Sau đây là một bài viết rất hay và ý nghĩa của 1 veteran trích từ VietAbroader.

Nguồn. Vietabroader and the age of optimism. Tác giả: tryinvain


(adapted from a real case)

1st April, it was already 1.00 am; Cancelling his Easter vacation trip, he was there, desperately looking at the screen. The emails had yet arrived. 2 hours passed. And his dream school Harvard’s rejection stroke him so heavily... Later came rejections from Yale, Stanford, and William, whose interviews -he thought - he had outperformed. His “insurance” school kicked his a-ss. Despite his extreme efforts to follow up, the last two waitlist hopes melted like his half-priced belated Easter eggs. All his applications for American uni ended up pathetically.

What has he done wrong? Surely not his passionate love for America, his dream of going to Harvard, his immoderate reading about the school, his inspiration from constant chatting with “someone” from Harvard, and his daily surfing on VA ? Though all now seem speechless and meaningless, he was trapped in depression, regret, and self-criticism.

Why has he failed so miserably ? Well, a rather more suitable question: Why has he not failed miserably ?


Ok, let’s have a look at some interesting facts, quotes, and figures:

- Not mentioning multi offers for some candidates, the total number of offers from American Uni & colleges for VN this year is known only about 100 (VA’s figures) 

- There were 29 VN applicants to Bates in 2004. 
(The number has probably already doubled or tripled by now...)

- A recent VN student admitted to Amherst got SAT I 1550 and TOEFL 670. 

( This perhaps is not the highest result from VN, considering the records of SAT I 1580 of a Yale matriculant and TOEFL 677 of a Harvard matriculant). This partly reflects the standards for which these top schools are looking)

"The way they categorize applicants, say for example, Vnese students in Vietnam, Vnese students in Sing or Sing students in Sing, Vnese students in the US?  To the best of my knowledge, there is NO categorizing process here. Every applicant is treated the same way.”
(quote from Viet)

This simply means staying in VN gives you no excuse for your relatively weaker SAT scores.

-Luck doesn’t seem to play much role in the admission process:

“Em không nghĩ đấy là một điều may mắn bởi em đã phải cố gắng nhiều trong một thời gian dài.”
(quote from a successful Harvard student)


Restrict my sample to only VN students, just want to share with you my common sense about the application process and its ACTUAL difficulties, perhaps more dismally than what VA has painted.


Here comes the famous slogan:

"Khoa lam duoc cac ban cung lam duoc"

So can you do it ? On one hand, some beliefs and encouragement are required for determination and success. On the other hand, it must be note that historical result does not have much predictive power for the future. So please think again. Please consider the current increasingly competitive environment, where there are numerous VN applicants fighting for the small (implied) limited quota in each American uni. Plus, have you actually known how difficult bro Khoa succeeded? Or you only heard from rumours and what he told to encourage you? And what is special about you? Apart from the ordinary stuffs of around 9.0 GPA, about 1400 (old) SAT I , roughly 750 in each SAT II subjects, and some ordinary essays, I assume you should have possessed something special.

Psychologically, it is human nature to overestimate their knowledge, to exaggerate their abilities, and to underestimate risks. As 80% of the population think they are better than average, you know where your confidence come from. Simply enough, we are all subjected to overconfident, thus we believe more strongly in our own abilities and less on the others’. We think that we can beat the “stupid” crowd.

The trend is studying abroad, hence comes Vietabroader. Thanks to its reporting of numerous successful VN students in US, here and there and everywhere, the forum helps exacerbate your biased optimistic view. In fact, as you communicate regularly with one another, you think similarly in the style of “you can do it”. In economics, this is called “herd behaviour”, where individual follows the group as (s)he presumes that the group should have more information and hence should be right. (S)he fears that by showing his/her opinion, e.g: about the cruel truth behinds the application process, (s)he would be deemed unpopular and even foolish.

Moreover, as an inexperienced and unknown high-school student, you have no choice but to submit to the authoritative views of those celebrities- students currently at top US Uni. Without questioning the logic behinds, you blindly believed in your great chance of getting into one of the top US uni. This sadly prevents effective communication, leading to biased perceptions. VA, as a consequence, becomes more socializing and less informative.

Tell me I am wrong, isn’t there a lot of information on VA about US uni, is it ? Ok, more information is better, yet the question is whether you can digest it effectively. Honestly, what have you gained from surfing VA everyday if not trivial matters and chatting? Have you known that many VN students, after already having gained admissions to top US Uni, came to VA the first time merely for chatting. They have obviously relied on other information sources for their success.

