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College Student Spotlight: Columbia University

By NextGenVest Team

I came from a small school with a class of about 60 girls, all of whom were competitive and brilliant. My mindset in that type of environment, which closely mirrors the one at Columbia, came from knowing that getting good grades was important but not supremely important, especially in terms of my happiness. That realization translated into me pursuing things that I loved in and out of school.

What is your passion?

I was lucky to find my passion for human rights and business when I was a sophomore-- it takes other people some more time to find theirs. I think the key to both college acceptance and a good mindset is to find out what that niche is and go for it. At my high school, everyone got good grades and test scores. Everyone. And that can be said for thousands of applicants across the country. You have to find out what makes you different. I think your grades and commitment to sports are a fantastic foundation that will validate whatever you put on top. I promise it's not that much harder to add a few clubs or volunteer hours or internships to differentiate you. My secret is, relate all those things to one thing you truly care about.

How did your extracurriculars and academics fit together for college apps?

I knew I wanted to change the world and work towards social justice. I also knew that I had a capitalist mentality and did not think that non-profits were sustainable or influential. I got good grades, good test scores, and maintained my commitment to field hockey. On top of that I was the president of Model UN, NextGenVest, and a feminist issues group that I founded. I got internships at non-profit incubator spaces, foundations, and financial consulting firms (great source of recommendations). My LinkedIn demonstrated my involvement in philanthropy and my serious work ethic and my common app/supplements all related to the image I was presenting of myself. I was passionate about what I was doing so I was both happy and was setting a personal brand. Admissions officers need an straightforward image of you that will not only stick but support this idea that they want to admit future change makers and global powers.

What do you think is the secret sauce to being successful and happy?

Two quick anecdotes. My best friend from high school really loved animals and science and wanted to be a vet. She turned her senior project into a legitimate job as a veterinary technician, volunteered at animal shelters, and wrote her common app about the biology of her pet fish. Unfortunately, while she excelled in the sciences and standardized testing, she wasn't stellar in other subjects and allowed her veterinary aspirations outshine her GPA and did not get into her top choice school. Another friend of mine was quite the opposite. He had a flawless transcript and scores and thought he was an admission officer’s dream. When he applied to schools, he didn't even get into his safeties. He had failed to mention anything that made him different, including that he spent his summers working on an organic farm and loved to cook. He failed to realize that THAT is what made him interesting. It is all about finding the balance. The numbers and the flair.

At the end of the day, college admissions is a numbers game but if you are spending your high school career and life in general pursuing what you love to do and exploring all corners of that niche, you will find yourself a lot less stressed and unhappy compared to your peers who are living and breathing a 4.0 or 2400.