This Girl Got Into 8 Ivy League Institutions and Six Other Schools

by Mara Agner   |  Apr 8, 2017
Image: Cassandra Hsiao |
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While most students feel nervous about whether or not they've been accepted to the university of their dreams, 17-year-old Cassandra Hsiao is facing a different battle: deciding which among the eight Ivy League schools to attend. Cassandra got into Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania. She also got accepted at Stanford University, John Hopkins University, University of Southern California, Northwestern University, New York University, and Amherst College among many others.

Cassandra who was born in Malaysia, migrated to the States whith her mom when she was just five years old. It was her essay about her move to the States and learning the English that impressed all of the universities she applied to. Below is her much-talked about piece.

"In our house, English is not English. Not in the phonetic sense, like short a is for apple, but rather in the pronunciation—in our house, snake is snack. Words do not roll off our tongues correctly—yet I, who was pulled out of class to meet with language specialists, and my mother from Malaysia, who pronounces film as flim, understand each other perfectly.


In our house, there is no difference between cast and cash, which was why at a church retreat, people made fun of me for "cashing out demons." I did not realize the glaring difference between the two Englishes until my teacher corrected my pronunciations of hammock, ladle, and siphon. Classmates laughed because I pronounce accept as except, success as sussess. I was in the Creative Writing conservatory, and yet words failed me when I needed them most.

Suddenly, understanding flower is flour wasn't enough. I rejected the English that had never seemed broken before, a language that had raised me and taught me everything I knew. Everybody else's parents spoke with accents smarting of Ph.D.s and university teaching positions. So why couldn't mine?

My mother spread her sunbaked hands and said, "This is where I came from," spinning a tale with the English she had taught herself.

When my mother moved from her village to a town in Malaysia, she had to learn a brand new language in middle school: English. In a time when humiliation was encouraged, my mother was defenseless against the cruel words spewing from the teacher, who criticized her paper in front of the class. When she began to cry, the class president stood up and said, "That's enough."

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Read the rest of her essay at

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Mara Agner
Assistant Lifestyle and Features Editor
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