Even worse, our brain suffered a problem called cognitive dissonance, a psychological mechanism which filters out any information that conflicts with our positive self images. Thanks to Harvard College thread, you can effortlessly sketch your favourable image of yourself getting into this dream school. However, getting rid of this image is another issue. As any nonsupporting information is discarded, it seems to you that all your shortcomings are negligible and all your strengths stand out particularly in your application. Yet you will never realise until April 1st ...

Two recent news articles featured a brilliant Harvard undergraduate and an intelligent Yale matriculant, both of who went to high schools in Singapore. This undoubtedly nurtures the hope for any high-school student in Vietnam to aim for the top American Uni. There however exist some hidden issues.

I was fortunate enough to have chance to know about the education system in Singapore, a shockingly intense system. The (equivalently) grade-nine students rarely sleep before 12pm, and the school dorm had to impose a rule that no light should be turned on after 2 am to prevent late studying for early class at 8.30 am. (Expectedly, white hairs are not uncommon). Moreover, the students who go to Singapore (for instance on ASEAN scholarships) are often downgraded one to two levels, which means, by the time they get to university, they will be older and more mature than students finishing high schools in Vietnam. They also had countless opportunities to participate in extra curricular activities (compulsorily& voluntarily), such as football, basket ball, charity, dance, running, rock climbing, net ball, student committee, council committee, maths societies, chess societies, art societies, choir, (... you name it) . Various competitions are available for them, to name a few: Singapore Mathematical Olympiad, American Mathematical Olympiad, Australian Mathematical Olympiad, Singapore Chemistry Olympiad, Singapore Physics Olympiad, Singapore Biology Olympiad, Singapore Computing Olympiad (team & individual), musical competition among schools,... as well as early (formal) chances to do research with doctors and professors during summer vacation. (Some students complained that there is not enough lines for them to note down important qualifications in the application form). Even without preparation, perfect SAT II scores are simply easy, given the difficulty of their A-level subjects. Besides, they had to do a compulsory English subject, whose wordlist is somewhat similar to SAT I. (This partly explains their respectable SAT 1 verbal scores). Additionally, due to their rich pool of extra curricular activities, they can draw on these abundant resources to write just as many essays as they want. Contrastingly, as a VN high-school student, you must have struggled to think of any experiences, usually ended up with an either too trivial or too artificial essay. Sarcastically, under admission officers’ eyes, Vietnamese students are treated “equally”.

You might wonder why you have barely heard about these in VA from successful students? Well, all you see are “smart” & “well-rounded” students, who have somehow luckily managed to the top US Uni. The fact yet is that there are considerable opportunity costs and cunning concealed methods for which those students have used and will never reveal to you. “There is no such thing as a free lunch.

And who would be brave enough to say how hard getting into US uni actually is ? As saying so means 1) embarrassing themselves by accepting to be the inferiors and 2) even if they succeed, they are still embarrassing themselves with the stigma of book worms. The American ridiculously praised stories of geniuses sleeping in lectures, participating in countless extra-curricular activities yet still getting straight A. In my opinion, the explanation is either that 1) some subjects are easy to get A or 2) these “smart” students have to stay up very late at nights to complete their studies. It is up to one to feel and act as a “genius”, but please do not go around bullshiting other innocent minds, boasting of how possible “easy” success one can achieve, and creating wrong impression.

Due to the lack of opposing views, information left on VA is biased and distorted. Winners survive, while losers disappear silently. Looking in retrospect, losers often question themselves why blindly optimistic they are to underestimate the competition for US uni. Have you ever heard of a student with 2 gold medals IMO and failed to get to the US uni he wanted ? Or how a dream of going to America has ended up in Singapore or Australia ? Or numerous stories about students on cultural-exchange programmes retaking their 12-grade level in Vietnam? There is no right or wrong about this. My point is that, behind each extraordinary success, there are 99 cases of failure, which are never reported and never mentioned. They are simply forgotten. So next time you hear about someone admitted to Harvard, please spare some thoughts for how hard the other applicants have tried but failed miserably.

My sincere apology: people won’t talk about losers on VA, well, apart from sympathy of losers for losers. In fact, by excluding losers, VA works effectively as a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which losers vanish and new winners emerge to continue to inflate VA into a bubble of success. Thanks to generation of winners, VA has managed to build up its great reputation and paint an idealistic pink picture of going to US higher education. So what - do we actually need losers ? You might want to question the rationale for an applicant to consult these losers ? It is free for you to think such action is unnecessary on the basis of your (self-presumed) uniqueness and speciality. I shall disagree. As the majority, they therefore offer you a much more balanced view.

