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Want to get into the Ivy league? Failure could be the key

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By Tina Wu | Lead Admissions Counselor, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions

In my years working as an admissions counselor, I have observed something unique to high school students in Hong Kong- they are fearful of taking on new projects just in case they’d fail. Yet, none of us is ‘bubble-wrapped’ in real life, and we often learn the most out of difficult situations.

Why failures could be good for students

Overcoming adversity is one of the most popular essay topics. But why is that? Wouldn’t an Ivy League school prefer to see students be successful in whatever they try to do? But admissions officers at top schools may see it differently. Succeeding (especially the first time you try) is, in fact, often an indication that students are not pushing themselves hard enough. Think about all the visionaries of our times; they had all failed before. Even Steve Jobs was forced to resign from Apple, the company he founded, but he persevered, returned to Apple, and reinvented personal computers and smartphones.

Life at a top university is demanding; students will be challenged and explore opportunities outside their comfort zones. Top colleges would like to accept students who have the resilience to persevere through adversity and turn a challenging situation around.

How to turn adversity stories into great essays

Picking the right “adversity” story to write about can be tricky. Thinking of writing about how virtual learning due to COVID has affected your life? Think again – every student was going through the same struggle; why is your circumstance different? A good adversity essay is also not a competition for sob stories ( I had it tougher than other high school students my age!), but a chance to demonstrate how you had used specific character strengths (grit, maturity, and strength) to overcome the problem and how you intend to use what you had learned when faced with another challenging situation in the future.  

What makes the best ‘adversity’ essay? A genuine story where you can turn around a ‘failure’, making it into an opportunity for success.

Need more information on how we can help you? Come and speak with our Admissions Counselor: https://bit.ly/3teynbI

Kaplan_Tina

Ms. Tina Wu

Lead Admissions Counselor

Member of IECA

M.B.A., Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

BSc. In Accounting and Finance, New York University – Stern School of Business

  • A passionate mentor to students
  • Emphasis on understanding and developing her students’ strengths, positioning their potential to admissions office in the best possible light
  • Over 10 years of experience in helping students gain admissions to top boarding schools and colleges in the U.S.
  • Matriculation includes: Cornell University, University of Michigan, NYU, University of Virginia, UCLA and UC Berkeley

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