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Dreaming of Ivy League

Illustration by Linda Widjaja

Have you ever thought about attending Harvard, Yale or Columbia, but considered it simply inaccessible? One student, who gained admission to a handful of the world’s top-tier universities, may just change your mind about that. His name is Jamie Beaton: he’s 21 years old but his game-changing business plan has made him worth approximately $40 million. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but no, it’s not because his father gave him a small loan of a million dollars.  

How it began

All throughout his teen years, Jamie had his heart firmly set on attending an Ivy League university. He performed in a league of his own academically, while taking on all the leadership and extra-curricular opportunities that he could get his hands on. With stellar high school results, he applied for about 25 different universities in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Despite his proven intelligence, these highly competitive university applications were not easy for him to comprehend as a teenager from New Zealand. He was faced with an incredibly complicated application process, full of various layers and facets to be considered.

“It was near impossible to navigate alone” he says. Whilst hedging his hopes on going overseas, he felt increasingly concerned when many of his peers were unsuccessful with their first course preference, after following the ‘conventional’ advice they were given at school. In early 2013 however, one particular set of emails dramatically changed the following years of Jamie’s life. 18 year-old Jamie from New Zealand was accepted into every university he applied for, including Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford and Yale. Choosing his original dream of Harvard, Jamie was soon on a plane to Boston for their mid-2013 intake. Although Jamie is only 21, he has now graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Mathematics-Economics, and a Master of Science in Applied Mathematics, two years ahead of schedule.

It didn’t happen overnight for him though: Jamie took a very focused, intensive and strategic approach to his course work during his schooling. Being told by teachers across the board that he needed to ‘slow down’ only inspired him to move faster. Throughout high school, he took ten A-level exams, which was more than double what most students in his year sat. He managed it all through very early preparation, and by having a lot of inspiring advisors and tutors helping him master the content quickly. He was also constantly striving to uncover new realms of knowledge beyond the classroom, often resorting to his own self-directed study beyond school hours. “I believe my ability to self-study was a key factor in my college applications and my ultimate acceptance into Harvard”, he explains.

After countless weeks of confusion spent on mastering applications, and considering every minor detail, Jamie realised he couldn’t sit still any longer. He came up with an idea that could really shake things up for naïve, misled high school students who were constantly told to aim lower than needed, especially those in New Zealand and Australia who saw American universities as nothing but a fantasy. Jamie identified the need for a service, which could accelerate the aspirations of high school students to international universities. He decided to launch a company that could help other students achieve their dream: whether it was Ivy League, Medicine at their local university, or anything in between. He was sick of seeing talented, well-rounded, driven students told there was ‘no need’ to apply for a tertiary course outside their home country.

The business

In 2013, Jamie and his partner Shandre officially founded education consultancy firm Crimson Education. “We both put in many awesome, sleepless days and nights to grow Crimson to where it is today; operating in 10 cities and with a network of over 2,000 tutors and mentors worldwide” says Jamie. During the early days of the business, while waiting for the American university calendar to begin mid-year, he kept himself very busy. He was working part time at an investment unit, chairing a government-funded organisation called YouthFund that made grants for youth-led initiatives, all the while completing 5 subjects at the University of Auckland in second-year Maths and Economics. Jamie and Shandre invested all the money they had at the time, which was only several hundred dollars, for some initial website subscriptions and a company registration. Once Jamie established the Crimson team in New Zealand and soon after Australia, he divided his focus across his Harvard studies and in 2016, graduated from a double degree before gaining admission to further his study with a Masters of Business Administration at Stanford. “It has been a crazy, rewarding journey so far”, he says.

While Ivy League universities have a notorious reputation for being only accessible to insanely privileged students, Crimson takes on clients who are very far from the elite upper-east-side of New York. They aspire to help students realise their potential by assessing their candidacy, and then connecting them with tutors, mentors and consultants who can set them on a clear path to achieve their academic and career goals. Jamie says that they “see students achieve what they never thought was possible, to the point that the landscape of opportunities they can go on to achieve in their life is fundamentally reshaped”. When Crimson gets a student from Camberwell into the University of Pennsylvania, or from rural New Zealand to a full scholarship at Duke University, it’s nothing short of a complete game-changer for the individual, their family, and their community. Despite the stereotypes around these prestigious universities, and the exceptional help Crimson offers them, Jamie still insists that a lot of the success his clients achieve is self-driven. “Obviously, circumstances that are beyond your control can have a large impact on your life, particularly in self-realisation, motivation and psychological development” he states. “However, I truly believe that the ability to self-motivate and persist through hardships can help you overcome any number of circumstances and help you succeed.”

