Education Consulting

Boutique is an education consultancy that specializes in editing and enhancing the admissions application essay, as well as other education services. Founded by Juli Min, Harvard and Andover alumna.

Filtering by Tag: high school

One Vivid Andover Memory

I was a 13-year-old girl from a mostly white and Asian suburb in NJ. I had never been acutely made aware of my Korean-American background. Race wasn't an issue in my life. 

I was in large part naive; my surroundings allowed me to remain so. I had read books dealing with race, and I had an understanding of history and current affairs. But I had no firsthand experience with discrimination, and race was not something I thought about often. 

When I came to Andover, there were no issues of race as far as I could tell. Kids were nice, well behaved. In that kind of environment, it's easy to forget about a problem that isn't yours. 

Every Wednesday afternoon, Andover students gathered in the chapel for All School Meeting, or ASM. Usually, ASM is a performance, a program, or a guest speaker. 

One Wednesday, a speaker walked on stage, and I'll never forget how he opened his speech: 

"Everyone raise your hands," he ordered. All 1,100 students and faculty raised their hands. 

"Now, keep your hand up if you've ever thought about the color of your skin in your life." Most students kept their hands up. A few very honest ones pulled them down.

"Now keep your hand up if you have thought about the color of your skin in the past year." Many students and faculty lowered their hands. I, too, lowered my hand. I hadn't thought of my race since I could remember, really. 

"Keep your hand up if you have thought about the color of your skin this past month." Even more hands dropped.

"Keep your hand up if you have thought about the color of your skin this week." Few hands remained. They were distinctly the hands of minority students at Andover.

"Now keep your hands up if you've thought about the color of your skin at least once today." 

Those hands stayed up. 

I was shocked. Maybe it was because some of those students were my friends and I never thought of us as remarkably different. Maybe it was because I didn't think there were race issues at Andover, which seemed like the safest haven in the world. Or maybe it was the truth that shocked me: that every single day, these students thought about the color of their skin, whereas I didn't have to. How different our lives were, and how much energy that must consume. 

What stayed with me that day was a sharper awareness of the world and a reminder of the non-sibi (not for oneself) philosophy that Andover tries to impart on its students. Without that lecture, who knows how much longer I would have gone through my young adulthood only thinking about racial awareness as an abstract idea through my own subjective lens, without thinking about how racial issues impacted the psychology of others? Maybe only a couple years. Maybe my entire life. 

That Wednesday's ASM stands out to me as an example of what a great school can do for its kids. And one reason why parents might choose to send their students to one school over another. I was fortunate to attend Andover, with its resources, great teachers, college prep, and financial aid endowment. But Andover was truly great because it went one step beyond facilities and opportunities. It also sought to make its students better, more understanding, more enriched and engaged. Those goals were written into its motto. And they were achieved through the school's unique structure, its funding of special events and programming, and its emphasis on living a moral life. 

To parents looking at schools, I suggest asking the school what it stands for. What is its motto, or its vision for its students, beyond academics? And  what does the school do to back that up?

Even though I graduated from Andover 10 years ago, I remember that ASM vividly to this day. I can still remember the jolt of understanding I had, the feeling of illumination and also discomfort at dealing with a new reality. Those feelings are the germs of learning and growth - in school and in life.

Summer Programs for Writers

"Write the best story that you can and write it as straight as you can." 

- Ernest Hemingway

Are you the next Hemingway or JK Rowling? If your passion is writing (fiction, poetry, screenwriting, play-writing, etc.), consider some of these summer programs for young writers. I have chosen these for their prestige, competitiveness, rigor, quality, and reputation. Many of the programs listed below are hosted at universities that host the country's most prestigious MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) programs in writing, and many times the teachers at the programs are MFA faculty and candidates themselves. Talk about mentorship!

Meet other talented peers, workshop your pieces, and prepare to enter national writing competitions. I'll have another post shortly on writing contests and opportunities. Make sure to check deadlines, and mark them in your calendar for next year if this coming summer does not work out. 

  • University of Iowa Young Writers Studio
  • University of Iowa Between the Lines
  • Princeton University Summer Journalism Program
  • Stanford University High School Summer College
  • UVA Young Writers Workshop
  • Telluride Association
  • Interlochen
  • Juniper Institute for Young Writers
  • Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop
  • Walnut Hill School for the Arts
  • Sarah Lawrence Writers Workshop
  • California State Summer School for the Arts

As always, reach out if you have any questions, or need assistance with your application. 

Structure Your Summer

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer." 

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The summer is fast approaching, and many high schoolers will by now already know how they are spending their break. If you still do not have plans, think seriously about what you want to be doing, whether it is spending time with family, getting a job, volunteering, learning a new (coding) language, or attending a program. 

Programs are great because they provide structure and encourage productivity. They also give a glimpse into campus life. On the other hand, they can be costly, and some are money-making schemes that are best avoided. My general rule of thumb is that a student should think about attending a program if she has a special skill set she really wants to enhance, or if she can gain admission into a prestigious and competitive one (better yet, an all-expenses-paid one!). Otherwise, I am not a huge fan of general "college prep" programs, or other generic and wide ranging "humanities" or "leadership" programs. Make sure to inquire about the daily and weekly schedule - watch out for programs that are heavy on fun trips and socializing but light on the coursework. 

If you don't have a specific agenda, don't go to a program for the sake of going to a program or filling up your summer. In many ways, getting a job painting houses or volunteering at the local animal shelter might be a more valuable use of your time - not to mention probably will lead to a more interesting personal essay. 

If you choose not to attend a program (or for the weeks that you are not in a program), it is a good idea to structure your summer and breakdown your larger goals into deliverables (project management lingo from my days at the hedge fund!). For example, let's say you've decided to write a book. Be honest a tough with yourself: 

  • How much (exactly - in words/pages/etc.) will you complete?
  • How will you structure your day to stay energized, happy, and productive?
  • How will you manage other competing priorities?
  • How often will you check in and evaluate your progress?
  • What will you do if you can’t deliver?
  • What will you do with your product afterwards?
  • Who is going to hold you accountable?
  • What is your reward and “punishment” system?
  • Who will objectively measure of your success, and how?

Answer all these questions when setting any of your goals, so that you can give yourself the most realistic and challenging summer projects possible with the precious time you have. Whatever you choose to do this summer, even if it's as simple (and inexpensive) as reading a book every day, get the most out of it by creating structure, and then setting deliverables. If you're reading every day, why not keep a blog about the experience? :) Document everything. If not for your future self, at least for your future college essay. 

If you need help structuring your grand ideas, or ideas on how to best spend your summer, reach out through the Contact form. 

My next few blog posts will list the best summer programs for those interested in writing, art, science, math, and technology.