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Sal Khan's story: Making high school count

Video transcript

- So what did I do in high school that I guess optimized my college application? And I could talk about it now in hindsight, you know, more than 20, oh, boy, I'm getting old, more than 20 years after the fact. But I will say, especially earlier on in high school in ninth and 10th and 11th grade, I really didn't fully appreciate, I actually didn't know what was good or bad. But now I think I have a better lens on what actually did help. You know, even entering high school I had a strong interest in math and science. In fact, I was just curious in general. I just liked learning things. And so I was always eager to take the most challenging courses that my school had to offer. So I think that was really important. One, that prepares you for college, but it also shows admission officers that you're up for stepping out of your comfort zone and stretching yourself. And as I got into my later years in high school, as I'd kind of maxed out a few of the math classes that my high school offered, I went to the Universtity of New Orleans and I took classes there. And I think, once again, and I think I actually even met a few folks from my university later that said, no, that really made your application look good, that you continued to challenge yourself. You didn't just say, oh, I did as much as I could do with the resources at hand. You looked for new ways to challenge yourself. And so I think that's always a good idea. Whatever your circumstances, try to push and figure out and pool resources that allow you to grow. On the extracurricular side, some of you all might have guessed, I was on the math team. I was the captain, which I enjoyed. And, you know, it's about math. But it's also about leadership. It's about motivating other people. It's about mentoring other people. So I think that reflects well in an application. But it wasn't just about math. I also was really into art. And so we had a school newspaper, a very good school newspaper, actually. And so I became the art editor of it eventually. the guy who writes the cartoons or draws the cartoons and does a lot of the layout. And, you know, one, I didn't do that to get into college. I did that because I just really enjoyed it. It was one of the best experiences I had in high school. I learned a ton, but I think it did help my application. You know, other things I did extracurricularly, I ran for class president my junior year and lost. So that was just, I guess a good experience. I didn't think it was a good experience when I lost. And actually, I don't know if that actually helped my application because I think I was too embarrassed to write that I lost. But in hindsight, I probably should have written. I could have probably written a pretty good essay about just what I learned from that experience. And then the last piece is on the standardized tests which are clearly an important part of applying to college. I think what really helped me is I didn't wait until the last minute to take the SAT and the ACT. I took them, I left a little bit of room, so... I took them once earlier in my career, you know, before my senior year. And I got okay scores, but I felt that I could get better scores. And so I had room so I could take them again before the actual college applications were due. And in both the cases of the SAT and the ACT I did much better the second time. So I think it was really important that I left that flexibility open. So, yeah, that's my best guess of what helped my college application.