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How Cenon Got into Columbia

JUL 21, 2020 • 11 min read

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Originally from a small town in Colorado, Cenon never imagined that one day he would be accepted to his Ivy League dream school; Columbia.

Cenon admits that when he started high school, he didn’t have a clear grasp of what he wanted to accomplish, nor did he have the professional guidance. “I was a blank canvas walking into high school without any advice,” he says. “But while this was overwhelming, I suppose I used my uncertainty to find out exactly where my interests lay, and what I was striving towards once I completed high school.”

When Cenon settled on his Ivy League dream, he knew that to stay ahead of the competition, his application had to be perfect. Speaking of his initial meetings with Crimson, Cenon automatically connected with his strategist Brice, sensing that Brice was just as enthusiastic about Cenon’s goal to gain acceptance to an Ivy league as Cenon was himself.

“Brice outlined the steps that were required for me to reach my goals, and built this big roadmap specifically for me. He told me it wouldn’t be easy, and pointed out what needed to be done, but even then I knew he had confidence in my abilities and would do everything he could to support me.”



Cenon first took the PSAT as a sophomore and was disappointed in his results. He had his heart set on achieving admission at one of the top universities, and he also understood the importance of achieving highly competitive test scores.

“I didn’t know who to go to for help, so I decided to look online for some test prep support and that’s when I found Crimson.”

Cenon was a high achiever at school, and with his Crimson tutor’s guidance, he was able to grow in skill and confidence. Working with his Crimson team, he resat the SAT and instead of being hard on himself, he was able to look at the bigger picture and feel comfortable with the preparation he had done.

“All of my Crimson team, Brice in particular, provided words of encouragement and reassurance. They told me it was going to be OK, that I had done the best I could, and this made the world of difference.”


Cenon explains Brice had worked with countless students helping them gain acceptance to top universities in the US and UK.

“Brice was always so honest and raw and passionate about what he did - what he still does,” said Cenon.

“Initially I didn’t have any idea about which specific schools to apply to, but Brice helped me narrow down on the schools I should be considering using location, major courses of study, and extracurricular opportunities, as some of the selection criteria.”

Together, Cenon and Brice landed on an eight university list, with the list changing slightly during the application process as the pair identified new opportunities and best-fit options.

“The application process helps you identify exactly what you want from a school and with Brice’s help, I was able to fine-tune my passions and gain a better understanding of exactly what I wanted to study.

“Working with Brice was exceptional. I never thought I’d bond with some random person I’d never met before via online discussions. But he gave me honest, expert advice, took me step-by-step through the entire process, and supported me in ways that my high school counselors were not able to”.


Although already involved in an array of extracurriculars, Cenon found support through his Crimson extracurricular mentor, Alek, who helped him develop his activities portfolio.

Deciding which activities to focus on, Cenon selected those that demonstrated breadth and depth as to where he allocated his time, while Alek helped Cenon see the ‘bigger picture’, and showcase what he would bring to the broader Columbia community.

It wasn’t long before Cenon, with Alek’s support, narrowed in on two key passions — the environment and government initiatives. Cenon then proceeded to found the Environment Club at his school, where he also acted as President and invested time in the Youth in Government Program, where he taught government processes to members of the YMCA.

In looking back, Cenon believes that not only did Alek provide direction as to how he could shape his extracurricular portfolio, but was also there as a sounding board.

“Alek kept me motivated and focused, rather than just telling me what to do,” said Cenon.

“He knew my ultimate goal was to study law at Columbia, so his advice and support was shared with this in mind.”


Cenon worked with Crimson essay mentor, Joel, on his personal statement and supplementary college essays.

“From the time I entered high school, English was by far the hardest subject for me. I struggled with writing a basic sentence. Through writing and public speaking, my goal was to improve my English.”

Ever since he was a small child, Cenon carried around a journal in which he would constantly write ideas. So when it came to brainstorming a topic on which to base his personal essay, Cenon soon realized he had been unknowingly collating ideas since childhood.

