| “Even if you’re only 12-14, begin making a difference today. It will help you develop problem-solving skills and set you up for success, in college and in life.”
Are you ready for a challenge? Most teens don’t really see themselves as capable of making a difference yet– they feel like they will begin making the world better after they are “qualified.” But if you wait until you think you’re qualified, you’ll never develop the skills or mindset necessary to be an agent of change, regardless of where you earn your degree.
If you’re listening to this podcast, then this challenge is for you.
- A sneak peek into the Ivy League Challenge
- Deep self-reflection questions (that you want to be asking yourself)
- Why you should become an influencer, no matter your age
- Big benefits you can expect from creating your impact project
- How to get accepted into your chosen university (or even qualify for a scholarship)
And so much more.
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!
– Steve Gardner, FounderListen to my podcast
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Welcome to the Ivy League Prep Academy podcast, where we help you make a meaningful impact in your communities and get accepted to your dream university. Becoming the person that Ivy League schools recruit is more enjoyable and meaningful than you ever imagined. Come find out.
Why. Are you ready for a challenge? I want to issue a challenge to you. If you're listening to this podcast, this challenge is for you.
What I'd like you to do is think about your values. What do you care most about in life? What are the things that you care about that make you the most angry when you see them violated? What are the things that bring you the most joy when these things are distributed or you see them happening around you? What are your values, the things that you care most about? Okay, second thing you need to do what are your strengths? What are you really good at? What do you do well, whether you're trying or not, what are you good at? What do you like to do? What are you good at? And third, your curiosities or your academic interests? What are the things that you are most interested in academically? Okay, what are the things you're most curious about? Now, as you think about those three things, find the intersection. Find the place where those three things cross on a Venn diagram.
Where do your values, your academic interests, and your strengths intersect? What are the types of things that intersect in all three of those areas? Things that you both care deeply about and you're good at and you're interested in? Because that intersection is where I want to issue this challenge. I want you to find something related to those things that are in that intersection and find a problem within your sphere of influence. In other words, inside of your community.
Find a problem inside your community and start solving that problem. Find a way to make it better using your values, your strengths, your academic interest. Identify a problem inside of your sphere of influence, inside of your little community and start solving it.
Why do I issue this challenge? Well, think about it this way. Most people, when they're especially if you're listening to this and you're twelve years old or 14 years old, maybe even younger, right? You might feel like, who am I to go solve a problem? Who am I to make a difference in my community? I'm not qualified, I'm too little, I don't have the skills, I don't have, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. In fact, most people probably think this way.
In fact, your parents probably think this way. Who is my child to make a difference? That's not normal for a ten year old or a twelve year old or 14 year old, right? Fine, okay. Most people think that way, that's fine.
But you are not like most people, because what's going to happen if you are like most people? What most people do is they say, well, I see these problems all around me and I have values that would say I should go and do something about that. I am capable, I have some talent, I have some this fits within my strengths and I'm, I'm curious about this. I'm, I desire to grow, but I'm not qualified.
I'm not really qualified to do anything about this. I'll do something. I'll start solving problems, I'll start my business, I'll start my activity, I'll start living my life once I'm qualified, right? I'll start solving these problems after I'm qualified.
So you go to school, you finish high school, you apply to university, and you go to university, you finish, you graduate and are you qualified? Well, technically you have better qualifications after university than you did when you were ten or twelve or 14, sure. But you're probably going to have the same mindset. You're going to say, well, who am I to fix these problems that I still see all around me? I still see problems that offend my values, that I could begin solving.
But who am I to do this? I'm not qualified yet. I'm just the bottom rung of the totem pole. I just started my job.
I'll wait till I'm the manager, or I'll wait till I'm the boss, or I'll wait till I start my own company and then I can solve these problems. And pretty soon you're 45 and 65 and 95 and your life has passed and you never really developed what you needed to develop to start solving those problems. Why? Opportunities were there all along, but you did not have the skills necessary to solve the problems when the opportunities arose.
Now, let's change the equation. Let's say that you're twelve years old, you're 14 years old, and you say, well, I know my sphere of influence is tiny. It's only my family and my three best friends or whatever.
It's only my class, it's only my church community or it's only my club or whatever it is. I know my sphere of influence, I know my community is tiny, but this is valuable to me, these are my values, this is what I'm interested in and this is a problem. And I want to make the world a little bit better.
I want to make my world a little bit better. So what do you do? You start solving a little problem inside your sphere of influence. You go and you develop the skills and you do the studying, you do what you need to do to become the kind of person that can solve that problem.
