1. How to get into Stanford




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I have had the good fortune to do some pretty incredible things in the last few years. At 28 years old, I had the good fortune of writing a blog with 300,000 readers/month, writing an instant New York Times bestseller, and a few years ago, getting into Stanford and winning over $100,000 of undergraduate and graduate scholarships.

 

Today, I want to share some of the ways that I was able to accomplish these things.

I'll include specific techniques that allowed me to leapfrog some of my peers and do ridiculous things like getting invited to speak on persuasion in Japan, getting written up in the WSJ at age 22, or getting a highly paid college/summer internship with one phone call.

Below, you'll see why this is directly relevant to you earning more money.


But what you'll see may surprise you.


I am not the smartest person. My friends got way better GPAs than I did. I am terrible at math (in fact, I was the only person in my high-school AP math class to fail my AP test...yes, I got a 2). But I am pretty good a few things, which I want to share with you.
 
First, I don't come from a wealthy family. My parents are immigrants and we're very middle class. I say this up front because some people tend to dismiss others who achieve cool things by saying, "Oh, mommy and daddy just bought them [whatever]." Yes, that's true sometimes (especially here in Manhattan), but the people who lob that insult usually use it as a crutch for not doing interesting things themselves. Get a life.

It's possible to do amazing things no matter how old you are or how much money you have. But there are some unconventional approaches that can dramatically change how fast you achieve these things.

1. How to get into Stanford


(This isn't just about getting into Stanford. It's about getting into any exclusive organization/university/job/whatever).


Ok, so I went to a public high school in northern California. My friends and I joked that our class, the Class of 2000, was the most competitive..but also the least attractive. Seriously, all the hot people were one year above of us or one year below us.

Anyway, we had a lot of smart people in my class. So when it was time to apply for college, lots of people were set on top-tier schools like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, etc. But then an amazing thing happened.

 

When the first round of college admissions came in, and some people got in and others didn't, many of the people who didn't get in changed their attitudes overnight, saying, "Whatever...I didn't really want to go there anyway." I found this really surprising, since I had planned to get rejected from my dream school, Stanford, anyway. (Most of my friends had a higher GPA than I did).


Since I had already assumed that I was going to get rejected, I'd already made plans for what I'd do to get in, despite their rejection. I was going to send them recent updates to my coursework, a few recent press clippings I'd done, and some updates on the business/job I was doing in high school. In short, getting a "no" was only the first step.

When I got in, it was an extremely pleasant surprise. But it was also incredibly interesting to watch the attitudes of some of my classmates -- classmates who'd dreamed about attending a particular school -- change overnight since they'd been rejected. They really took it personally. For me, I knew that I was a number, and that when I got rejected, I'd simply need to convince them why I deserved to get in.

As for how I got in myself, there were a few key things:


  • I tried lots of things (clubs, sports, etc) rapidly - found out what I liked, and went deeper into them

  • I realized that I couldn't compete on just grades alone - since I'm not the smartest person, so I went horizontal and did a bunch of interesting things outside of class (and outside of school)

  • I crafted an incredibly good application. In my view, the way you construct your application is hugely important in getting into a top college, getting a great job, etc. Compare this to people who believe, "If I just do great work, they'll realize it." No.

  • My applications had a THEME. I was the guy who wanted to do online business, and hey Mr. Application Reader, here's what I've done to show you that I'm serious about this

  • I ASKED A TON OF PEOPLE TO REVIEW MY APPLICATION. I can't emphasize this enough. I told you how I was horrible at math in high school. Well, I was a pretty good writer. So it surprised me that more people didn't ask me to review their applications, because I got TONS of outside help. Hey Mike, what do you think about this essay idea? Michelle, what's more compelling? Etc. So many people lock themselves in their room and come up with an essay topic that's trite, vapid, and boring. The simple action of asking someone if your idea is compelling forces you to say it out loud -- which eliminates at least 25% of bad essay ideas.

  • By the way, I didn't pay anybody to review my application. If I'd had more money, I would have, but I didn't. What you realize is that most people will help you out for free.



Key mindset to get into Stanford:


 

The first "no" is where the discussion starts.

 

When aiming for a large goal -- like a college application, new job, or new city -- always visualize what would happen if you SUCCEED (e.g., get admitted) vs. what would happen if you FAIL (e.g., get rejected).

 

Do this before you get the results, which is an emotional time. I saw people throw away their dream school simply because they got rejected. Read that last sentence again.

 

Doesn't it sound ridiculous? OF COURSE you give up when you get rejected.

 

Well, sometimes it's true, and society certainly tells us to suck it up and move on. But when it's some committee making a decision, you don't have to let that fly. Plan ahead for what you'll do if you succeed or fail -- it will help you stay focused when times get tough.

