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"A time for everything."| A Yale Student's Advice on College Apps

Updated: Aug 1, 2021

We had the great opportunity of interviewing Kai Xu, a student at Yale University, about: College Application


Kai Xu is a student at Yale University majoring in Computer Science and Economics. He has been involved in the tech team of the Entrepreneurship Society, in addition to the development of an ornithopter in the Undergraduate Aerospace Association. During the past year, Kai interned at FounderTribes, an entrepreneurship startup, and Certree, an anti-fraud startup. In high school, he was involved in music production, computer programming, and their areas of intersection. Currently, Kai is also working on a research project in topography.



Here are some main points he stresses:

  • "Trust that everything will get done."

  • "Don’t judge a book by it’s cover."

  • "It is important to be kind and grateful."


Q: What are some of the most important steps to take when preparing for college and when should they be taken?

A: Plan your essays the summer before senior year. However, don’t expect things to get productive until a month before college apps are due. Trust that everything will get done, seriously. Engage yourself in various ways starting from your first year of high school.




Q: When should I begin applying for scholarships and what scholarships are worth applying for?

A: Apply for scholarships during junior and senior year. Your school cultural groups or PTSO may offer some. Otherwise, apply for scholarships that pertain to the things you are good at. Try to apply for scholarships before and after college apps.




Q: When should I begin applying for financial aid and is it for everyone?

A: Apply for as much financial aid as you can. Try to apply for financial aid before and after college apps. Or, you can get a job. College is expensive, and try your best to reduce those expenses.




Q: How many colleges did you apply to and what are some key factors you considered?

A: I applied to several UC schools and several HYPSM schools. Key factor is personal fit. National rank and major rank matter, but personal fit is crucial.



Q: Did you visit any college campuses? Does visiting them really change your choice or decision?

A: I was lucky to have had the opportunity to visit some colleges on the East Coast. An important principle: don’t judge a book by it’s cover. By the same means, don’t judge a college by it’s architecture. Also, it could happen to be that your tour guide did a great job, or perhaps not so great of a job. The quality of a particular tour has a very low correlation with the quality of life as a student on that campus. It is key to read online reviews and do your own research into the classes being offered.




Q: Which teachers should I ask for teacher recommendations and how should I ask them?

A: Ask one humanities teacher and one STEM teacher. You could perhaps ask one more person who knows you well. It is important to be kind and grateful. These teachers are willing to help you because they sincerely care about your future. You should reciprocate by letting them know how much you appreciate their support.




Q: What do you think are some of the most important things that colleges consider and how did you make yourself stand it in that aspect?

A: Make sure your essay is something that an admissions officer will remember for the rest of his or her life. Your essay is the place where you can rise beyond the realm of numbers to become a living, breathing entity.