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June 18, 2024


Achieving Ivy League Dreams: Insights from Lina Lin, Yale University

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Navigating the college admissions process is a daunting journey filled with anticipation, anxiety, and hope. To shed light on this intricate path, we explore the inspiring story of Lina Lin, an incoming student at Yale University. From childhood aspirations to strategic application decisions, her experience provides invaluable insights for prospective students aiming for Ivy League schools. Jump to YouTube section

Background and Inspiration

Lina Lin hails from New York and has just completed her first year at Yale. Her academic interests lie in economics and data science, driven by a commitment to curiosity and a desire to understand how financial systems work. Her family's background in the restaurant industry has also influenced her interest in business and economics. Jump to YouTube section

The Decision to Aim for Yale University

Lina’s aspiration to attend an Ivy League school began in ninth grade. With a penchant for early preparation, she researched college admissions processes, read blogs, and watched YouTube videos about college applications. Her proactive approach and love for planning set her on the path to aiming for prestigious institutions like Yale University. Jump to YouTube section

College Applications and Acceptances

Lina applied to around 15 colleges and was accepted by seven or eight, yielding a 50% success rate. She applied to a mix of local state schools, schools in the South, and several in the Northeast. Her selection criteria were influenced by geographic location, her parents' preference for her to stay close to New York City, and her interest in liberal arts colleges that emphasized a broad-based education rather than specialized or professional studies. Jump to YouTube section

Selection Criteria and Information Gathering

Lina used a combination of college websites, student-made YouTube content, and direct communication with current students via email and LinkedIn to learn about colleges. She also found Reddit threads and high school alums insights to be particularly helpful. While she did not visit any colleges in person due to COVID-19, she utilized virtual tours and information sessions to understand each institution's culture and environment. Jump to YouTube section

Strategy for Early Action and Decision

Lina opted for early action rather than early decision because she needed more clarity about her top choice. Early action provided her with a safety net of potential acceptances without the binding commitment of early decision. This strategy allowed her to keep her options open and avoid the stress of potentially not getting into her dream school. Jump to YouTube section

Choosing Recommenders

Lina chose recommenders based on their ability to highlight different aspects of her academic and personal strengths. She selected her math and history teachers from her junior year, focusing on those with whom she had built strong relationships through active participation and engagement. She advised students to approach potential recommenders early and provide detailed information about their accomplishments and personal attributes to ensure comprehensive and personalized recommendation letters. Jump to YouTube section

SAT Scores and Class Rank

Lina did not take the SAT due to COVID-19 disruptions. She graduated with a 4.0 unweighted GPA, and her school did not rank students. She emphasized taking AP and dual enrollment classes to differentiate oneself academically. Lina believes that while standardized tests are gaining prominence due to grade inflation, they should be considered part of a broader academic profile rather than the sole determinant of a student's potential. Jump to YouTube section

Advice for SAT/ACT Preparation

Lina recommended that students view SAT/ACT scores as a filtering mechanism in the college admissions process. Once students meet a certain threshold, other aspects of their application, such as extracurricular activities and personal essays, become more significant. She highlighted the importance of understanding the test format and using available resources to prepare effectively. Jump to YouTube section

Extracurricular Activities and Leadership

Lina’s approach to extracurricular activities focused on depth rather than breadth. She chose to specialize in one or two areas, dedicating significant time and effort to a nonprofit organization she founded during COVID-19. This organization, centered on economics education, grew from a personal learning endeavor into a large-scale initiative with virtual events, competitions, and a substantial online following. Lina’s leadership in this project showcased her ability to create and sustain impactful initiatives. Jump to YouTube section

The Role of Awards and Recognitions

While Lina believes that awards are important, she stresses that genuine passion and dedication to activities naturally lead to recognition. She advised against pursuing awards solely for the sake of college applications. Instead, she encouraged students to focus on activities they are passionate about, as success and awards will naturally follow. Jump to YouTube section

Essay Topic Selection and Writing Process

Lina began brainstorming essay topics early in high school, focusing on her background and identity. She believes that personal statements should reflect deeply personal experiences and values, while supplemental essays should address specific academic interests and why a student is drawn to a particular college. Lina’s approach involved continuous reflection and journaling, which helped her develop a coherent narrative for her essays. Jump to YouTube section

Balancing Commitments

Balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and college applications was challenging for Lina. She managed her time using a planner and task management tools, setting priorities, and taking breaks when necessary. She emphasized the importance of starting early, planning, and seeking support from peers and mentors to manage the demands of high school and the college application process. Jump to YouTube section

Final Thoughts on the College Application Process

Lina emphasized the importance of being genuine, intellectually curious, and passionate about learning. She encouraged students to develop a unique personal narrative highlighting their strengths and experiences. While rejection is part of the process, maintaining a positive mindset and focusing on what can be controlled is crucial for success. Jump to YouTube section

Insights on GoodGoblin

Lina appreciated the role of platforms like GoodGoblin in providing personalized essay advice, college matching, and application evaluations. She highlighted the affordability and customization of GoodGoblin's services, recommending it to students seeking accessible and tailored college application support. Lina emphasized that GoodGoblin's use of AI technology to offer personalized essay feedback and college matching sets it apart from other services. She found the platform beneficial for students who need affordable options while maintaining the quality of advice and resources.

Lina also noted that GoodGoblin's comprehensive approach to the college application process, including essay writing tips, academic essay tips, and admission counseling, provided her with the support she needed to navigate her applications effectively. The platform's ability to match students with colleges based on their profiles and preferences helped her identify institutions aligned with her academic and personal goals.

In addition to essay feedback, GoodGoblin offered valuable insights into the university application process. It helped Lina understand the nuances of each step and how to present her best self to admissions committees. She appreciated the personalized support and guidance, which gave her confidence in her applications and ultimately contributed to her acceptance at Yale. Jump to YouTube section


Lina Lin’s journey to Yale University is a testament to the power of early preparation, strategic planning, and genuine passion. Her story underscores the importance of authenticity, resilience, and a growth mindset in achieving academic goals. As students embark on college application journeys, insights from individuals like Lina can provide invaluable guidance and inspiration.