Key techniques to get into Stanford:


 

  • First of all, be REALLY GOOD at what you do. If you want to get into a top college or job, you can't just be average. Why would a very selective institution want you? Ask yourself that and then do remarkable things.

  • Huh? Ramit? WTF does that mean? Being remarkable doesn't always mean getting the best grades (I certainly didn't). It can mean being remarkable at volunteering, or starting a side business repairing cars...or whatever interests you. THIS is why being remarkable is so hard -- because I can't simply tell you what to do. You have to decide for yourself. This is why most people, by definition, are not remarkable. It's hard

  • ASK AT LEAST 10 OTHER PEOPLE TO REVIEW YOUR APPLICATION. Ask them to be brutally honest. AND MEAN IT. If you ever get defensive about their feedback, I will personally find you and hit you on the head with a metal bat.

  • Write at least 5 versions of your essay. I did something like 42 versions. Are you prepared to work that hard?

  • Expose yourself to luck. I have no qualms admitting that a lot of the reason I got into Stanford was luck. It could be a total tossup, or maybe the committee was feeling good, or whatever. However, don't just count on luck -- cultivate it for yourself. Give yourself every advantage.

  • NEVER do the committee's job for you. It is THEIR job to reject you, not yours. What the hell is wrong with people when they say, "Ehh...I'm not going to apply to [college/job]...I could never get in." Guess what? You just proved yourself right. It's not your job to reject/accept you, it's someone else's. Let them do their job.

  • Don't let money get in the way. People are incredibly clueless about finances when it comes to college. First, people will delusionally say, "I'm not going to apply to [expensive college]...I could never afford it." If you're good enough to get in, they will take care of you. LET ME REPEAT THAT. Never let money decide where you going to apply.

  • STOP USING MONEY AS AN EXCUSE. A lot of people will say, "Ramit, what about the application fee? It can be really expensive. You're out of touch with your (book/fancy website/NY & SF apartments/blah blah blah)." Hey whiner. When I was applying, I had no money. Some of the applications can be really expensive. You know what I did? I put a note in there that said, Look I can't really afford this application fee. If you really need the $50 for the fee, just please let me know and I will find a way to send it. But if not, I hope you can waive the fee for me." I never heard a peep from them.

  • Ask people who have GONE to your dream schools how they like it. Oh yeah, one more thing...ASK THEM HOW THEY GOT IN. They should be reviewing your application and offering you feedback every step of the way. And yes, you know people there...if you don't, call the university admissions office and ask to get connected to some students. Everybody loves seniors in high schools who are applying to college because they are so weird/desperate/naive. Everybody helps them. Use this to your advantage.

2. Growing my blog to 300,000+ readers/month


(This is not just about growing your blog. It's about getting people to care about whatever you're writing/talking/thinking about.)


I have done interview after interview about how to grow your blog, and honestly I get a little tired of explaining it to lazy people who want to know the latest SEO tricks. Guys -- I don't know shit about SEO.

In fact, a while back, my friend Ben was redesigning my site, and he says, "So what's your SEO strategy?" I just looked at him and said, "Huh?" I had 250,000 readers/month at that point.

So I'm pretty dumb when it comes to the fanciest and latest tactics. But I do know how to get featured in places like the Wall Street Journal. I know how to monetize a blog better than almost anybody on the planet. And I know how to write stuff that people care about.

I hope you don't get offended if I'm direct. Too many idiots focus on the wrong things when it comes to growing a blog and constantly search for the latest magic bullet. Should I set up Adsense?? Should I set up a blogroll?? What about a popup??? GET A LIFE PLEASE.

Let me share how I got my first largest traffic day ever. I still dream about this magical day because that is what bloggers dream about.

So I started my blog in 2004. I started it because:

  • I was at Stanford and had been trying to teach my friends this basic coursework I'd developed -- I called it "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" -- but nobody would show up to my FREE talks. This was really pissing me off / depressing me

  • I realized college kids are lazy and afraid of admitting they know nothing about money

  • I was a cocky college student who felt the world needed to hear what I had to say


I write it for 6 months, writing really good content, and get very few comments. I spent at LEAST 50% of my time marketing my blog. Back then, I was pretty unsophisticated, and I thought "marketing" meant "telling people about it" (even though now I know marketing starts by deeply understanding who you are writing for).

Anyway, I would go to the other few personal-finance blogs, learn what they wrote about, send useful suggestions/ideas to the blog owners, and a few of them linked back to me.

This was good but I wanted more.