Despite what many might think, Crimson understands that most students can’t afford to pay the cost of a non-subsidised tertiary degree. But, many of the universities Crimson’s clients aim for don’t require students to have a lot of money. In the case of Harvard, for example, “no American college is more affordable”. At Harvard, parents earning less than $65,000 USD annually are expected to contribute nothing. “Admission is based on relative performance with consideration of your environment” says Jamie. The college also specifically states that “wherever you are from, whatever your citizenship, applying for financial aid will not hinder your chances of admission”. Crimson seeks to overcome these misconceptions about prestigious universities and bring the focus away from money and back to nurturing student talent, regardless of socio-economic background. Crimson also provides financial aid that any student can apply for. It is means-tested and merit based, so families can qualify for subsidies or free tuition. They’ve also launched free online platforms such as ask.crimsoneducation.org and hub.crimsoneducation.org, which are a big part of their focus. They emphasise that it is merely a widespread misconception that Ivy League universities are financially inaccessible, as institutions like Yale and New York University award nearly all of their students with scholarships. “A reason Harvard is so competitive is because they have hundreds of millions available in financial aid, for students who get in but can’t afford it” Jamie explains.

Jamie’s advice

Crimson is now providing students with the service Jamie always needed but never received. Accordingly, he says that the most basic and accurate business advice is to simply find a problem and solve it. “You need to find a problem that affects a niche market, and work out how to meet that demand by solving the problem” he says. After that, “agility and responsiveness to change is essential”. He particularly emphasises that you need to focus on your differentiated contribution to the world. “Kick-starting your business will require a lot of time, effort and sleepless nights, it can be an exhausting journey.” He says that for a disruptive business to grow and thrive, you must accept and embrace making ripples in the industry you are tackling. “If you aren’t creating ripples, you aren’t innovating hard enough!”

From his own experience, Jamie realised that what you study, how you study and your intensity of study is incredibly important for setting you on a rewarding career path. “It can also help you seize additional personal development and growth opportunities in the early stages of your life”, he adds.  He believes that self-motivation and hard work simply play the most pivotal role in a students’ ability to excel at university and maximise their potential. “I understand that it can be hard to pursue beyond the standard curriculum as you’re often told you’re taking on too much, or that it’s not necessary, but choosing to be curious beyond the standard syllabus can only do you good” he explains. To Jamie, being passionate about what you’re studying is vital. “Once you realise the area of study that you are passionate about, it becomes so much easier to excel and realise your maximum potential.”

If Jamie could say anything to his younger self, it would only be to have more confidence in his ability, and to trust his own judgment. “Trusting your ability and your own judgment is vital in growing as a person and can help you uncover new passions that will fuel your desire to succeed.” Jamie explains that it’s so easy to become the victim of the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ that plagues communities in Australia and New Zealand. “It’s so easy to just coast through secondary school and university without shaking the status quo or putting yourself out there by risking failure for the chance of a big reward” he says. Once he began trusting his own judgment, his confidence and conviction grew. “The whole process of life and education is like a marathon: you need to have the right motivation, the persistence, the endurance and the strategy.”

Through global expansion and careful investment, Crimson is worth approximately $205 million today. While he has earned an impressive amount financially, unlike most students, there are no parties or holidays happening any time soon for Jamie. All his capital goes straight back into growing his business so Crimson can continue to unlock the potential of more students each day. Jamie’s lifestyle can be summarised in three of the words he frequently gives as advice: work insanely hard. “Taking the path less travelled is hard work, really hard work – but the end result can make it all worthwhile”, he concludes.

Jamie’s success not only inspires students all around the globe to aim higher than they’ve ever been told, but it also proves that Ivy League dreams are for more than just the ‘elite’ members of society. At the end of the day, Harvard doesn’t need any more student money. They’re far more interested in your brain, and what change you can bring to the modern world.

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Many thanks to Jamie Beaton and the whole team at Crimson Education for making this article possible. For more information on Crimson Education, visit crimsoneducation.org.

 

Jamie at his graduation

 

Sophia McNamara

The author Sophia McNamara

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