Have you ever noticed the inconsistency between the low statistics of admittance and numerous VA’s cases of students going to US uni ? Please pay some attention to statistics, for which successful candidates rarely talk about. While talk is cheap, figures are more valuable. Sadly, as human, we find it easier to work with reasoning rather than figures. According to psychologist, to help us assess probability faster, our brain use a short-cut mechanism called familiarity (e.g: we estimate the likelihood of an event depending on how we are familiar to it). This mechanism however can lead to seriously inaccurate judgment. For instance, as you become more familiar with a successful student by reading about his/her vivid story of success and chatting to him, you will gradually believe that you could do as well as (s)he has done. Remember that (s)he is only one sample of the applicants’ population, which can be unrepresentative or biased. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of unsuccessful Vietnamese applicants who might be unfamiliar to you yet only appear in the statistics. And you just don't care. True, it is hard to overcome your feeling to make decision on the basis of logical analysis rather than emotion. But please try to be skeptical, be alert to your unwarranted assumptions and your unjustified optimism.

We have been lucky enough to live in the era of information, sadly an imperfect and incomplete one. Why successful applicants never posted their detailed statistics on VA, except the outdated ones of 3 year ago? There is an interesting saying about this: “There are two secrets to succeed: 1) Never tell everything you know” . Anyone can say number 1), your task is to find number 2).


“Mình biết có nhiều bạn record rất tốt nhưng vẫn bị rejected. Mình thật sự nghĩ là rất khó point out ra một lý do cụ thể nào dẫn đến việc rejection, vì application là một quá trình phức tạp phụ thuộc nhiều yếu tố khác nhau.”
(quote from Viet)

Quan trọng nhất ở đây là: you did your BEST.
(quote from KP)

Have you done your BEST? Have you not wasted time engaging in meaningless chatting on VA? Where is the alternative way when your heart and soul have all been set for a particular US school? And more crucial is why VA has not warned you early about the possibility of failures and actions taken against this? It is good to be young and to have high expectation, but to believe and to dream foolishly is unwise and not recommended. You probably heard about the golden time of ASIA economies followed by the 1997 Financial Crisis. You probably heard about the age of information technology and the bubble burst. Here is VA and the age of optimism...


( for construction and further interests ...)


PS: I hope my nick will not be banned so I can continue :-P


POST #2 trả lời của tryinvain

Rất mừng vì bài viết của mình được nhiều người quan tâm, trong đó có cả admin nữa. Mục đích của bài mình viết hiểu đúng nhất là theo ý của liveforadream, nhưng tất nhiên các comments đều có phần đúng (xin được phân tích sau):

"The thread starter's point wasn't trying to paint a pessimistic picture, discouraging the future applicants to dream big, the point raised here was just just to tackle the over-optimistic view of the forum, where most of the discussions are about happy-endings, paying not enough attention to how difficult the obstacles and what the back-up plans would be.

I know that maybe some of the VA members are really hardworking and pesevering, and there is nothing beyond their reach. However, the over-inflated picture VA portrayed might've unintentionally encouraged some people to be not as hardworking as they should be but more of daydreaming, just like the asian financial crisis and the dotcom bubble.
(quoted from liveforadream)"

Ý tưởng chính của bài là những ảnh hưởng của tâm lý ( không lường trước) dẫn tới nhận định sai lầm về quá trình đăng ký đại học ở Mỹ. Trong đó, VA là một kênh thông tin góp phần lớn trong việc đẩy mạnh xu hướng thiên lệch này. Do vậy, mình viết bài này với mong muốn đưa ra cái nhìn khác về đăng ký đại học và VA, đóng góp xây dựng VA thành một kênh thông tin cân bằng, và đặc biệt là giúp những người đăng ký có quyết định hợp lý dựa trên khả năng của đối thủ và bản thân.

