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As a high school student in Winnipeg, Canada, Yanyu was interested in many different fields of study, from political science and computer science, to biology and physics.
While he knew he wanted to make a difference in the world, he didn’t know exactly how he’d make his mark.
Yanyu found himself paying a lot of attention to what his friends were doing and what his family suggested he pursue. This made him feel uncertain as he prepared to apply to university. “How can I turn all my interests into one clear path and goal?,” he thought.
Yanyu connected with a Youthfully coach to gain confidence and clarity about his future. To him, choosing a field of study was the most difficult part of the university application process.
Yanyu and his coach started by exploring his strengths, interests, and skills so that he could improve his self-awareness and make sense of what would be truly fulfilling to him long term.
Next, his coach provided Yanyu with all the information he needed to make an informed decision. Together, they mapped out potential paths Yanyu could explore in university and beyond, and did extensive research about each. Having all the necessary information made Yanyu feel more confident that he was making an informed choice for his future.
That’s when Yanyu discovered that his true passion above all his other interests was cognitive science.
“Gaining clarity [with my coach] set a direction for my future. It really helped to set my future direction, not just for applications but beyond that and into university.”
“With my coach, I built a really good foundation, from which I made my future plans,” Yanyu says. He recalls that because of the coaching he received, he was able to confidently make tough decisions before applying to university.
Once they discovered his true path and identified the end goal of getting into university for cognitive science, Yanyu and his coach began the process of building his university application.
First, they did some post-secondary planning so that he could make a list of the best university programs to apply to and take the prerequisite courses he needed in high school to be eligible to apply.
Then, they focused on ways that they could use his experiences to make him a stronger applicant. Yanyu had always been really active outside the classroom — he had many extracurriculars that were scattered and not unified.
To help him tie everything together to a unique and cohesive university application that would stand out, his coach took a strategic and intentional approach to identify meaningful experiences that would help build Yanyu’s profile.
After discussing it more, Yanyu mentioned that he saw a video on MSR testing on animals, which tests for self-awareness in different species. When reviewing a list of species that are believed to have self-awareness, he noticed that many of them were social animals.
After he learned more about the topic and did some research, he decided that he wanted to get his argument out there. His coach suggested that he turn this into a summer project and write a research paper and try to publish his thesis.
Together they broke down the process of writing, editing, and submitting his paper into smaller tasks so that they’d be more manageable and his coach could keep him accountable.
His coach helped him narrow down his thesis and create a structure for his paper, while providing support along the way when any roadblocks occurred.
Once his paper was written, he submitted it to get published. After a few rounds of edits and improvements, he submitted it again and it was accepted by a journal called Frontiers in Psychology.
Today, his paper received its first citation and was referenced in Discover Magazine and Popular Science. He was also invited to serve as referee for a researcher’s submission to the Journal of Cognition.
This was a huge victory for Yanyu and really provided validation that he was pursuing what he was truly interested in and was making the right decisions for his future.
“In my coaching discussions, my coach provided macroscopic support and we set a structure and broke my project into smaller tasks to make it more manageable. Setting up the schedule in this way ultimately helped me to complete my paper.”
After this amazing accomplishment, Yanyu gained more confidence and learned that he could do truly amazing things if he created a strategy for success.
His coach helped as he searched for internships that were aligned with Yanyu’s interest and goals, while gaining experience that would build and strengthen his university profile.
Yanyu found an internship he wanted to apply to with a professor at the University of Manitoba who works in animal psychology. Yanyu worked with his coach to perfect his resume and do some mock interview preparation. In the end he was invited to participate in one of the professor’s canine cognition projects.
This internship was a game changer because it helped Yanyu get even more confidence that he had chosen the right field of study.
After the experience, they continued this strategic and intentional approach with other extracurriculars using his interests and then converted those into a well-rounded profile that would give him experience beyond cognitive science. For example, Yanyu became the vice president of finance and corporate sponsorship at Youth for Canada, which stemmed from interest in finance since he was younger.
“By working with a coach, I got the tools I needed to be successful and really carve out my own path – separate from what others expected or wanted. Together, we looked at the big picture, and my coach helped me figure out what would truly make me happy and be fulfilling long term.”
When it was time to apply to university, Yanyu and his coach strategically chose a shortlist of universities that were perfectly suited to his interests and goals.
Because he had taken the time to really explore his interest in cognitive neuroscience and build self-awareness with the help of his coach, this made the application process much easier because he knew exactly which schools could help him pursue his interest.
Then, they worked to effectively communicate all his accomplishments inside and outside of school, as well as learning outcomes and skills from his various activities. “I went from wanting to apply to seven different programs to one. I now know exactly what I want to do both at university and after, and this translated into very clear essays,” Yanyu says.
In the end, Yanyu was accepted to all the schools he applied to in Canada and the United States. He plans to pursue a career in cognitive science, and his goal after university is to start a business that will allow him to create a device that will find different neurological patterns of people who are neurologically divergent, and then accurately track and find those patterns.
Are you unsure how to identify your interests, and then translate them into a well-rounded application? Apply to a 1:1 coaching program to discover more about yourself and execute a meaningful project that will stand out to universities and employers.