admission pro tip #1 – volunteer opportunities

In this post, I want to bring a new perspective to look at volunteering (if you are in HS) or internships (if you are in college). If you are struggling to find the motivation or the meaning to do community service, this post will help you to navigate through the noises and find the right reason for it.

Let’s look at these three students:

Adam is Boys State delegate, VP of student council, and lead actor in regional production of Grease. Counselor notes theater is a college interest and that he’s talented in both musicals and plays.

Bryn is debate president, field hockey co-captain, and is taking self-taught, online Mandarin classes. Latin teacher says she has a knack for quickly learning languages.

Corey is choir secretary, a varsity softball player, and yearbook treasurer. Her counselor notes her impact in changing school social dynamic by solely persuading peers to abolish exclusive class yearbook superlatives and instead allow EACH student to name his own. (Corey has awarded herself “Class Upcycler.”)

Corey’s title is not as prestigious as VP or co-captain but the impact described by her counselor shows her character and deep commitment to changing the social dynamic.

Most students look at volunteering as a graduation or admission requirement. These students tend to accumulate a lot of “volunteering hours” with a “prestigious title” like the president of a “Newly-Founded Organization.”

If you feel pressured to stand out, you are probably not doing it right. Do what you enjoy and have fun doing the most, whether is conventional or not. College admissions are very competitive but they are looking for students who truly do the volunteering work because they care. Therefore, they are more likely to continue to contribute when they are in college and bring impact to their campus.

When you find your interests and participate in the opportunities that show your work and strength, colleges see your character and commitment to a cause.

Participate in community services that you enjoy and have fun with.

  • Identify what excites you
  • Get recognition and feedback on your strengths and impect
  • Connect with people and communities who want to see you succeed for recomendation and referral

I encourage you to recognize what makes your heart beat, what makes you lose track of time, what pulls you out of bed in the morning. You need to be doing something but that doesn’t mean you need to be doing everything.

Be contributive and do your best at whatever you do and related opportunities will continue to show up. Eventually, you will have an application that really stands out, however, not becasue of many prestigious titles but the journey of road less traveled and the character you have become.

In order to get into a top university, is it better to be at the top of your class at a mediocre high school, or near the top of a prestigious high school?

It’s all circumstantial.

That means, to college admission, it does not matter where you go for high school, but what did you do in the context of your environment and resources.

In most cases, students don’t have a say in which school to attend due to school district or parent choice.

So if you do have options, you are the lucky few and it’s an important choice.

  1. Think about your interests and strengths (or even weaknesses), and write them down.
  2. Maybe even your career aspirations. Write them down.

Look at each school carefully, and see what they offer to students, including on-campus curricula and activities, faculty and facility, and most importantly, your potential peers (are they nice? or all jerks?).

Choose the high school that will elevate your learning experience because they have the right opportunities and resources for who you are and what you want to do in the future.

I assume when you say “the top,” you mean academically.

The truth is, to colleges, “being the top” can mean various things. As long as a student is developing the best self and showing actions to prepare for their future, you are at the top, musically, artistically, athletically, academically…etc. You name it.

So, you want to pick your battleground (the right high school) carefully. Find an environment where you will be “the top” because the high school has what you need to become The Top of your version.

Here are 7 factors to consider when choosing a high school:

1. Curriculum

What are the classes you can take? How will they fit into your schedule? What requirements do you need to graduate from that high school, and how does it align with your post-secondary plans? For example, if you want to study music in college, an academic requirement is going to be a basic music appreciation course.

2. Class Size

How many students are in a class? What experience do the teachers have? How will that work for you? For example, if you’re a high-achieving student who needs time with your teachers to build relationships and ask questions, would going from a class size of 20 to 30 hinder your ability to succeed in a class?

3. Extracurriculars

What options are available to you as a student, beyond basic academics? Are there activities for which you’re passionate about that will allow you to become involved in those fields? For example, if you want to be part of a music ensemble or play sports through high school, how many options are available?

4. Co-Curriculars

What opportunities exist to collaborate with other students beyond learning in a class setting? For example, if you’re interested in helping out younger students as an extracurricular activity, does the high school have a mentor program or similar offering?

5. Specialized Programs

What programs or opportunities exist for you to do something that sets you apart from other students in your class? For example, if you’re a writer and want to apply for an internship through your high school, would the high school have staff who know where those opportunities are available locally?