And you solve the problem. And it's a tiny problem because your sphere of influence is tiny. But when you solve it, what do you do? You're developing skills that allow you to solve problems and you're developing the mindset that you are a problem solver.
You are someone who has an impact. You create impact in your community. You create meaningful impact.
And so what happens now? Your sphere of influence grows because more people trust you, that you're the kind of person who can make a difference. As your sphere of influence grows, guess what? You start solving bigger problems, which are even more enjoyable for you. It's more meaningful for you.
You start to see the world change for the better in even more meaningful ways. And how exciting. This is really just absolutely invigorating for you as an individual.
You're making a difference in the areas that are most important to you, using your strengths and your academic curiosities. And you're making a difference. You're making an impact.
And what else are you doing? You're developing skills. You're becoming the kind of person that can make an even bigger difference. And guess what else you're doing? If you're 14 at this point, or 15, and you've been solving problems for two years now, you still have two more years to scale your project, right? This problem that you're solving, this thing that you're doing to make your community a little bit better.
You are. Now, you have a few more years to scale that project and create evidence that you are a problem solver and you're someone who makes an impact so that when you apply to university, you are going to really stand out. Right? You're not just going to be a great student, you're not just a healthy, mentally healthy and kind and high performing academic student.
You also have a track record of making a difference in your community. And so you stand out, and so you get into a better university, or you get into the same university you wanted to go to all along that you could have gotten into. But now they really, really want you, and they recruit you with scholarships, and you save hundreds of thousands of dollars, because now you're being recruited to your university instead of being accepted to your university.
And then you get into university and you start solving problems in this sphere of influence, in this new community. And now you have resources that you couldn't even dream of when you were in high school because universities are full of amazing resources. And so you have all these new resources, you have this new community, you're solving new problems, you're making an even bigger difference.
And when you graduate, you're recruited for the top jobs in the world because you're an obvious difference maker. You have a resume that no one else has, very few people have at your age and you're just doing the things that successful people do in life. And you might turn those jobs down because now you have all the skills you need to take advantage of all the opportunities that are all around you to create businesses that solve problems and make the world better, or to get into leadership positions in companies that already exist or in government or in school boards or whatever your area of interest is.
You have done the things you've developed, the skills that are only developed through experience that enable you to solve problems and be recruited into these positions. So that's the contrast. Either you take the mindset, well, who am I to solve these problems? And you wait until you think that you're qualified and then opportunities arise, but you haven't developed the skills to take advantage of those opportunities.
Or you begin when you're small, you're only twelve, you're only 14, right? But even at twelve or 14, you have a tiny sphere of influence and you can begin making a difference, you can begin trying to solve a problem. And you develop those skills so that when new opportunities arise, when you have bigger problems to solve and bigger opportunities to solve those problems, you have developed the skills that you can step up and take advantage of the opportunities. And not only that, you have people's trust you're going to be able to perform at a very high level.
So it's worth it to take this challenge on just for the advantages that you get when you apply to university. But if you've already graduated college, or you have no interest in going to college, or you've got university already figured out and that doesn't factor in, that's great. I still issue this challenge to you whether you are 13 or 30 or 93, right? I issue this challenge to you because no matter how small your sphere of influence, the best thing you can do with your life to develop mastery, to develop autonomy, to have meaning and purpose in life the best thing you can be doing with your time is finding things that you care about, that you can help.
You can improve, make the world a little bit better within your sphere of influence. So that is my challenge for you today. Listeners of my podcast, please take on the challenge and let me know how you're doing.
You can either leave a review on this podcast I would love some more five star reviews that would be wonderful, and you can tell me about your impact project and what you're doing to take on my challenge, or shoot me an email to my personal email address, SMG 60 one at g Harvard.edu. I would love to hear from you. And no, I've never given out my personal contact information in a public forum like this before, but I would love to hear how you are stepping up and you are making a difference in your community.
If there's any way I can help, I'd love to provide that support as well. So I hope you take on the challenge, accept the challenge, go out there today and make your impact, even if it is so, so small. Don't worry about that.
Start small, make a difference. Something that you care about, something that is meaningful to you, gives you purpose, you have autonomy. You're the one who chooses how to solve that problem and you develop mastery.
You're developing skills as you solve your problem. So just look at your Venn diagram. The intersection of your values, your strengths and your personal interests.
Or your academic curiosities, your academic interests. Look for the intersection of those three points. Find a problem inside your sphere of influence that you can solve and get to work.
Accept the challenge and let me know how it goes. You got this!