Event Recap: 'Pursuing Business in College' - GFB CON 2022

Written by Sharon Lee on Saturday, 03 September 2022. Posted in Event Recap

Graphic by Lily Wei for Girls For Business

The third event of GFB CON 2022 was the ‘Pursuing Business in College’ Panel, where attendees got to have a chance to ask incoming university freshmen about finding their path to college,  college application process, and finally their future plans for the next four years.


Angela Xu is an incoming freshman at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and plans to concentrate in Business Economics and Public Policy (BEPP) and Business Analytics. She is interested in the intersections between business, tech, and social impact, and throughout high school involved herself in nonprofits relating to gender and educational equity, along with teaching robotics and doing research internships. For her business-related extracurriculars, she used to be a Director of Mentorship at GFB from 2020-2022, and was an Executive Council Member of her DECA high school chapter.


Lauren Volkodav is an incoming freshman at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she plans to study Computer Science, Economics, and a third undecided major. Lauren used to be a Business Analytics writer at GFB, and was involved with journalism and the intersections between technology and business in high school. She spent the past summer researching the impact of Bitcoin as a legal tender in El Salvador on sustainable economic development.


Vivienne Sam is an incoming freshman at the University of Toronto, and is part of their world-renown Rotman Commerce program. She is interested in real estate and international business, and will explore different concentrations as she attends school. Vivienne used to be a Director of Outreach at GFB from 2021-2022, and also participated in DECA throughout high school.


After the introductions, we moved on to the Q&A session:


Q: What do you think was the most important thing you did in high school that made you stand out in your college applications?


For Lauren, it was participating in unique extracurriculars. She did research with a professor at Columbia, which many people do not have the opportunity to do. Therefore, she was able to highlight something with a lot of rigor in a particular field, making her stand out.


Angela mentions that the thing that she thinks made her stand out was pursuing activities for which she already had an interest in – social impact – and when so because of the dedication it became easier for her to craft her own story in her essays.


Vivienne says that she did a bit of everything, and that what she did in high school, anyone could have done. She mentions that in Toronto the application was a bit different – interviews and applications are on the spot, and essays are timed in-person, so with the format being more on-the-spot, participating in clubs and activities that helped her hone those kinds of skills helped her a lot.


Q: What is the main piece of advice you would give to people applying to your specific college, and what are some of your experiences in the college application process?


Lauren mentions that when she was applying to schools in the UK, admissions officers emphasized looking at the whole “holistic picture” of prospective students. In the UK, test scores are more important than in the US, so making sure to keep a high score and showing a lot of character in her applications were what was important to her.


Angela applied via CommonApp in the US, and she says that while it is a holistic process, the emphasis is usually placed on the essays. Her advice is to start early on the essays, as it isn’t something that you should rush, and also getting familiar with a narrative-type writing style.


Vivienne emphasizes that the most important thing that colleges want to see is the person behind the application – so rather than writing what the school wants to see, you should be who you are. She mentioned that there was a bigger emphasis on test scores and grades when applying for Canadian schools, and that it was for each individual school inside the university that she had to write a bunch of supplemental essays.


Q: How did you know you wanted to go into business, and really find intersections you were interested in?


Lauren says that because everyone in the panel is so young, it’s hard to figure out what they already want to do for the rest of their lives. What Lauren is planning to do is explore many different areas of business while she attends school, specifically where business intersects with other fields.


In high school, Angela had no idea what she wanted to do and just joined a lot of clubs to do what she liked. She ended up becoming invested in business clubs like DECA and GFB along with a lot of other interests, and so when she was applying to colleges she reasoned that since business is such a broad field, can be rather interdisciplinary and explore her interests as she figures out what she wants to do.


Vivienne agrees with Lauren and Angela, and also mentions that she used high school to find out what she didn’t like, crossed it out, and then decided to pursue business as it’s so broad and you can take anything out of it.


Q: What was the criteria most important to you when choosing the college you wanted to apply to?


