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Yale University

June 18, 2024


Yale University: Lina Lin

Podcast Transcript

Transcript organized for clarity and readability

Lina Lin, Ashish Bhargava

Ashish Bhargava: Thank you so much for joining us today. We would love to learn from you. To get us started, could you share your background and what inspires you?

Lina Lin: Yeah, thanks so much. I'm from New York and just finished my first year at Yale. I'm very interested in studying economics and data science. One of the main motivators for me is my family, but also a commitment to curiosity and a search for truth. I'm very interested in learning more about the world, how financial systems work, and things like that. My parents used to work in the restaurant industry, so having that early grounding in business has influenced me a lot.

Ashish Bhargava: Thank you. When did you decide to aim for Ivy League colleges, and what grade were you in when you set this goal?

Lina Lin: I started thinking about college in ninth grade. I love preparing in advance, so I began reading blogs about college admissions, watching college application reaction videos, and researching how to get into good colleges. It was a stepping stone for what's next.

Ashish Bhargava: How many colleges did you apply to, and how many accepted you?

Lina Lin: I applied to around 15 colleges and got into seven or eight, so about 50%. I applied to a lot more than I probably should have, but it was fine. I applied to local schools, state schools, one school on the West Coast, some in the South, and many in the Northeast.

Ashish Bhargava: What was your selection criteria for reach, target, and safety schools?

Lina Lin: Geography was a big factor because my parents didn't want me to go too far from New York City. I also focused on liberal arts colleges, as I didn't want a very specialized or professional college. I wanted a school with the areas of study I was interested in and a student culture I could relate to. I read reviews on sites like Unigo and Reddit to learn more about the schools.

Ashish Bhargava: How did you go about learning more about the colleges?

Lina Lin: I started with the college's website and watched videos about the college. Talking to current students was very helpful, so I reached out via email or LinkedIn. I also read Reddit threads and spoke to high school alumni who went to these colleges.

Ashish Bhargava: What about visiting colleges? What are your thoughts on that?

Lina Lin: I didn't visit any colleges due to COVID and my parents' concerns. I relied on virtual tours and information sessions. If you can't travel, virtual resources can still give you a good sense of the college's vibe. Sometimes, in-person visits can be biased based on single experiences, so doing thorough research is important.

Ashish Bhargava: What was your strategy with early action and early decision?

Lina Lin: I was indecisive, so I did early action to a few colleges as a safety net, like USC, Tulane, and Georgetown. I didn't do early decision because I didn't have a dream college and wanted to keep my options open. I researched and found that early decision doesn't necessarily boost your application, so I chose early action instead.

Ashish Bhargava: How did you choose your recommenders, and what traits did you want them to highlight?

Lina Lin: Recommenders are crucial because they offer an outside perspective. I asked my math teacher and history teacher from junior year, focusing on teachers who knew me well and could speak to my intellectual curiosity, participation, and engagement. I made sure to ask them early and provided them with information on what to highlight in their letters.

Ashish Bhargava: Can you share your stats for our audience?

Lina Lin: I didn't take the SAT due to COVID, but my GPA was 4.0 unweighted. My school didn't disclose class ranks, but I was likely in the top 5%. I took a lot of APs and dual enrollment classes starting from ninth grade to differentiate my application.

Ashish Bhargava: What are your thoughts on the impact of SAT/ACT scores on college admissions?

Lina Lin: SAT scores are gaining more prominence due to grade inflation in high schools. They provide a standardized measure of academic prowess. While they don't make or break your application, they can help get you past initial filters.

Ashish Bhargava: What was your approach to extracurricular activities and leadership roles?

Lina Lin: I focused on one or two activities deeply rather than spreading myself too thin. I founded a nonprofit organization during COVID to learn more about economics, which quickly scaled up. We hosted events, competitions, and had a strong social media presence. This allowed me to showcase my dedication and leadership skills.

Ashish Bhargava: How important are awards in the application process?

Lina Lin: Awards are important but should come naturally as a byproduct of your dedication to activities you enjoy. Don't focus solely on collecting awards; instead, seek opportunities and let recognition come naturally.

Ashish Bhargava: How did you approach writing your application essays?

Lina Lin: I started brainstorming early and chose topics that were deeply personal and true to my identity. My personal statement focused on my background and upbringing, while supplemental essays addressed specific academic interests and why I wanted to study at particular colleges. Keeping a personal journal helped me reflect on my experiences and values.

Ashish Bhargava: What advice do you have for balancing schoolwork, extracurriculars, and the college application process?

Lina Lin: Start early and plan ahead. Use breaks to focus on applications, and keep a planner to manage your time effectively. Delegate tasks and take breaks to avoid burnout.

Ashish Bhargava: What traits and experiences do you think Ivy League schools look for in an applicant?

Lina Lin: Ivy League schools look for genuine passion, intellectual curiosity, and a commitment to learning. They value academic prowess, kindness, and the ability to voice and execute your ideas. It's important to have unique experiences and to be able to articulate them well.

Ashish Bhargava: What's your take on what GoodGoblin is doing to help college applicants?

Lina Lin: GoodGoblin stands out by offering personalized essay advice, college matching, and evaluations using AI technology. It's affordable and customized, making it a great option for students seeking personalized support.

Ashish Bhargava: Thank you so much, Lina. We wish you the best as you continue with Yale.

Lina Lin: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.