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Helpful tips about college admissions, test preparation and just being a better student, leader and person from ILUMIN Education.


Elton Lin

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Henry has been providing college admissions counseling in the Bay Area since he graduated from UC Berkeley in 2013. He has worked with a diverse pool of students and is an expert in undergraduate admissions. We are excited to have Henry on board!

We asked Henry five questions to help you get to know him better.

1. What is one of your favorite aspects of working with students?

I really enjoy working with students and helping them customize their path to college. In addition to being their education consultant, I am also their friend who is willing to listen to their story and share my advice--this relationship is no doubt one of my favorite aspects of working with students.

As their consultant, I want to help students get into their dream schools. As their friend, I want them to know that college is not a destination but a journey. Everything they do, learn, and develop in high school is not only needed in order to succeed in college but also in life. My goal is to help them become mature, independent, and capable of making good decisions and acquire a mindset, knowledge, and skills that will last beyond high school and college.

I firmly believe that it is my job to help students develop the essential qualities that will make them successful in life, discover their true passions, and accomplish great things.

2. What is one insight you’ve learned from being involved in the college admissions process?

Unfortunately, well-rounded students are not that appealing to colleges nowadays, especially at the most selective colleges. Why? Because there are so many well-rounded students out there, and it’s difficult for college admissions officers to differentiate one from another. There are thousands of students with an unweighted 4.0 GPA and test scores of SAT 1500+/ACT 34+ applying to Ivy League schools every year, but more than 90% of them will be rejected. If students cannot differentiate themselves from other applicants, their chance of being admitted is slim. Therefore, to stand out from the sea of applicants, besides having all the numbers, students must be truly unique and show colleges what they’ve accomplished outside of the classroom.

Last year, my student M was admitted to Harvard, MIT, and Caltech, and she chose to enroll at Caltech to study biomedical engineering. So what made her stand out? Besides having the perfect GPA and competitive standardized test scores, she devoted a tremendous amount of time to extracurricular activities. She founded the STEM club in her high school, shadowed a physician in a clinic, and was the captain of the badminton team. Most notably, she took a few college-level biology and programming classes at Stanford and had the opportunity to research at UCLA and present her findings during the summer. In her application essays, not only did she talk about her research experiences, but she also incorporated a personal anecdote about a medical condition she had to support her interest in biomedical engineering.

There is no perfect formula for college admissions, but we consultants will do our best to help students get into their dream schools.

3. What do you want students to know?

College admissions officers read thousands of applications every year, and there are very few things they haven’t seen. Thus, students need to be a little more innovative and audacious about their activities in order to create a strong impression. It’s easy for students to simply join activities that already exist. However, students need to take it a step further by creating their own activities.

If the school doesn’t already have a business club, why not create one to introduce students to modern business practices and teach them about investments? If the neighborhood you live in is lacking resources for the homeless, perhaps you can start a school club that fundraises and provides the resources they need. Colleges are interested in everything you do and every impact you make. They want leaders, not followers.

4. What is the most common issue students face in high school?

We only have 24 hours a day and 7 days a week and managing our time can be quite difficult. Students who struggle academically tend to have a time-management problem, which also has a cascading effect on other aspects of life. Some students spend too much time on their phones or computers browsing YouTube or social media. Some students are just not organized and don’t know how to prioritize. Some students have too many activities that take too much time away from their studies.

My job as a consultant is to communicate with students, diagnose their problem, and provide a feasible solution. Usually, I would work with them on a whiteboard and analyze how they spend their time from Monday to Sunday. The fix might be as simple as having a planner like Google Calendar or as complex as helping students identify the activities that maximize the competitiveness of their academic profile. I also set goals for students and follow up with them to make sure they no longer have a problem managing their time and tasks.

5. What is one way you can help?

I consider my own pursuit of my education to be quite unique. I have been to Beijing, Taipei, Portland, Santa Cruz, and Berkeley to study. I also have experience with different educational systems: Taiwan, U.K., and the U.S. My own journey has broadened my understanding of education and the world and has made me aware of the challenges students with different backgrounds might face. My experience has helped me as a counselor and is an asset that I love to share with my students.

Every student is different, and I am willing to listen to his or her story, share my experience, and provide guidance to help and motivate him or her. I want my students to think big, think different, and think smart. I want them to get their hands dirty to experience the world, learn, and make an impact wherever and whenever possible.