The key factors Lauren mentions that she looked for when applying was prestige, size, location, and the academic offerings. She also highlights visiting the college and getting a feel for the student body as something really important to do.


Angela wanted to go to a mid- to large sized college that was out-of-state, and outside of rankings and prestige, she was looking for a college that was more flexible and interdisciplinary so that she could study other subjects she was interested in.


A big thing for Vivienne was tuition – and so since she is a Canadian citizen she gets to pay a pretty good price for education. She was also looking at opportunities in the city itself, which Toronto had a lot of.


Q: What is your biggest tip on balancing extracurriculars, academics, and social life?


Lauren details her rather unconventional journey through high school, which started with two years at boarding school. There, she had more time to focus on school work since she was with her classmates and teachers 24/7. In sophomore year she decided to do online school for the rest of her high school career, which allowed her more time to do extracurriculars and research – for example, this year she interned the whole year at a law firm, which she would not have been able to do had she gone to boarding or regular school.


Angela mentions that she has always been a big procrastinator, and was really bad with time management. A thing that worked for her, though, was finding the most productive time of year for her, which was later at night. That way, she would do the more small tasks earlier in the day while focusing on larger, harder tasks in the evening.


Vivienne says that, like Angela, she is also a huge procrastinator. She said that in senior year of high school she tried to get herself under control by getting the larger projects done a lot earlier, and save the small tasks for later. In terms of having a work-life balance, she says not to overload yourself too much and prioritize mental health.

Then the panel moved on to live questions from the audience:


Q: How did you research and evaluate which University Programs were the right fit for you?


Lauren emphasizes the importance of talking to students who actually attend the schools you want to go to. She mentions that a lot of her high school classmates goes to her current university, and so she talked to them and professors at the school to get a feel for what kind of opportunities in research there was.


Vivienne agrees with Lauren, saying that she had a lot of people she knows go to her school in Toronto, and she asked them a lot about what it was like at the school.


Adding on to that, Angela mentions that watching vlogs on Youtube of real students who go to the school you want to go to is an option if you don’t know anybody who actually attends the school. She also says visiting the schools or going on a virtual tour of the campus is something nice to look into.


Q: (to Lauren) How did you get the opportunity to do research with a professor?


She had a friend who recommended her to a program called Pioneer Academics, and so she applied and got “matched” with someone in their pool of professors, which is how she got picked to do research at Columbia’s School of International Affairs.


Q: Do you have tips for interviews with alumni or admissions officers?


Angela mentions that the alumni interviews she attended did not weigh as much if at all in her application process – it was really just a way to see if she was a real person with a personality, and that you are who you say you are. A few tips she gives is that she should do research about the school for the interview, and prepare a few questions for the alumni so that it brings a good atmosphere.


Lauren says that a lot of her interviews were not important in the application – rather it is something important for the student, so they can get the chance to ask questions and get to know the school more.


For Vivienne, the interviews were more important because she did not have to write essays for the school. However, she mentions that they were generally really easy and to not stress about them too much.


Q: In terms of writing essays, did you guys have a more independent approach or did you rely on feedback from outside help (friends, family, etc.)?


When she was writing her essays, Lauren mentions that she just had her friends who were already in university edit and give suggestions. She also talked about how some of her friends who went to top universities hired college counselors, which she says may not be necessary.


Angela mentions using online articles, essay help websites, and Youtube Videos as a source of help and inspiration. The Youtubers she recommends are The Kath Path and Dyllen Nellis, both of which have amazing tips for drafting essays. She wrote the essays by herself, but when it came time to edit her essays, she reached out to her close friends at school and university to help her out.


Vivienne mentioned that she got a college counselor, and it helped her a lot since she was not as confident about her writing abilities. The biggest thing that helped her was asking people closest to her so they could see if they felt a sense of who she really was in her writing.

Thank you to our amazing panelists for sharing their insights on the college admissions process!

About the Author

Sharon Lee

Sharon Lee

Sharon is a Business Education Writer at Girls For Business.

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