Former Dux of King’s College, Amay Aggarwal, will be among the 4.65 per cent of student applicants accepted into Stanford University’s Class of 2021 this year.
Aggarwal also gained admission into the Ivy League’s Princeton, the Joseph Wharton Scholars Programme at the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Yale-NUS, UC Berkeley, and top-ranked UK universities - London School of Economics and King’s College London, among others.
Whilst at the College, Aggarwal’s stellar academic performance saw him receive top accolades in Cambridge International Examinations and NZQA Scholarship Examinations, including an Outstanding Scholar Award.
Earlier in the month Aggarwal visited the College to offer advice to those interested in studying at overseas tertiary institutions. King’s took the opportunity to talk with Aggarwal about his success.
Tell us a little bit about where and what you are studying?
Amay Aggarwal: I will be attending Stanford University later this year. I’m still looking to explore some different options before deciding what specifically I want to major in at University, but I’m hoping to delve into courses from both the sciences and the humanities. The freedom of exploration is one of the main reasons I applied to the U.S. I’m really looking forward to really making the most of my educational experience overseas by exploring a bunch of different courses and really expanding my academic horizons.
How did you find the process applying to different universities around the world?
AA: I feel the process was definitely strenuous, and I ended up spending a lot of time writing, re-writing, and editing my application. The pressure was really compounded by exams around the time that these applications were due.
On the other hand, I also felt the process was a time for self-reflection, and writing all these essays really does make you question who you are, your passions, and your future goals. I also feel like the process itself really pushed me outside of my comfort zone several times, and shaped me into a more well-rounded individual, which, in hindsight, was very useful for self-development.
If you could change one thing about the process, what would you do differently?
AA: I probably would have started the process a lot earlier, as I ended up rushing through some of my essays. Each one ended up taking me a lot longer than I expected, and I remember spending countless hours just on my main common application essay, changing one or two words back and forth until I felt it was just right. It turns out that even after submitting my all my essays, I realised that I still had a typo in my main essay! I also ended up submitting quite a few essays after the application deadline, and I even ran out of time to apply to some great colleges, so the main thing I would have changed would be to start the writing process a lot earlier.
Also, if you’re thinking of applying to the USA or the UK, it’s definitely best to start thinking about these things as early as possible. The US in particular requires a few extra things (ACTs/SATs, essays, extracurricular etc.) that you really need to be thinking about and plan out time-wise. I was planning to sit the SAT in the USA at the start of 2016, but it got cancelled due a snowstorm, and that was the last sitting for that version of the SAT, so a lot of my preparation went to waste. You never know what might happen, so just getting things out of the way as early as possible would be my key advice in general.
What appeals to you about studying at Stanford?
AA: The main reason I chose Stanford was for its location - both in terms of incredible weather, and also the fact that it’s positioned right in the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s pretty exciting to think that people like the founders of Google, Yahoo, Snapchat etc. all went there, and I’m really looking forward to being in an environment surrounded by similar innovators and leaders. But the most important deciding factor for me was that Stanford is very forward looking in terms of technology and innovation, doing research that will probably end up defining a lot of the future. I’m really looking forward to being part of that environment, at the centre of all this research and surrounded by collaborative people that really want to help shape the future.
If you could give one piece of advice to students what would it be?
AA: I feel that high school is the best time to try as many different things as you can to discover what your passions are. Whether it’s a new subject, sport, or extracurricular activity, explore until you can hone in on what you are really interested in. I feel like overseas universities are really looking for passionate people more than anything, and it also makes your high school experience a lot more rewarding, even if you’re not deciding to apply to the US/UK.
There’s no point doing an activity just for the sake of it - your time in high school is really limited, and so my one piece of advice would be to spend it on stuff you’re actually interested in. I feel like that really helps you stand out from other applicants, and these officers who end up reading thousands of applications can really identify when a student is genuinely passionate about something, or when they are just doing it for the sake of it - and I feel that’s really what they’re looking to identify in a top applicant.
Tell us a little about your visit back to the College?
AA: I wanted to give future students a bit of an insight into applying overseas. I also wanted to share some of the things I wish I had known at the time of application, and some of the things I had learnt along the process.
I think having gone through King’s and looking back on my experience there now, I realise that there were so many opportunities available. There was really something out there for everyone, whether it was related to academics, sports or culture. And even if there wasn’t, students were always encouraged to take their own initiative, and their teachers and mentors supported them.
The main idea I wanted to convey in my talk was that at King’s, your teachers really want what is best for you, and they’re more than happy to take their time to provide the guidance you need to help you get to where you want to be. I personally felt comfortable approaching multiple teachers to read my personal essays, practice subject-specific interviews, and generally provide any support I needed with the application. So I wanted to convey the idea that you shouldn't be afraid to ask teachers for help - they'll go out of their way to support you!
What are your long term plans after University? Are you thinking about staying overseas?
AA: I’m currently learning Mandarin Chinese in Shanghai, but I do hope to return to New Zealand after my undergraduate study in the States.