“You know, sometimes you’re in the middle of a car ride and you’re like: ‘Oh, that’s a good idea!’. So I was writing all my thoughts down, and compiling random topics that I was interested in.”

Taking these ideas, Cenon had a solid base to discuss and develop concepts with Joel, and to brainstorm how he might form his own unique personal narrative.

“Showing Joel my final written piece before I submitted my application was such an important moment. Then, to have Joel reassure me that it was just the way it should be - and that he was proud of my efforts — well, that was really great.”


For Cenon, the calendar and bookings aspect of the Crimson App was particularly beneficial. Having online sessions with his team allowed him to check in on his schedule for the week, and manage his time based on what sessions he had tabled.

“The messaging tool was also really nice. I could just send my team a quick message and they would message me back very, very quickly.”


So what does it feel like to click on your application portal and learn you have been admitted to a world-leading university like Columbia?

“Long story short it took a long time to sink in,” he smiled. “I logged onto my portal and then, it went to this video, literally playing Pomp and Circumstance. The tune had this celebratory feel to it, so that’s when I realized I actually may have done this, I actually might have gotten in.

“It didn’t hit me straight away, I was like: ‘Oh no, this is not real!’ So I kept refreshing the page and the video kept playing, and I kept thinking: ‘This must be a scam?’,” he laughs.

“Eventually, I went out into the living room and told my dad and he was shocked, and told me immediately to call my mom.

“My mom was concerned that something was wrong, so I asked her to FaceTime me and all I said was, ‘Mom, I got accepted’. She wasn’t surprised, she was more in shock. Then an hour later she called me again and was ecstatic!”

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Beyond the physical application support, Cenon explains Crimson’s genuine dedication to helping him achieve his goals, and their endless support of both him and his family, as key to his acceptance to Columbia.

“It was important for me to understand how to tackle all of these challenges, in order to make sure that I was going to a school where I would feel comfortable.

“My Crimson team worked tirelessly to help me identify and reach the school that was the best fit for me.”

In talking about his application experience, Cenon notes that his applications would not have been anywhere near as polished without his Crimson team’s insight and valuable feedback.

“Some applications were very generic and limiting as to how much space there was for activity descriptions, and it was valuable to have someone to bounce ideas off as to what words on the page were going to resonate and depict my journey so far,” explains Cenon.

“If I hadn’t had Crimson, I would have entered irrelevant activities on my application, and not described them in such a creative way.”

Through all of his extracurricular and application efforts, Cenon adds: “I am most proud of the opportunities that I granted myself, because I think from the beginning, before Crimson, I didn’t give myself enough credit for what I was doing. I figured I would only have the opportunity to attend an in-state institution to get my degree.

“But with Crimson, I was able to fully appreciate the magnitude of what I had accomplished, and being told: ‘You have the grades, you have the extracurriculars, we’ll improve your test scores, and we will get you there,’ meant that there was an opportunity to make this my reality.

“Ultimately, I think Crimson showed me the value of the effort I put into high school, and then, they were able to help me showcase it. They also reminded me that after all this effort, at the end of the road, there is something uniquely special for you in the form of acceptance to a school that fits me perfectly.”


For students who hold aspirations to study at one of the world’s best universities, Cenon reflected on his journey and had the following advice to those looking to do the same:

“If you have ambitions of studying at a top university, there is the support out there, no matter if you have great grades or not****

“There are always people out there, like those at Crimson, who are dedicated to helping you feel supported throughout the entire process.

“Although it may seem overwhelming, you need to trust and enjoy (as much as possible) the process. It is also important to step back and give yourself credit. You will learn to notice that the effort you have put in, is valued more than you ever thought.”

Amanda J

Written by

Amanda J.

Amanda graduated from the University of Connecticut where she majored in Communication & Marketing. While in college, she wrote for & managed social media for Culture Trip, while also creating marketing content for dessert company, Petit Pot. Her focus of communication extends cross-culturally through her years working with Rustic Pathways. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and spending time at the beach. She is now the Marketing Executive for Crimson in the United States.