Meet the girl who received a full-ride scholarship from Harvard: “Just listen to yourself”

“Even the acceptance rate is just 5 or 10%, it’s still much higher than 0%. I think everyone should aim for the moon because if you miss, you will land among the stars.”, said Le My Hien.

Earning full-ride scholarships from many top-ranked universities in the world: Harvard, Duke, Amherst…; Le My Hien, a 12th-grade student from Tran Hung Dao gifted high school,  became the pride of the whole Binh Thuan province. Hien is also the very first student of Binh Thuan to receive a full scholarship from the prestigious Harvard University.

(*) The full-Ride scholarship is an award that covers the entire cost of college, including tuition, room and board, textbooks, school materials, and sometimes even living costs and study abroad fees.  These are highly sought-after, highly competitive awards that are only given out to an incredibly small fraction of students—around 0.1%, in fact.

Hien is a self-motivated student who is very energetic, always seeks knowledge and proactively reaches out to other seniors to ask for experience.  Mrs. Le Thi Hao, Hien’s mother, shared that, “When it comes to studying, I never have to complain or worry about Hien throughout many years. Hien always works hard, strives for knowledge and directs her own studying.  My family’s financial situation is not that good. I can’t get time for Hien as well, since my job involves strenuous work and long hours. It’s fortunate that Hien possesses a good self-study attitude, therefore in spite of many hardships I have to get through, I’m still happy to see my child try hard and now finally achieve great success.”

Being aware of the financial status of the family, as well as understanding that the application process to U.S. colleges requires a lot of money and effort. In 2019, Hien applied to College Compass – the college admission program by Everest Education – as per her seniors’ suggestions, and got a full scholarship from the program.

Mr. Don Le, CEO and chief adviser of College Compass, had a private interview with Hien, where she shared her own experience of applying to top colleges in the U.S., as well as gave some good advice for those who want to take on that journey.

Don Le: First off, congratulations to you and your family, how do you feel right now?  Can you share your feelings when getting accepted to such a great college like that?

Hiền: Yeah, at this moment, I still can’t believe that I can receive admission letters from many prestigious schools in the world like that.  When reading words in the acceptance letters from those schools, my greatest emotion at that time was the feeling of gratitude. I felt grateful for all the sacrifices of my family, my mother, my teachers and friends, and everyone who put their trust in me and stood by my side along the way.  I feel like I’m continuing on with their dreams.

Don Le: Now that you got all the results and have more time to consider, you’re in a great position – being accepted to 4 prestigious universities in the world, how do you feel right now?

Hiền: I believe there must be some reasons for the admission officers to decide to put their trust in me.  There are a lot of young, passionate, and hard-working students out there just like me. I think that I was lucky in this journey and got tickets to top schools in the world.  I think I have a responsibility, an obligation to pay back what I have received so far. The letter of admission to Harvard, to me, comes with that obligation and responsibility.  Not only do I have to improve myself day by day, but I also have to serve the community and people around me.

Don Le: Obviously, what you achieved is very significant, not just for yourself, but for your family as well.  You know, Harvard each year will just offer 1 or 2 full-ride scholarships to Vietnamese students. What does it mean to you personally? 

Hiền: To me, the story is never about getting accepted to big-name universities, it’s more about how much I grow up throughout the application process, as well as how I was able to reflect and understand more about myself.  I have learned to keep my thoughts more open, take time seriously to think about my own values, what I need, what I want and what I have to continue my path in the next few years. In my opinion, the university is just a milestone, what is even more important is what you will do with the knowledge and experience that you’ve gained.  It may sound a bit too much to say it was a “life-changing” milestone, but I think I have been growing tremendously thanks to the application process. Through the process of applying for universities in general and applying for College Compass in particular, I realized that I am more mature.

Don Le: When you look back on the whole journey, I’m sure there are a lot of people who have supported you.  There’s a saying in English: “It takes a village to raise a child”, who enables you to get this far? 

Hiền: Looking back on the long journey to come this far, I think it’s my mom and my aunt who have always been inspiring me, taking care of me since I was a baby.  Their sacrifices, both physically and emotionally, have shaped me into the person I am today, either through my thoughts or my actions. They are a great motivation that pushes me forward and keeps trying to make my dreams come true.