6. Resources

What resources beyond the classroom is the school able to offer you? For example, do you need physical therapy at the beginning of the day? Is there an opportunity for students like yourself to get that type of care on or near campus?

7. Location

Is there a location where you’ll want to stay, or is flexibility important to you? For example, if you’re an athlete, is it important for you to stay close to training facilities if your high school has more than one campus?

I am glad you are asking this question, that means you are thinking and I think you will do great. Keep going!

Find a degree’s worth and its job prospects

In this post, I share an exercise to assess a degree’s worth and job prospects by surveying career potential from alumni, stats from Bureau of Labor Statistics, and more.

Going over this exercise will not only give you a glimpse of your post-graduation future but give you a good idea of where your opportunities lay and potential employers.

It will give you the motivation to get a degree and colleges will be happy you do your research and gladly accept you because you have a plan after graduation. In contrast, most students don’t.

Clarify Your Goals (also, golds)

Muhammad Ali’s famous quote – “If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.” We all agree that education is helpful. The outcome of education can be vague and hard to track sometimes. When we lose sight, we also lose motivation. 

In this exercise, you will go through a series of research on yourself, potential jobs, and earning potentials. Once you identify a few jobs that pay well, look into their educational qualifications. You will get an idea of what kind of degree or certificate you need to get the job you want and the pay that is worth pursuing the education.

Let’s get started with you! Emotion is what drives us to wake up and do exciting things. Imagine you have a job that gives you excitement every day because its work is something you enjoy doing. You can look back at your life experience and find out the activities you enjoy doing and get clues about what jobs might give us the same enjoyment. 

  1. Write down the activities that excite you. Try to think about the events that involve helping others in different ways. For example, I like to listen to people’s stories; I can help people by listening to their problems and discuss solutions.

I am not asking you about your passion. I am asking you to think about how you would like to help one person, a group of people, animals or animals, or anything.  If you can help one stranger, you can find a way to help millions.

Skills are transferable. The skills that you develop in life in the things that you do have value. If you can find a job that employee those skills and because you enjoy doing those activities, you will find a job that you enjoy doing. 

  1. Go to O*NET OnLine and check out more details about those jobs. You want to make sure your expectation matches the reality that the job performs as expected, and it exists.

You cannot believe there are so many different job titles out there! Everyone can find jobs that they like. Take a Career Assessment or just explore thousands of different careers. 

Job titleTasks that you enjoy doingWork activities you like

Your education is going to cost you some money. It’s important to do what you like to do and make sure you can make enough money to pay back your tuition, so you don’t need to worry about not paying back your tuition loan or not making enough money to have a good life.

  1. Visit Job Salaries and look up the salary of the three job titles you found above.
Job Title 1:
Salary Range:
Monthly Earning:
Hourly Rate:
Is it enough for the lifestyle you want to have? If not, how much more?
Job Title 2:
Salary Range:
Monthly Earning:
Hourly Rate:
Is it enough for the lifestyle you want to have? If not, how much more?
Job Title 3:
Salary Range:
Monthly Earning:
Hourly Rate:
Is it enough for the lifestyle you want to have? If not, how much more?

Why settle? Pick the one you like the best, in terms of compatibility and earning. You have 2-4 years to prepare for this job, and education is part of the preparation. Let’s find out the right education that will get you the job. 

  1. Search for the job sites of your favorite companies and see if they have an opening. You are not applying, just planning and preparing. Look up at least 3 of them and copy and paste the link below. I provided some popular tech companies’ career sites – Google Careers: Build for Everyone | Help us build Earth’s most customer-centric company. | Facebook Careers | Jobs at Apple | Netflix Jobs 

Don’t see any job posting of the job title? Try to use different job search websites. 

Job Posting 1:
Job Posting 2:
Job Posting 3:
  1. Identify education, licenses, and/or certificate qualifications.

You are looking for something like “Bachelor’s degree or equivalent post-secondary degree in …” or  “A current, active certification… issued by the State of California …” 

For example,




Related Experience

I encourage you to explore your career choices a little deeper by doing an informational interview. However, you have all the essential information you need before writing your educational goal. 