So I went to the Wall Street Journal, which had terrific content but was totally worthless for 20- and 30-somethings. I told them that, too. I found a reporter's email address and offered to write for them for free. She blew me off. THIS IS WHERE MOST PEOPLE GIVE UP.

Instead, I said, Ok cool. And every few weeks, I would email her again with an update. "Hey, I thought you might find this interesting...check out what people in their 20s think about XYZ." After a few of these update emails, she passed me to her editor...who also blew me off. AGAIN, MOST PEOPLE WOULD GIVE UP.

I continued updating the editor. "Hey, I just got invited to speak at MIT," etc.

Finally, one day I was getting on a plane to give a talk in Japan and got a call from....a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. "Ramit, do you have time to talk? I want to run you in my column this week."

 

I said no, I was running to the airport, but I would talk to her from Japan. And that's how I got featured in the WSJ as a 22-year-old, which generated 9,000 pageviews that day -- more than I'd ever gotten at that point.

Let's analyze this.

Most people wouldn't even think they could approach the WSJ. But of course you can -- they're always looking for interesting stories.

Most people would not befriend reporters...they would simply PITCH AND PITCH AND PITCH, which is quick, but utterly annoying, and ensures you will never get featured.

Finally, most people would not stay at it for months after a rejection.

As you can see, none of this required any extreme intelligence, which I don't have. But it did require a difference in mindset: I knew I was offering them something amazing (at least this is what my cocky 22-year-old self thought). I also knew that they were busy and would ignore me, so if I sent gentle update emails (with really good content), they would eventually come back to talk to me. And they did.

This helped my website get on the map. I was one of the first modern personal-finance bloggers featured in national media. It helped w/traffic. It helped w/credibility. And I learned how the media work.

Since then, I've used similar techniques to get featured in The New York Times, ABC News, The Today Show, and tons of other things. But that first hit is what still makes me feel great.

Key techniques to get national coverage:


  • Have something to offer that is unique/interesting. Your new yo-yo throwing technique is not

  • Approach people and HELP THEM FIRST instead of talking about yourself.

  • What can you offer them? Well, to know this, you need to research reporters deeply. Read their FB/LinkedIn. Know what they write about and write to them accordingly. If you are trying to get coverage on something, chances are that you know more about "something" than they do -- which means you can help them

  • FOLLOW UP. Busy people don't care about you. Make them care, politely, by following up and adding value each time you do

3. Getting a highly paid summer internship with one phone call


(This is not just about getting a summer internship. It's about using your personal relationships to get incredible job/opportunities that never even make it onto job boards.)


During college, I interned at different places most summers. I was not very good at the math/logic portions of some of the interviews that came onto campus (e.g., management consulting), so I looked around at the other opportunities there were. My sophomore summer, I interviewed against Stanford MBAs. Not only did I get the job, but I got my boss to convince HIS boss to get me a large raise for an intern.

Then I worked for Seth Godin, which happened because I thought of him as a visionary (still do) and emailed him to be his first-ever intern. I had a great summer working in New York and helping him do research for one of his books.

During that summer, I met a ton of people who I interviewed for the book. So when the next summer came around, I felt pretty good about my job prospects.

I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted to do: One of the guys I interviewed was the founder of a food-packaging company. I didn't even know these existed, but imagine any food you eat...Round Table Pizza, or taco shells, or...ANYTHING. Companies like this MAKE it. Ridiculous! I emailed this guy and he invited me to go meet him at the office. It was a pretty surreal experience.

 

In the front of the office, it looks totally normal, with desks/computers/printers/etc. But you walk through some doors and there's an industrial kitchen with people in all white. We see ALL KINDS of food on the shelves. Then we saw in his office and started talking.

 

All of a sudden, he interrupts me to invite someone else in -- it was a young woman bringing us some ice cream samples. "Try these," he said. "You won't believe it." There were 3 difference ice cream samples. I was a naive college kid with no palate, so I said "YUM!" to each. In reality, one of them had something like no sugar or fat or something. Apparently this was revolutionary. To me, it was just good free food.

Anyway, we had a good chat and the guy offered me a job. He said, "Sure, I can hire you. You look like maybe 130lbs...I bet we can feed you all day and you won't put on a pound." But then he said, "I'll treat you the same as our other interns, $12/hour, and you do XYZ..."

 This made me think. Honestly, I appreciated the job offer. But when I walked out of there, I wasn't so sure. I'd spent the last few years working at extraordinary jobs. Yes, the extraordinary compensation mattered...but not much. What really mattered was the fact that I was NOT treated like everyone else. So when he made that comment about being treated like other interns, it surprised me.

Here's where it gets interesting.

