[Photo credit: slaviccenters.duke.edu]


It makes my heart sing whenever I see or hear from my students in the U.S. and abroad that they have not only achieved a key life stage goal (such as getting admitted to a dream university, landing a great job, or getting a promotion) but also become stronger, better, and more confident individuals from my success coaching and guidance. The elite U.S. college admission decisions have begun rolling in for this season. Here is one (with permission granted from this student):

From: WeiLer Tan
Subject: Acceptance and Thanks
Date: March 25, 2016 at 9:24:44 AM PDT
To: Jason Ma

I never thought I would be sending you such an email at the conclusion of this admissions cycle, but I am. I would like to inform you that I have, I quote exactly, “been offered a place in the Class of 2020 at Duke University.” A dream come true for me, and you cannot imagine my joy and excitement as I saw those words on the portal.

More importantly, I would like to express my sincere thanks to you for everything you have done for me in the process of this application — regardless of the result of my applications. I want to say thank you for being so dedicated and 110% serious about helping me not only to gain admission, but also, more importantly, improve and become a better, more competent person, for being such an on-the-ball and responsible mentor (even more than me at times!), and for teaching me so much about how to succeed, be driven, and be passionate. I feel deeply grateful and extremely humbled to have had such a selfless, outstanding mentor.

You are an inspiration to me in many ways, and I value the lessons you have taught me. They will stay with me as I go to Duke and beyond. I sincerely hope to continue learning from you and keep in touch with you despite your busy schedule.

Wei Ler


Words cannot fully express my warm feelings. Honestly, I didn’t think Wei Ler stood a chance of getting admitted to the elite Duke University, because of his relatively subpar grades in his competitive international category as a Chinese Singaporean. But he got accepted–in the Regular Decision pool after getting a deferral as an Early Decision applicant.

In his case, I would say that the power of his character, story, and other success ingredients together made him irresistable for an admit by Duke, his dream school. I say this within my perspective of the successful and not-so-effective patterns recognized having personally guided hundreds of high achievers to get admitted to literally all of the elite U.S. colleges and universities and coached and mentored many on how to succeed in life, college, and career, through the years.

The high school years and the college application season are stressful times for many achievers. I feel their pain but am excited about their opportunities and future. Admission is merely a stepping-stone to greater success. It matters to me to help students transcend their difficulties and excel in areas of their lives that really matter to them. During students’ critical years in high school and college prep, I feel a need to expand their horizons and help straighten and shorten their paths to success with a long-term view. In addition to the strategic and pragmatic college planning, application, and admission process guidance, I hone their practical emotional, social, and leadership intelligence, critical and creative thinking skills, as well as worldview. High IQ matters, but distinguished and sustainable EQ is necessary for stars.

Now, if you know of any students within your family and friends circle admitted to good colleges and universities this current season, please exercise your compassion and congratulate them. Send them my Forbes article titled “When to Say No to Harvard.” The gist of this article actually talks about the difference between research universities vs. liberal arts colleges, some of the popular college ranking publications and what’s really going on behind the scene (it may not be as clean as some think!), and the importance of fit and belonging from the standpoint of the most important person—the student. Credit goes to Forbes’ managing editor for his creative article headline suggestion.

Since I had published this Forbes article, it is good to see that LinkedIn launched its own University Rankings based on career outcomes. This practical resource has become one of my favorites to use when guiding high school and college transfer students.

Almost all students who’ve applied to top-tier universities and colleges will face at least some rejections. It can be emotional but it’s not the end of the world! Please be kind and help console them. I wrote another Forbes article titled “How to Handle College Admissions.” Would you consider forwarding that as well?



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