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A Filipino student got into Harvard, Princeton, Yale with full financial aid—here's how he did it

By Ratziel San Juan Published Apr 18, 2023 10:38 am Updated Apr 18, 2023 11:11 am

Carl Audric Guia caught the country's attention after posting that he got accepted into three of the "most selective schools" in the world: Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

He got into these Ivy League institutions as well as other prestigious universities abroad that were all willing to cover his expenses. Though the schools that accepted him didn't have named scholarships, he received financial aid awards covering tuition, housing, food, travel, and even health insurance.

"That just means the award depends on how much you and your family asked for, and these universities try their best to ensure that finances are not a barrier to getting an education," Carl told PhilSTAR L!fe.

The problem for him is no longer getting into one of his dream universities. Rather, it's about choosing which one.

"As of the moment, I have yet to officially commit to a school. Now that finances are out of the way, my ideal school would have a strong astrophysics program and broad research opportunities. Academically speaking, the schools that accepted me are all top-notch, so I guess my decision would come from the littlest things like vibes, community, and frankly, gut feeling," Carl explained.

Doing well in school will get your foot in the door, but grades and test scores might not always be enough. It's also important to showcase your personality.

Carl attends the University of the Philippines Rural High School, where he is just as active in extracurriculars as he is in academics.

Having developed an early interest in astronomy and intending to study astrophysics, Carl engaged in various STEM projects and competitions. This showed that he made consistent efforts to follow his passions even before applying for college.

For him, this paid off when he worked on the application processes for his target universities, which usually required from the applicant a list of their activities and awards in high school, on top of the standard things like grades, test scores, and recommendations.

"Doing well in school will get your foot in the door, but grades and test scores might not always be enough. It's also important to showcase your personality, and the best way to do this is by pursuing activities that genuinely interest you. I guess finding out about your interests and having the initiative to pursue them can go a long way," Carl advised.

Of course, there were also essays that ranged anywhere from 650 words to as short as 200 characters.

"These schools genuinely want to know your way of thinking and your personality, so the challenge is highlighting what's special about you beyond your grades and achievements," Carl shared.

He acknowledged that the process might seem intimidating for many, as it did for him, but he clarified that there is help all around if one knows where to look for it: "I am so grateful to be mentored by non-profit organizations like CAUSE Philippines and EducationUSA. They both have super hands-on mentors who guided me every step of the way. And of course, reach out! There's no doubt that the entire process of applying to college is difficult, so you'd want all the help you can get."

As for studying tips, Carl confessed that he really doesn't have an elaborate strategy when reviewing.

"For example, in math or science, I just look up practice exams online and try to answer as many questions as possible. That way, I can really make sure that I can face any problem thrown at me during an exam. When it comes to memorization though, flashcards can be a great tool. But then again, this is my learning style, so don't be afraid to experiment," Carl said.

Carl is set to graduate from high school in July 2023.