Mình xin lỗi vì không có thói quen duyệt VA chi tiết hàng ngày nên rất bất ngờ khi có nhiều comments đến vậy. Một phần vì không thể trả lời hết, một phần vì ý tưởng cũng khác nhau nên mình xin phép được phân loại thành từng nhóm để bình luận:

* Nhóm 1: Những bạn chuẩn bị đăng ký:

My literature GPA will never match with the requirements. My SAT score has never reached 2000. I possess neither leadership aptitude nor impressive extra curricular activities. My writing skill is unquestionably the worst on VA forum. But what matters? Hope still lingers on in me. And that hope originate from here, from every friend I meet here, from every word, every advice, every humor story that I glance at.
(Quoted from dangngochuy)

Mình khâm phục sự tự tin và lòng nhiệt tình của các bạn, đi lên với hai bàn tay trắng. Mình cũng hiểu nguồn gốc những hi vọng của bạn, có vẻ giống giống với những nguyên nhân mình đưa ra   . Tất nhiên, mỗi người một quan điểm, vì thế cũng có những cái nhìn trung lập hoặc bi quan hơn:

Tôi cảm thấy tự hào với mình rằng: chưa bao giờ mình để kết quả học tập tại Mỹ làm hổ thẹn với gia đình và với bản thân mình khi sánh với các student Korea, Thailand, Espanol, Italia, India, Japan, Jamaica, Malaysia, Kazastan.... tại trường tôi học hiện tại, nhưng trong thâm tâm mình lúc nào tôi cũng phải tự nhắc nhỡ rằng mình chưa bằng ai, nhất là với các anh chị tự học trong nước mà lấy được schollarship ở những Ivies.
(quoted from hamahamieng)

I used to be confident about my chances of getting into an US college because of my GPA, my effort in SAT, but now I'm very doubtful about that. I have prepared too little for this year, but if I fail, I'll do it again next year and the year after.
(quoted kpnam1989)

Không ai có quyền cấm đoán những giấc mơ. Song mỗi khi sáng sớm, đồng hồ đổ chuông, rúc đầu vào chăn hay chạy vội tới lớp, đó là quyết định của bạn. Thế nào đi nữa, thực tế vẫn sẽ phũ phàng, dù bạn muốn hay không muốn.

* Nhóm 2: Những người thành công:

Mình xin thu nhận ý kiến phản đối "cái nhìn bi quan chẳng giúp được gì" , hay "cuộc đời vô vọng", hoặc ý kiến về đổi tên nick thành try my best again  . ( Thú thật, cái nick này mình lấy từ cách đây lâu rồi, gần 4 năm rồi, vì quan điểm cá nhân chứ không phải vì kết quả của việc đăng ký đại học) Đồng thời mình cũng rất vui là các bạn đều thu nhận ý kiến của mình và đóng góp, cách này hay cách khác:

That means, đừng nhụt chí, nhưng cũng đừng quá kì vọng, let it be, peace :X
Tôi nghĩ vấn đề có thể là một số bạn chỉ thanh lọc những điều bạn muốn nghe,
(Quoted from nhungph)

Even though you never hear or know your opponents, that doesn't mean your competition is any less strong. Thus, Be prepared.
(quoted from NTV)

Nhưng ý kiến của mình là, nếu bạn coi VA là nơi cung cấp thông tin duy nhất cho việc apply mà lại là top uni, như vậy, thì bạn đã sai ngay ở phần chiến thuật.Bạn chịu khó tưởng tượng 1 chút, trong 1 trận chiến cam go như thế, mà chiến thuật đã ko thích hợp thì dù khả năng bạn như thế nào thì kết quả cũng khó mà theo ý bạn muốn đc.
(Quoted from bcozofu)

Mình hiểu là các bạn, những người thành công, có những cái khó riêng:

However, isn't it a Vietnamese (Asian?) courtesy to encourage and compliment our peers? Would I be judged if I sounded harsh to a high school kid telling him not to dream of coming here until he learns how to write/ speak understandable English? Would I be hated if I honestly told someone not to apply to my school with that TOEFL score? I am not the Adcom and the best I can do is answer questions related to my schools and encourage others to study hard, go ahead and apply. 0
(quoted from dieuhautotbung)

Thú thật, mình rất cảm phục bạn dieuhautotbung đã nói ra những lời thẳng thắn như thế! Cùng với sự khuyến khích động viên, tại sao VA không thể có thêm những lời chân thực như thế ?

* Nhóm 3: Những bạn học ở Sing:

It is true that adcoms will consider applicants equally, regardless of locations or nationalities. But I am sure that when they look at our backgrounds, they will empathize with each individuals.
(quoted from nguyentrihung)

Mình cám ơn sự thông cảm của bạn với những bạn đăng ký ở Việt Nam, nhưng trong cạnh tranh và đặc biệt là ở môi trường Sing, có lẽ không có từ khoan nhượng. Phong cách này được thể hiện rõ hơn trong bài của bạn Alucard- khiến mình rất ấn tượng:

For VAs: If you fail because you rely too much on VA and its optimism, then I see no reason why you should not blame yourself.
If you are in Vietnam, and you are dynamic enough, you would find many chances to get unique experiences.
(quoted from Alucard)

Mình tin rằng một người dynamic và confident như bạn sẽ tiến rất xa trên con đường đăng ký đại học hàng đầu ở Mỹ. Ở môi trường Việt Nam:

Vietnamese schools never encourage their students to form clubs for things that spark an interest in them (chess club, football club, math club, etc...) Everything seems to have to go through "Doan truong", which offers some really pathetic options for EC, in my opinion.
(Quoted from phamductri)

Và với những người thụ động (như mình) thì chỉ có cách khiển trách bản thân mà thôi!

