Consultant Spotlight: Lin from Harvard Kennedy School & UCLA Anderson School of Management

TAOA Consultant, Lin

Lin has both a MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management. He was a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow at Harvard and a member of the UCLA Anderson Honor Society (top 15%). He received full-tuition scholarships at both institutions. Lin received his BS from Cornell University, majoring in Policy Analysis and Management.

During his academic career, he was intimately involved in admissions. At the Harvard Kennedy School, he served as the organizer of the Public Policy and Leadership Conference (PPLC), where he worked closely with the admissions office to select high-achieving undergraduate students for a four-day crash course on how to become a public policy professional. At UCLA Anderson, he volunteered as an Admissions Ambassador and conducted 30 admissions interviews for the MBA program.

He began his career teaching high school math as part of Teach for America. Sensing a glaring hole in higher education counseling at his school, he started coaching students after hours on how to apply for college. After getting his MPP, he became a consultant for Education Resource Strategies, a non-profit that worked with public school districts to tackle their strategic and organizational challenges.

But a passion for international affairs compelled him to move to Asia and embark on a new career: journalism. What began as a 6-month stint eventually lasted three years, in which he wrote for the New York Times, South China Morning Post, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), and The Straits Times, covering politics, business, technology, cultural, and travel stories. He also produced TV news packages for China’s CCTV International. He returned to the US afterwards for business school.

Lin is currently a strategist in the technology and creative industries in San Francisco.

Our Interview with Lin

What schools did you attend for undergrad and grad school?

I attended Cornell University and received a bachelor of science in policy analysis and management. I also have a MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I moved around a lot when I was a kid, and grew up predominantly in Syracuse, NY, Singapore, and Seattle, WA. I currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What was your career like before grad school and what is it like now?

Before attending the Kennedy School, I was a high school math teacher in the Mississippi Delta. The Kennedy School gave me a set of analytical tools that allowed me to become a management consultant for the education sector, primarily serving school districts, after I graduated. I decided to change careers and became a journalist, covering Taiwan and China, from 2010 to 2013. I then went back to school and got my MBA at UCLA. I am currently part of the corporate communications team at Adobe, focusing on presentation and speechwriting for our C-suite executives.

What influenced you to go to grad school?

For me, both rounds of grad school were inspired by a desire for a career change. As a teacher, I was looking for a job that would provide greater scale and social impact, and so I decided to get my MPP. When I was a journalist, I covered the tech industry, and wanted to be a part of the industry from the business side, so I left Asia and came back to the United States attend UCLA, which is a tech-focused business school.

What was the most challenging part of the application process for you?

I am a natural storyteller, so the essays and interviews are usually never the issue. For me, it was the standardized tests (GMAT, GRE), and well as the process of deciding which schools to apply to based on how the schools matched my career interests and training needs.

Tell us one of your favorite memories from graduate school.

During both times I went to graduate school, I had the good fortune of doing international client projects as part of thesis requirements for graduation. At the Kennedy School, I wrote a report on post-disaster sustainable development practices, and traveled to Sichuan, China, to advise a local NGO after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. At UCLA, I worked with the School of Nursing to scope out Kenya’s public health infrastructure and find a pilot site for a mobile health app that would serve pregnant women.

How long have you been with TAOA and what led you to join the team?

I have been working part-time for TAOA for two years. What initially led me to join was a desire to help others find the right path, and tell the right stories, so that they can shine through their graduate school applications and admissions interviews. I am also a classmate of Kaneisha, so it is great to work with her again for a good cause.

Would you say you have any specialties when it comes to client work? If so, what are your specialties?

My specialties reflect the experiences I’ve had, which includes MPP admissions, MBA admissions, crafting stories for candidates with non-traditional backgrounds, and interview prep. It helps that I’ve worked with the admissions offices at both the Kennedy School and UCLA Anderson to select applicants during my time as a student at these two institutions.

What are three things you would want The Art of Applying’s clients and subscribers to know about you?

I’m great at listening to your reasons for applying to school and figuring out how to frame it for the admissions committee.

I can help transform your essay by editing it so that it flows much better as a story about your background, aspirations, and goals, but I do need you to fill in the content (usually at my request).

I had full scholarships to both the Kennedy School and UCLA Anderson.

Anything else you want to add?

Even if you don’t have a traditional candidate background, do not worry about it too much, because graduate schools are always looking for candidates who will bring diversity to the class. But they want to make sure that you have a solid reason to attend, and that you’ll likely be employed after you graduate.

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