Don Le: Let’s go back to your junior year, what was the thing that you most worried about?

Hiền: To me, it was my financial background.  In fact, to be well-prepared for one application to a U.S. college, you need to be ready in everything, from standardized tests to essay classes, which are obviously, out of my family’s financial capacity.  However, I was so lucky to receive a full scholarship from College Compass. The teachers and consultants at College Compass are very caring and dedicated, and always support me whenever I need help. Besides, I also received a lot of good advice from seniors, brothers and sisters who went through this process before.  I believe this is the most valuable thing I can get out of this program because all those lessons and experiences from them are the information that no book or internet can provide me.

Don Le: So, can you share one of the most memorable moments that you have during one year with College Compass?

Hiền: I think the experience of studying with other people was my most memorable experience at College Compass.  I’ve always enjoyed listening to everyone’s stories, I think everyone is special in their own unique way. By listening to their own stories, I can learn a lot from them.  My friends at College Compass were very open to sharing their own stories, and I think it was an amazing experience that I hardly have in real life.

Don Le: What is the biggest lesson that you could learn from College Compass? Hiền: The biggest lesson that I could draw is, do not let the fear of failure make you stay in your comfort zone.  Actually in the beginning, I never thought that I could have the chance to get into top universities, but the teachers, brothers and sisters at College Compass helped build up my confidence.  They made me realize that even the acceptance rate is just 5 or 10%, it’s still much higher than 0%. I think everyone should aim for the moon because if you miss it, you will land among the stars.

Don: When you look at the application process itself, which part do you think for you was the hardest?  Hiền: I think it’s thinking of ideas for supplement essays.  The objective of the main essay is to introduce a memorable story about yourself.  The supplement essays are meant to add other aspects of yourself, so their ideas need to be original, unique and interesting.

But because of the large number of required supplement essays, I felt a bit overwhelmed during the application process. However, College Compass has weekly individual discussions, where I was able to work privately with my consultant via Zoom.  He helped me discuss and develop ideas for supplement essays. If I had to do it all alone, I don’t think I could be able to make it.

Don: What is the most valuable advice that you receive from Mr. Việt Anh – who spent most of the time supporting you?

Hiền: It’s about choosing schools.  Because I feel like the main problem here has never been the school’s name and its reputation.  My opinion is to choose a school that has core values aligned with my own. Defining the value of those schools was a very challenging task for me. Mr. Viet Anh has helped me with orientation, given the criteria that I need to consider when choosing a school, such as the student community, the class size as well as the location of the school. I really appreciate his help.

Don: If you had to give one piece of advice for the next generation of College Compass, what would you say?

Hiền: I would say just listen to yourself.  Because the world outside is very noisy, isn’t it?  It’s hard for us to listen to what our heart really wants, listen to our true self.  Additionally, we are easily affected by plenty of different advice from people around us. I agree that you should listen to advice, but you should also keep your true colors, do not let it be too dim among dozens of people’s advice.  I hope you all see this as an opportunity to grow up, so whatever the outcome may be, be consistent with what you believe in yourself. And instead of thinking about factors that are out of your control, just focus on what you can do well.  Regarding managing the application deadlines for all schools, my only mantra is: “Don’t procrastinate.” I will try to split my day into certain scopes of work. I also keep a notebook with me whenever I go to note down ideas that come up in my head at any time, so I can save time thinking of ideas for supplement essays.

Don Le: Thanks Hien for your interesting and thoughtful sharing today!  I think the best thing you can do to express your gratitude is “pay it forward. College Compass has helped you, and we hope that you can keep helping other people.  Keep learning, improving yourself, and give the opportunity you have received to others, that would be the best “thank you” that we are honored to receive from you.

College Compass is a college admission consulting program by Everest Education – guides G11 students step-by-step through the rigorous application process with a high-quality, cost-effective package. Our alumni have been successful in their application to the most competitive schools in the world (Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Cornell, Williams, Amherst, New York University, Northeastern University, Bates, Minerva,…), and we’ll guide you to succeed too. With the lead of our experienced counselors and excellent graduates themselves, you can control your application process effectively, and turn your dream schools into reality. College Compass is now offering 10 scholarship for the next cohort of students in 2020, learn more at:


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