An interview with Jae Young Lee, a Wharton student
“I want to use my knowledge and skills to change the world.”
Every successful person has his or her defining habits. Never being late for a meeting, making to-do lists, or persevering in problem solving are all small things that most people fail to do, but things that could potentially be one’s key to success.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton MBA program is often considered one of the best in the world, among similar business programs from Harvard and Stanford. Young Lee, a recent admit to its undergraduate school as part of a dual-degree program, shares some of his own methods of achieving success.
From staying up late solving math problems during childhood to learning to make sure not to miss even the smallest reminder by keeping an updated to-do list, Young has finally started to see results from his efforts. I had a chance to interview Young, the student determined to follow through and persevere with just about everything he does.
Q: Congratulations on your admission to the dual-degree program at Wharton. How does it feel?
A: It feels amazing. I still cannot believe that I got in. It is truly relieving to see that all my efforts finally yielded results, and I am extremely grateful to everyone who was there to support me throughout the process.
Q: Was there any particular reason you decided to apply to this program?
A: I attended a summer camp at
Penn last year thanks to a current Wharton student I know who told me to apply. I didn’t expect much from attending at first, but I found myself falling in love with the university and the dual-degree program. The campus is large but walkable – it’s very much like a city but like a university at the same time. The people I met thought the same way I did, and all of these things truly appealed to me. The three-week program also explored all the different disciplines of business and engineering, which ultimately piqued my interest and made me apply Early Decision to Penn.
Q: Was Wharton your goal from the very beginning? Did you prepare for it specifically?
A: I’ve always wanted to go to a university in the United States, but I didn’t have Penn really in mind until that summer camp. And so, I didn’t do anything in particular just for Penn – I just maintained the academics and extracurricular activities the best I could regardless.
I’ve attended Elite since middle school, and its advisers and teachers helped me significantly in choosing my school and program. From essay writing to standardized testing to filling out the Common Application, Elite made sure I had my best foot forward for the Admissions Office.
Q: As Penn (and especially Wharton) are very prestigious universities, it would seem like they would have very high standards for admission. How did you prepare to meet these standards?
A: To be honest, I didn’t do anything in particular just for Penn. I played music and participated in sports just as much as the average high school student. Instead, I think that being outgoing and networking with those around oneself is what sets one up for new and exciting opportunities. From being Co-Chair of the business conference Illuminate Vancouver, to being the Secretary-General of Canada International Model United Nations’ 2016 Conference, I was able to assume all these leadership positions due to reaching out in my personal network.
In particular, through Illuminate Vancouver, I was able to bring together all sorts of high school students with similar attitudes and mentalities towards business and its related areas. I think activities like this one, where it directly relates to the major I am applying for, tend to appeal to admissions officers considering whether I am fit for their school’s program.
Q: Is it hard to balance all of these activities with school?
A: Definitely. That said, working with other people and experiencing things in the real world is a great learning experience, while being fun at same time. The Model UN conference I mentioned earlier happens only once a year, but takes an entire year to plan. With over 600 participants, CAIMUN required me to learn how to find hotel venues, negotiate legal contracts, keep track of finances, find sponsors, and delegate tasks to other members of my team. Once the conference ends, planning for the next year’s conference begins right away. Of course it’s a lot of work, but the skills and lessons I’ve learned from this has been very valuable to me, which I why I am still involved today.
Q: You seem to have a very proactive mindset. How does that feel?
A: I’ve told told since I was little that I am a very extroverted person. If I am interested in something, I tend to pursue it to the very end, and keep trying to solve problems until they are solved. Also, I got into the habit of keeping track of the small things by writing everything in my to-do lists.
Q: What’s one thing you really want to do at Penn?
A: Even though I am majoring in business, I still don’t know which aspect of business I want to go into. That said, I want to experience all the different areas at Penn before deciding my concentration. I also want to get to know my new friends at Penn, and enjoy university life as it is.
Q: As you have already been doing so many things this early on in life, I’m curious as to what you want to do in the future. What do you want to do?
A: It may sound a little cliché, but I want to use my knowledge and skills to change the world. I want to take a great business idea – whether for a product or a service – and use it to help the underprivileged in the world. The idea would have to be as innovative as Facebook, for example; if I had an idea that big, I really do think it would be possible to achieve my goal of helping others in need. It wouldn’t matter who they are – what I create would make people’s lives better, even incrementally. I want to build a happier world.
Q: What do you think helped you the most in getting into Penn?
A: The unrelenting love and support from my parents, my family – especially my brother – and my friends has been my greatest help. In particular, my brother helped me a lot as he went to an American university before I even thought about applying. His experiences, knowledge, and lessons all became extremely valuable information to me, and I owe him almost everything for helping me achieve the things I did today.
Furthermore, as someone who has been attending Elite’s Coquitlam Campus since middle school, I became well-acquainted with the headmaster there as well as its teachers, all of whom gave me a lot of support and advice as well. At times when I wanted to quit trying, they were the ones who motivated and inspired me to keep pushing forward. I chose to apply to the dual-degree program on my own volition, but it was the teachers who helped and allowed me to be admitted to that program. I am extremely thankful for everything they have done for me.
Q: What kind of advice would you give to future prospective applicants applying to American universities?
A: Doing things just for the university application is never a good thing. Admissions officers truly can tell when you are doing an activity for the sake of placing it on a resume. Furthermore, all the activities and interests that you pursue must come together to build one unified “platform”. It must connect to something fundamental about yourself, whatever that may be; in the end, your story must flow and be coherent.