior competition, and I didn't grow at all, and I won a trophy. But who cares? Once I realized that growth is actually what I value, it changes the calculus, right? It changes the way that I interpret how I interpret success. And so winning sometimes becomes losing, and losing becomes winning.
Maybe I go to a different tournament and I lose officially. But I grew so much. I grow so much because I learned important things about myself.
And so once I discover that growth is what I'm after, then I can start adjusting the way that I participate in future tournaments because of that. And so there are all kinds of values, like growth, like we just talked about, or adventure or stability. There are empathy is a value that's important.
There are hundreds of values. But at your core, there are things that when those values are violated, they make you angry or they make you sad, they just break your heart. And similar things are similarly bad, but they don't break your heart or they don't make you angry.
Why? Because you have a core value that's violated in this one area, that's not violated in the other area, and you can recognize that it's also really bad, but it doesn't just really light you up. It doesn't make you angry or break your heart the way that this other thing does. And so those are the clues about what our core values actually are.
There's a lot of kind of introspection and deep thinking about that, but the value is, once you have that clarity, you can make different decisions day in and day out to align your daily activities with those core values. And then you recharge those batteries that we talked about. And so when you have to take a class that you don't love and it drains your batteries a little bit, that's okay, you've got full batteries.
And so you can still do really well in school, still do really well with things that take a lot of effort, because you're recharging your batteries when you're doing activities that align with those core values. And a lot of that is just understanding how it aligns and choosing to be deliberate with those decisions. Man, you guys ask really good questions.
Really, really good questions. If you would like to get much, much deeper into this and understand on a much more granular level, please do sign up for the Hacking College Admissions Workshop. It is absolutely free.
Thank you, DB, for asking that question. It is free. You just need to register.
And I am the one who teaches that entire workshop, so I will be able to answer questions at a much deeper level throughout that process as well. All right, it looks like that's the questions that we have, I'd love to explore them even more if you guys want to continue participating, but we'll call it a day for this one. We're already past the hour on this webinar.
I have really enjoyed talking to you. And I love the fact that this audience is so committed to their own personal growth and to making it to a school that they care about that you're willing to go do research on a high level and work with a group like Lumiere. And so I'm just thrilled to be able to take that and add to it and help you understand how you can take your research and then build on that to have this kind of virtuous cycle that we talked about.
Research to community impact, back to research, back to community impact. And nothing gets admissions officers more excited than someone who can say academic research. Remember, these are academic institutions leading to community impact.
The goal of a university is to use academia to improve the world by bringing students into their school, teaching them things, teaching them scientific method, teaching them how to think better about problems and how to better problem solve, and then sending them out in the world to solve those problems. And if you have a track record of doing that coming into college, it is so powerful. All right, so thank you so much, everyone.
We'll go ahead and stop the recording here and log out. We'll see you, hopefully in the workshop on March 6. Thank you.