Over the past six weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of finding and sharing the journeys of some of the nation’s most accomplished, yet humble rising college freshman. I’ve called them the “2020 Top Admits.” There was Miami-based Janet, the youngest state senator campaign field director in Florida history. And New Yorker Denise, who cofounded a jewelry business from her love of thrift shopping. There was Atlanta’s free-spirited, Max, who decided to wake up at 4am because that’s what all billionaires do.
Our conversations often lasted 2 hours. Among the sometimes 13,000 words that would later appear in the interview transcriptions, I loved most the stories that showed their untold challenges. Not just the challenges they experienced in high school later explained in their college personal statements — but also their honest reflections of the rocky, uncertain, annoying, and discouraging moments throughout college apps.
I think about when Jacky said he regretted applying to 30 colleges, when Max said he didn’t study for the ACT because he didn’t have time, when Iandra said she started writing a brand new personal statement only two days before the deadline, when Laila got into Harvard but couldn’t tell her family. These stories reminded me that even superstars like these seniors are imperfect, growing humans.
Flawed individuals getting into selective colleges isn’t anything new, yet we always forget that and strive for perfection even though perfection doesn’t exist. This series reminds us to be okay with our humanness. Humans can succeed, too.
While teenagers have been getting into the Ivies and other selective schools since the 1800s, 2020 isn’t like other years. This year, even pre-coronavirus, a record number of colleges said goodbye to ACT/SAT score requirements, raised tuition, scrambled to replace the declining international student population, and dealt with decreasing applications. Not a “normal” year compared to what we’re used to hearing: “it’s impossible to get into college and kids need to be even more perfect!”
How Laila, Jacky, Denise, Max, Iandra, Taylor, and Jane got into their dream schools reflects what universities prioritize in 2020. Understanding these students’ journeys and results helps us, in turn, understand better the universities’ interests, concerns, and future momentum. While this understanding, of course, gives future applicants an edge in better crafting an application that impresses their “audience,” it also better equips them to consider if college, in any form, is even right for them.
2020 Top Admits series is one of the most up-to-date resources helping future college students understand what institutions care about in 2020 — from the powerful perspective of the individual’s journey.
Time will clarify what really made 2020 admissions special. For now, we’ve recorded and spotlighted the stories of successful candidates for college hopefuls to not only see how colleges respond to applicants with certain attributes, but also to see a bit of themselves — flawed yet dynamic — in their accomplished older peers. Inspiration by real people one’s own age is so powerful.
To wrap up this original series, SocratesPost will be publishing the interviews in a book. Whether you want to gift it to a motivated student, read it on the iPad while sunbathing by the pool, or place it on your coffee table as a conversation starter, we want these valuable stories to continue inspiring you and others. To be the first invited to the pre-sale, sign up here. And if you know any 2020 admit who’d want to be featured in the book, you can also let us know here.
All Patrons will get the book free of charge as a thank you for their huge support on all our initiatives.
Now as a final installment to the series, here’s an anonymous interview with a 2020 University of Southern California (USC) admit from Lake Forest, Calif. We never pressure our sources, especially teenagers, to share identifying information if they’re uncomfortable. Despite Jane Doe’s* unpublished identity, I guarantee she’s a real Californian high schooler with real insights. Enjoy and be inspired.
What was the biggest college admissions challenge for you?
I applied to 15 schools, so time management was really hard. There were a lot of essays and there was NOT a lot of time, so you really have to make sure you’re doing things when you’re supposed to. I know I turned in a few applications right before the deadline because I had a lot of applications due around the same time. Aside from that, narrowing down my college list was really hard. Originally, I was going to apply to over 20 schools. When I sat down and thought through why I was actually applying to each school, I threw out the ones I couldn’t find a reason for besides the ranking. I know I had a few left in my list I applied to, even though I didn’t really want to go there, because of the ranking, and that’s just unnecessary stress.
To help our readers understand your background a bit, can you share your extracurricular and academic involvement?
Sure! I was in Model UN for 6 yrs (and I was on the Board for my high school program for 3 yrs, including being the Secretary-General currently), Water Polo for 7, and swim for 3.