  1. Describe your educational goal. It should include how did you come to choose this degree or certificate, what qualifications will this education help you achieve, how do you plan to finish the degree and apply to which jobs? Here are some student examples

College transfer pro tip #1 – be a learner and a practitioner

In this post, we are going to talk about the importance of study skills.

I also share actions you can take to establish good learning habits in a week and develop study skills that cut your study time half.

Community college is easier than high school but only for students who have study skills learned from high school.

What if you didn’t do so well in high school because of lacking study skills?What if you were barely surviving in high school, and college-level courses scare the hell of you?

Transferring to UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, or NYU is hard, you don’t need SAT/ACT and you can take your time to study in community college. However, without study skills, you are always going to struggle. No matter where you go.

First of all, let’s change the terminology. Study skills – one of the most searched keywords, is really just a system that a student may use to maintain their academic performance.

Let’s evolve from that because striving for “academic” performance is not a very meaningful goal.

I want you to be a super learner who is able to absorb information quickly and effectively.

I want you to be a practitioner who is able to turn information into knowledge and apply the knowledge to class assignments and tests.

And it’s easier than you think it is

  1. Pay attention in class. Seriously, if you want to transfer, at least attend the class and pay attention to your professor.
  2. Take notes in the class. Although you might read them, research shows that noting helps facilitate information consolidation – in simple terms, imprint to your long-term memory. So it doesn’t really matter what you write, and how you organize the notes, just write down what you think is important in class.
  3. Maintain consistency throughout the semester. If you want a B, get a B on the first exam, first assignment, and first group project above 80% and all assignments and tests above Bs. It makes no sense that you can pull a C to a B because you will “99%” the final. Just maintain the class grade average throughout and catch up as soon as you fall behind. Check your class grade weekly.


There are no magic bullets and no A-student strategies. You really just have to do those 3 things and you will develop your own system of learning.

Pay attention to point no.3, you MAY choose to get a B because you want to focus on some other classes or extra-curriculum. That is totally fine. The goal is to have control over your learning outcome and class grade, not just getting all As. Don’t be unrealistic and school is not everything, I am sure you have other important things to attend to. It’s time to manage your life. That means deciding the results you want to have and how much time do you want to spend on the matter so you achieve the results.

Most students get it wrong that you can always pull your grades at the end. It’s very unlikely. It’s unrealistic. Do your due diligence every day and good results will come. Remember this, how you live your day is how you live your life. 

If you are not happy with your grades, change the way you spend your days.

College Search and Why you are doing it WRONG

I have a bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of California — Berkeley. Sequentially, I earned a master’s degree in Psychology from Pepperdine University. It took me a total of eight years and over $100,000 tuition, not including the living expense.

After graduation, it took me 2 more years to figure out what I want to do with the degrees. 

Hysterical! I spent over $150,000 and 8 years on my education, and I couldn’t figure it out before graduating.

Why invest so much time and money in something you don’t understand.

I look back now and wish I could have done more research into the colleges that I was applying to and what I was gonna do with the degree.

It’s very hard for someone (you) who only has less than 18 years of life experience to plan their future 20 years, but it doesn’t hurt to think about it.

In this post, we are going to discuss:

  1. Why is college search more important than your SAT score?
  2. What is the right approach when it comes to college search?
  3. How to start your college search?

“Is college search important to me? US News has ranked all the colleges. Isn’t the best one the №1?”

Yes, for US News, that’s №1. And they are №1 because they are most selective. That means they are the hardest to get in.

What is your №1? Do you want to go to the most selective college? What does high selectivity means to you? What is the difference between №1 and №2? If there is a difference, and №2 has the major, curriculum, club, faculty, and resource you need for your success. Do you still want to go to №1 the most?

Find your №1 because it’s the best fit and start from there. A best-fit college will give you the education that you need to prepare for the future you want.

Many students don’t think about this as much as I think they should. And I am speaking from my personal experience.

OK. What’s the big deal? Isn’t college experience supposed to be fun and exploratory?

If you have the genius in Steve Jobs, you don’t really need to go to college. Your curiosity and interest will lead you somewhere.

If you think college is still the safe way to go, most people chose that, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

But pick a major that will prepare you for success. Pick a school culture that develops you into the character you will be proud of. Pick a campus where you can experiment and develop your interests with the most cutting-edge facility and faculty. If you are going to invest up to $200,000 on a product, aka diploma or degree, shouldn’t you look more into your options?

