Beyond TSL: Monica’s College Journey

Beyond TSL: Monica’s College Journey

Beyond TSL: Monica’s College Journey 940 788 Xueying Chen


Several weeks ago, our featured student and TSL alum Monica spoke with us about how her Spike project experience has opened opportunities for her in college. She’s currently in her junior year at New York University Abu Dhabi, majoring in Economics with a concentration in Finance.

Monica took advantage of Spike Coaching starting from the summer after 10th until she was accepted to college. After her initial plan to collaborate with Doctors Without Borders fell through, she stumbled upon urban beekeeping as a Spike Project. With guidance from her Spike Coach, Monica worked tirelessly to scale her Spike in a myriad of ways. Not only did she raise bees, but she also conducted research into colony collapse disorder, sold honey that advertised the pollution rates at the time of harvest, and more. Below is a recap of our conversation with Monica on where her post-Spike journey has led her.

How did you discover The Spike Lab? Why did you want to create a Spike?

I first knew of The Spike Lab because they were invited to evaluate the top ten 10th grade students at Kang Chiao International School. I was one of those students. Through their evaluation, I learned that top universities are looking for unique students who are passionate about something and intrinsically motivated.

Although I participated in many club activities during high school, such as Model United Nations, community service, and internships at Academia Sinica, most of these activities were arranged by adults or organizations. I, like all the other students involved, was only responsible for participating. We failed to demonstrate expertise or initiative. Our club activities weren’t special and had a limited impact on society. Luckily at the time, I still had time to engage in other extracurricular activities, so I decided to launch a Spike Project. I wanted to conceive, design, and implement a major project from start to finish, and also have a noteworthy college profile in the eyes of top universities.

What did you gain the most from working with The Spike Lab?

As a high school student, one of the biggest challenges of creating a Spike Project, from start to finish, is a lack of experience in the “real world.” As I mentioned above, most high school students don’t venture beyond the bubble of a school environment. On the one hand, this inexperience made it easy for me to overestimate how to solve a problem. On the other hand, I had a limited imagination of what was possible.

My coach at The Spike Lab guided me beyond what I thought was possible. For example, when I encountered a problem I could not solve by myself, my coach helped me brainstorm different solutions. His entrepreneurial experience helped me develop a pragmatic perspective. Simultaneously, he helped me foresee difficulties in advance, so I was better prepared to overcome them. Once my beekeeping plan began to take shape, my coach introduced me to different entrepreneurial models and theories to test my ideas, explore market trends, and reduce risk. More importantly, my coach reminded me to review my original purpose from time to time, so that every step I took was meaningful.

When applying for college, my Spike naturally became a centerpiece of my applications. I had practical experiences that proved my -initiative and creativity to the university, and explained my enthusiasm for a specific subject area. I was able to stand out as a compelling application, especially amongst international students who often face steep competition in college admissions.

After starting college, what are you most proud of?

Once I set foot on NYU Abu Dhabi, I immediately became involved in the community by a joining student organization that promotes cultural exchange. In fact, I was the first international student to join this organization. When I was a sophomore, I was promoted to the position of Assistant Manager, in which I was responsible for managing event budgeting and analysis. My on-campus leadership experiences eventually helped me gain a part-time marketing assistant job at The Knot, a local tourism startup company in Abu Dhabi.

I also had the special opportunity to serve as an ambassador to help promote the 2019 Special Olympics held in Abu Dhabi. At that time, the national selection process for ambassadors was fierce. Only a handful of positions were open. I wasn’t actually selected at first, but I still wanted to be involved. So, I contacted the organizer to see if I could contribute through another position. Surprisingly, one of the selected ambassadors dropped out, and the organizer immediately offered me this spot.

The Spike Lab taught me that I need to go after opportunities that I want, regardless of the challenges that arise. From building my Spike, I developed the resilience and creativity required to carve out my own unique approach to making contributions. Even though I don’t always achieve my expectations, I actually discover unexpected opportunities in the process of trying.

How has your experience of creating a Spike affected your life in college?

The biggest impact of my experience launching a Spike in high school was that it allowed me to step out of my comfort zone to try new things. Before The Spike Lab, I never imagined that I would raise bees in Taipei, or even contribute to the environmental issues I care about. This experience helped me understand that my potential is limitless, and it gave me the confidence to try my best in the pursuit of competitive opportunities.

In addition, a Spike is a big project. I had to overcome both large and small problems. For example, when I first encountered urban beekeeping, I had to individually contact professional beekeepers in New York. While marketing the honey I harvested, I had to learn how to market my products and message to customers. These challenges cultivated my ability to solve problems, communicate with others, and take major projects from start to finish. I definitely gained a headstart before I even started college, because I was able to know how to contribute to my community, quickly gain the trust of my teachers and peers, and had plenty of time to explore (or even create) new opportunities.

What advice would you like to share with high school students today?

My first suggestion is to be more adventurous and courageous in trying new things during high school. Many schools have safe and close-knit environments where students can build their own unique clubs, volunteer opportunities, and even venture into outdoor extracurricular activities. However, I want to encourage my younger peers to go beyond the opportunities carved out by their teachers and parents. There’s so much more you can learn from leaving your comfort zone.

The second suggestion is to have more confidence in yourself. Do not fear failure. Once you start exploring the unfamiliar, failure becomes inevitable, but these “failures” are really just small setbacks in the bigger picture. In those moments, have confidence in your ability to overcome these challenges. Resist the urge to belittle yourself or limit yourself, because you really can do it.

Check out Spike Coaching Program to learn more. Want to know how Spike Coaching can help a student develop essential life skills and stand out to colleges? We encourage you to book a free consultation here.