Doesn't sis Hong Nhung get admitted into Harvard from Vietnam? I know she beat quite a number of Vietnamese candidates from Singapore in her year.
(quoted Alucard)

Mình rất phục sis Hong Nhung (once my idol  ) bởi quyết tâm và nguồn cảm hứng mà sis Hong Nhung có cách đây 4 năm. Mỗi năm sau đó mình cũng nghe nói có khoảng 4-5 người vào các trường top Uni & LAC từ Việt Nam. Song những người ở Sing sang Mỹ thì chỉ gần đây mình mới biết vài ví dụ:

-Các bậc tiền bối: khang (Princeton), viet (Stanford), anhduff (Harvard), (Darthmouth), ...

-Và sau đó: 2005 figure:

update nua neee... Same year as me...
Khanh: NorthWestern
Chung: Williams, Middlebury (that's why I was waitlisted) <-- thang nay hoc sieu quai thu
Minh Huong: don't know wad u but she got in some
Phuong: Middlebury ED
Duong: Vassar, Grinnell
Theu: Yale, ko biet Stanford the nao
(quoted from testdasi - also addmitted to Brown)

2006 (implied) figure:

my friend got in Stanford, William, and Carleton with full aid...
(quoted from viet )

Yale RD có 1 ban vietnam nua. va mot ban tu Sing duoc ca Brown va Swarthmore. anh Khoa update nhe.
(quoted from ttd- also addmitted to Yale)

QUOTE (megagear65 @ Mar 31 2006, 12:05 AM)
anh khoa ah, cái cornell là đứa bạn em là đúng đấy. Wabash 2 cũng đúng, khánh râu được nhận, còn Brown thì bạn nào thế

một bạn từ ACJC bên Sing.
(quoted from KP)

Các số liệu thống kê trên có phần thiên lệch vì những bậc tiền bối và hậu bối khi sang Sing (ASEAN scholars) đều được lựa chọn kỹ càng nên vốn đã rất giỏi ở Việt Nam rồi. Nếu như họ ở lại trong nước mình thì mỗi năm sẽ có khi có tới 10-15 người vào top Uni & LAC ấy chứ, chẳng phải là một điều đáng tự hào sao  ?

* Nhóm 4: Những người không thành công:

Mình không phủ nhận là nhóm này (trong đó có mình) sẽ có cái một cái nhìn bi quan, pha chút thực dụng lẫn bồi hồi:

Trường đại học không phải nhà tế bần, phát chẩn ghế ngồi để cứu các bạn &#39;đã lỡ bỏ ra nhiều công sức cho chuyện đăng ký.
(quoted from ipsen)

N the personal experience described in the story, I believe, is what many people have gone through but for many reasons hasn't been reflected in VA or other overseas-study forums...
(quoted from anhanh)

Cảm hứng bài viết này mình lấy từ một người bạn mình, hình tượng trong A STORY.. với một chút sửa đổi. Bạn ấy đã chuẩn bị application rất kỹ, GPA, SAT, và essay đều rất tốt, song sai lầm có lẽ là đã đánh giá thấp khả năng đối thủ và đánh giá cao khả năng của mình. Rồi bạn ấy chỉ biết tự dằn vặt mình và hối tiếc. Tuyệt vọng khi không tìm được sự cảm thông từ những người thân. Kinh nghiệm ư, rút ra cũng nhiều, nhưng chẳng để làm gì. Giờ đã quá muộn... Và còn rất nhiều, vô vàn trường hợp nữa, những con người trẻ tuổi, tự tin, đến VA với lòng nhiệt huyết, để rồi ra đi một cách thầm lặng. Một cảm giác lạc lõng giữa chốn phồn hoa...

Đây cũng là mặt trái của VA mà mình muốn diễn tả và đóng góp để thay đổi. Bản thân mình không thể đơn độc ý kiến hoàn thiện VA được. Vì thế, rất muốn qua topic này có sự đóng góp của mọi người xây dựng VA to be "a place for everyone".