Dr. Mao is not a typical “college counselor,” or even a college counselor at all. Dr. Mao was more like a “life counselor” throughout my four years of high school. Dr. Mao would ask me big, philosophical, difficult questions: what are my interests? What do I want to do? What makes me happy? What kind of person am I? Like a detective, Dr. Mao always started by asking these big questions, and as we talked, she slowly helped me put together the pieces into the phrases and sentences that became my college essays. It’s because of Dr. Mao’s questioning and investigating that I know myself now, at least a little bit better than I did when I was just another nerd in ninth grade. I hope that Dr. Mao will help many future students to know themselves, and to tell their own stories too.

D. C., Princeton

Dr. Mao’s priority is to coach her students into being well-rounded and decent people. So although Dr. Mao gave me lots of coaching about what classes to take and college applications, the most important things she taught me were not college-related; not directly, anyway, but it turns out that they are the most important skills in life: how to say thank you graciously, to my most helpful teachers. How to ask for help or advice from mentors, by writing a polite email in the right tone — respectful of their time and wisdom, and humbly requesting help. How to find my place in a team, whether I am the more experienced senior, or the totally new member, just there to learn. How to reflect on what kind of person I am, and what my interests are, and my values. When I first arrived at college, I found myself using these skills over and over again, applying to jobs or working at internships or connecting with professors. 

M. R., Harvard

Dr. Mao understands that it is not enough to have an interest (my interest was in astronomy and space) — it is important to find opportunities to grow and nurture that interest. Dr. Mao also understands that an interest never means just “one” thing. When I told Dr. Mao I wanted to pursue astronomy, she didn’t just help me find research positions and other opportunities to get better at astronomy. She also encouraged me to branch out, into community service work, and music. She encouraged me to start a new club, and to start a band with my friends, even though I felt uncomfortable doing it. But I think she understood, much before I did, that the “root” of my interest in astronomy was deeper than just being interested in stars. It was that I appreciated the beauty and elegance of space, and how organized it is, and how that beauty universally serves people all over Earth. She saw that I would find that same beauty through music, and through organizing people in clubs, and through serving other people however I could. Dr. Mao saw me as a “whole person” and gave me the coaching I needed to thrive not just academically, but creatively and socially too.

B. F., MIT

Dr. Mao is an incredibly dedicated, detail-oriented person. She always went the extra mile to make sure I was on schedule with my application, whether it was tracking the many deadlines for transcripts, SAT score reports, and rec letters or checking in with my essay progress. She pays deep attention to every word she reads, constantly checking to see if an essay can be improved and making sure that not a single word is misspelled or not a single verb tense is incorrect. Before I submitted each application, she made sure to print out all twelve pages of my Common App and read them line by line (with a ruler), and in this way she caught numerous typos, inconsistencies, and other mistakes which I had completely overlooked. This rare commitment to the craft comes from what is perhaps Dr. Mao’s most attractive quality: she cares. Through working with Dr. Mao, I can say with certainty that she was 100% invested in me and my future. This knowledge was empowering and inspirational to me, and enabled me to reach levels of success and achievement that I previously could not even envision.

C.  P. ,  Yale

Dr. Mao understands something about college admissions that most people don’t: colleges don’t accept applications, they accept people. Dr. Mao’s approach to college counseling is unique in that it focuses not on optimizing for college outcome, rat-race style, but on becoming a good, complete human being and accepting the prestigious college invitations as a happy outcome of it. Though Dr. Mao helped me tremendously in learning how to study, succeed in a class, and win numerous STEM competitions, the biggest lessons I learned from her were about people. She taught me so many life skills that I realized even my classmates at Stanford are not well-versed in: how to talk to teachers, how to ask for accomodations, how to write formal emails, how to leave a polite voicemail to a potential mentor, how to develop close relationships with my teachers.

L. D., Stanford

Working with Dr. Mao has been an extremely insightful experience. Prior to beginning my college application process, I had been extremely unsure of which schools I wanted to apply to and what I wanted out of my college experience. Dr. Mao introduced a plethora of different ideas and resources for me to look into and guided me in shaping what I wanted my personal academic journey to look like. Her experience and coaching was especially invaluable when I started packaging my application as a whole. She helped me shape how I wanted to present myself as a student, person, and future jobholder. Dr. Mao’s attention to detail and dedication to ensuring that I have presented myself to colleges as best as I could as well as her training in preparing myself for college and real life work has been indispensable.

K. N., UC Berkeley