First, take ownership of your education from now on. The degree serves you and your aspirations. If it doesn’t serve you, then don’t invest in it.

It means that education is impartial to your journey, but it is not the destination. It serves you, and you will make the most out of it. A proper college search will start right for your higher education journey.

Naive students assume the following, and they are wrong:

  1. Higher-rank colleges are better. That also means their degrees worth more.
  2. Private colleges are better than public colleges.
  3. College education leads to a successful future.
  4. A College degree gets me a good job.

WRONG WRONG WRONG. Here are the facts:

  1. Higher-rank colleges are more selective and more competitive to enter, but that doesn’t mean they provide a better education than community colleges.
  2. Public colleges are just as selective and competitive as private colleges. In fact, 40 of the top 100 ranked by US News are public colleges.
  3. A college education does not lead to a successful future, but it helps significantly if you play your cards right.
  4. A college degree helps you to get your first job; the rest is on you. Supposed you did not choose a useless major that has nothing to do with modern society.

Do your college search right, make the future bright.

Follow the following steps to up your game in the college search, and may those actions result in a new perspective of education.

  1. Cover the Basics: Complete the Comparative College Requirement Worksheet. You can find all the information by search “[the college name] freshman profile.” For example, NYU Freshman Profile. This step helps you get a sense of the competition you are in to apply for the college.
  2. Major and Its Curriculum: Read, yes, you hear me. READ! Every college website is a little different, but they should have the degree requirement or major curriculum that lists the courses you need to take to earn your degree—for example, Electrical Engineer at Caltech and Public Health at UC BerkeleyYou shall have a pretty good understanding of what the degree is about and what you will learn if you apply. Try to think about how will each course and its knowledge help you moving forward with your career.
  3. Faculty: Good professors make big differences in the college experience. You will encounter 30–50 professors throughout the 4 years. They are all experts in their fields, well-connected with their industries, and passionate and able to help young people succeed in life. Go to college websites and search for publication and faculty. For example, NYU Stern Business School has a showcase webpage on their research and facilitiesI hope you find some professors that give you the excitement to go to their college because you will be able to learn from their lectures and have a chance to work on their projects.
  4. Special Programs: If you have decided on your major, look for special programs to enrich your learning experience. For example, MIT has projects to understand how does ecology affects human health. If you can talk about projects or initiatives happening on a college campus and want to be part of it, the college and you can envision how you will contribute to the force when you are on their campus.
  5. Alumni Linkedin Profile: Yes, this is a weird one. But, very important. Colleges will promise you a lot but don’t trust them and look at the results of their alumni. For example, visit UCLA Alumni on Linkedin, search for the majors you are interested in, and see where the alumni are now and what they are doing with their UCLA degrees. Ensure that the graduates from the school with the degree you want to pursue are doing what you want to do in the future.
  6. Club and Social Life: Not so important, but it doesn’t hurt to look them up.
  7. Career Opportunity: College students start looking for an internship in their sophomore year and hope to continue to intern until graduation. The internship experience is the stepping stone to a good and full-time job. That’s being said — you cannot go far for your internship. Can you imagine finding a fashion company in Midwest? No. You need to go to East Coast. Seek for the main industries and companies nearby the campus, so you have the opportunity and accessibility to the right industry that will prepare you for the job you want to do.
  8. Lastly, School Mission and Greats: No college has the same mission, and its campus experience will center around its mission. Many are inspired by it and have done great in life. Below are some missions and the greats from those school

The role of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as the primary intellectual and cultural resource for the state is fulfilled through the three missions of the university: teaching, research, and service.

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of most successful investors, went to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to study business for two years before transferring to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Buffett graduated from the University of Nebraska at 19 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.

The mission of the University of Michigan is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art, and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.

Larry Page, Google Cofounder, holds a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, with honors and a Master of Science in computer science from Stanford University.

Columbia University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions.

Barak Obama, 44th President of the United State, First African-American President and 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, transferred to Columbia University in New York City as a junior, where he majored in political science with a specialty in international relations and in English literature.

All in all — take ownership of your education. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Do your search properly, and your college life will be fulfilling, and your post-graduation life will be successful. You don’t need to go to college, but if you do and do your fucking research.