Advice Column, Education, Parenting

Educational opportunities for brilliant young minds

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This time of the year is an exciting period for learners who have dared to dream of studying in the United States of America. From December to March, universities like Yale, Princeton and Duke send out feedback to hundreds of thousands of students who have applied for a spot on their prestigious campuses. Harvard alone received a record 42 743 applications this year, of which it typically accepts less than 5%.

More and more South Africans are setting their sights on an exclusive overseas education. The internet has broken down many of the barriers to information that previous generations faced, while the desire for diverse student pools has made top-ranked campuses increasingly cosmopolitan. The trend is also in part due to the arrival in the country of educational mentoring companies such as Crimson Education, who assist high school students to navigate unfamiliar and rigorous applications processes successfully.

“The key to a strong application is to prepare well, understand what makes a great application, and to demonstrate passion and initiative. Understanding what makes you unique will help you stand out,” says Rebecca Pretorius, Country Manager of Crimson Education in South Africa. The company employs strategy consultants, tutors and mentors, who are graduates and students from top-ranked universities, to help gear a student’s high school years towards landing a spot at their dream campus.

Top-ranked universities offer excellent facilities, educators, alumni networks and opportunities to work on cutting-edge research projects, or intern at global companies. They also have the resources to provide substantial financial aid to those who need it. Some universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Princeton, use a need-blind acceptance system. They send out acceptance letters without knowing the financial resources of the applicant; “All accepted candidates are seen as deserving of a spot, and the institution undertakes to help fund them,” says Pretorius.

“Young people are very pragmatic about education in this globalised world. They realise that a top-ranked degree is a great launching pad for achieving their career goals – which are often entrepreneurial and geared towards solving a problem back home that they care about,” says Pretorius.

For Crimson Education, a big name is less important than finding the right fit for each learner. Their consultants use a specialised algorithm developed in-house to help students to successfully navigate a pool of over 4 000 institutions, the top 100 of which are all considered world-class. “We create a balanced shortlist of universities for each student to apply to, maximising the chance of acceptance to your dream school, while minimising the risk of rejection,” says Pretorius.

The company itself has unexpected roots that explain its reverence for youthful ambition and brilliance. It was founded in New Zealand in 2013 by two high school students, Jamie Beaton and South-African born Sharndre Kushor. Now, aged 23 and 24 respectively, they oversee operations in 24 cities worldwide. Beaton is a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, having completed his undergraduate and a double masters at Stanford Business School in a mere four years. Kushor studied Population Health while steadily growing the company and honing its model for team-led mentorship.

“The model developed by Jamie and Sharndre, with its focus on individual interests and passions, has achieved a 100% success rate – with all of our students landing a spot at least one of their top eight university choices,” says Pretorius. The company has helped to secure over 330 offers to the top 50 universities in the United States, 133 of which are Ivy League. Over the years, their students have secured $45.7-million in scholarships.

South African students and parents who are inspired by the idea can attend one of the company’s information sessions by emailing southafrica@crimsoneducation.org.

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