My Education

Tsinghua University

MA | Global Affairs

Harvard University

BA | Government


The Fullbright Program

Taiwan Teaching Grantee

Three Tips for Those Interested in Tsinghua University’s Schwarzman Scholars Program

Kayla Chen, MA - Global Affairs

At least 2 essays, 3 recommendations, short-answers, a video and hopefully, eventually an interview. Outside of fulfilling the requirements, what is necessary for success in the application process?

1. Reflect on How you have Impacted Others Around you in Leadership Roles

The Schwarzman Scholars Program prides itself on attracting the future global leaders of tomorrow. Yes, very ambitious. Some may wonder, is it really that easy to tell? While that is a question that requires more in-depth conversation, there are definitely some promising factors that the admissions committee wants to see. From my experience with the admissions process and my fellow scholars, everyone had some concrete experiences leading projects, teams or initiatives. Some examples include being president of Tsinghua’s Community Service Organization, leading a public health campaign to ban palm oil in foods in their country because it was detrimental to the environment, having their own international crypto-currency start- up and being student body president of over 34,000 students. In my case, it was directing a program for under-resourced young people that provided support and space for young people to produce Community Action Projects on social issues they deeply cared about. So, you don’t have to be student body president or have your own start-up, but what are you passionate about and how has that been proved by your actions? What did all these experiences have in common? They showed scholars’ engagement with the wider world and their ability to take initiative and DO something. It’s not just about the grades, academics and being intelligent. It’s also about how you have proved yourself in a leadership capacity that has greater interaction with the larger society and world.

2. Make it Clear why Schwarzman Scholars

Those of you who are considering applying will have different options to choose from in terms of graduate programs. What is it about Schwarzman Scholars that makes you want to engage in and be part of this community? What does it mean to you? Of course we all would love to have the opportunity to get to know successful young people from all over the world and get a chance to rub some elbows with some well-connected individuals, but past this, why? The answer has to make sense in your narrative. Knowing why it would be a valuable experience for you makes it clear to the Admissions Committee that you have reflected on what you want to make out of the year, how it fits into your plans. Once you know why, you should have some concrete goals of what you would like to achieve. This reflection is more likely to convince them that you will deeply engage and go after what you want. It’s only a short year, so everybody has to hit the ground running to make the most out of it!

3. Be Authentic, So Reflect on What that Means for You

Don’t try to be what you’re not. Pretty generic advice right? However, in this case, it’s extremely important that there is a cohesiveness to your resume, essays and recommendation letters. They can show different sides of yourself, but they can’t be contradictory. What drives you? What motivates you? What makes you get up and DO things. It’s important that you don’t be someone you’re not. Your application will lack depth and cohesion if so because you’re experiences matter here. They will prove your narrative (or disprove it). So with that, this means that you have to do some thinking. What does drive you? What do you want to work on in the world? What are your ambitions and why? You don’t have to know exactly each step of the way what you want to do, but it’s important to think about experiences you’ve enjoyed the most, defining moments in your life, and times you felt the most exuberant and felt like you contributed to something in whatever way. However, small, these things matter in thinking about who you are. Leaders need to have a purpose and it doesn’t need to be standing at the front having everyone listen to you (honestly this isn’t really leadership in my opinion…). Leaders come in all shapes, sizes, personalities and backgrounds. Yet, it is those experiences that shape our success in reaching our goals. If we don’t know why we’re doing something, why are we doing it at all?