On my way home, I called my friend, who was working at a startup. I said, "Hey, I'm looking for summer internships. What do you know about?" I still remember that it was a Friday afternoon, because she told me to send my resume to her, which I did as soon as I got home.

By Monday, I had a job offer.

And here's the most ridiculous part. I was told to negotiate my offer...WITH MY FRIEND FROM 7TH GRADE.

How did this happen? Yes, I spent the weekend doing lots of research on the company. And yes, when I walked in to interview on Monday, I used my Briefcase Technique to absolutely crush in the interview.

But what really matters is that my friend recommended me and put her reputation on the line to get me hired. Since she was so valued at the company, her recommendation carried a lot of weight. There was no job listing on the website or Monster.com. They created it for me, and the compensation was essentially "whatever."

Key techniques to get hired at a dream job:


  • Always call your friends and let them know what you're looking for. People think it makes them look weak to ask friends for help. But in fact, friends WANT to help, and when you have a job 1 month later, nobody will remember that you were unemployed or looking for a new job.

  • Too many people try to do it themselves and simply show up at the interview. That's a quick way to get rejected. If you know anyone who (1) currently works there or (2) used to work there, CALL THEM. My friend gave me inside info on the team, the product, etc. Nothing unethical, but she certainly gave me lots of info that helped me prepare.

  • Always utilize the Briefcase Technique and other advanced interviewing techniques to utterly crush the interview. You can find some of these for free on my YouTube channel, some in my Earn1k course, and others I'll share with you later.

  • If you can swing it, somehow end up negotiating your salary with your friend from 7th grade. This is a great tip, I know!!!

  • Do not fall in love with only one opportunity. Like dating, there are many fish in the sea. I see this all the time -- someone will get fixated on one job and obsess over it, not realizing that they should be interviewing with DOZENS of people.

  • You can leverage offers against each other. Every top candidate knows this. It goes like this: "I think we're in the same ballpark, but it's just a matter of getting to the right number. As you know, I've received offers from 3 other technology companies (you don't have to name them) and the top offer is $7,000 higher. Like I said, we're in the same ballpark, but I just want to do what's fair for both of us. What can you do on the salary side?" Then utilize my STHU technique (SHUT THE HELL UP) and let them talk. The students I coach negotiate, on average, $7,500 more per salary negotiation. More on this another time.


--------

What's the common thread in all of these stories?



The common thread is that I didn't achieve any of these things on my own -- it was all with the help of other people. I asked them for help. I helped them. And together, we accelerated our careers together.

Too many people try to succeed alone. Maybe they think nobody would bother helping them, or they're not sure what to say, or they're just too lazy to email a few people and take them out to coffee.

For every single one of my achievements, I have depended on others to help.

For example, when I started my "Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge," I got so much media attention in the first few days that I realized I needed to somehow monetize it.

 

I was really busy, so I was just planning to create an ebook and sell it for $30 or something. I talked to my friend Erica, who quickly set me straight. "Are you crazy?" she asked. "You need to make this into a recurring business -- and it doesn't have to take a lot of time." Her advice generated over $50,000 for me. But I never would have taken it had I not called her.

 

Along the way, I've learned some key insights about people. For example, when my professor invited me to speak on persuasive technology in Japan, we were preparing before we went on stage. This was one of those conferences where they translated to Japanese on-the-fly, so they had some instructions for us.

 

About 2 minutes before we go on stage, I started asking my professor about something (I don't even remember what). He gave me a stern look -- something I'd never really seen. I realized that there was literally NOTHING I COULD HAVE SAID that would be important to him right then. At that moment, he was 100% focused on his talk and nothing else mattered.

The point is, there are techniques about working with people so you can help them, and they can help you. Some people scoff at the term "networking," but done properly, it's always a win-win. You can get so far on your own, but when you help others and they help you, you can do huge things -- whether that's making more money, getting opportunities to travel, getting a better job, etc.

A few years ago, I did a book review of Keith Ferrazzi's book, "Never Eat Alone," where I said it was the book I wish I'd written on networking. Keith was the youngest partner at Deloitte and wrote a best-selling book on networking, which is just phenomenal and packed with insights on relationships with people. Not sleazy relationships, but mutually beneficial ones.

 

Anyway, a few months ago, I discovered that Ferrazzi has put together a course on networking, with specific techniques on how to communicate better with people, how to get jobs (before they're announced to the public), and how to basically live a better life. While others are focused on themselves, you can learn how to get the help of powerful people -- and help them, too.


I went through the course. It's very good. So I talked to Keith's people about doing a promotion to share it with you guys.

If you're interested in learning more about how to use ethical networking to help you leapfrog your peers, Keith is giving away a MONTH of free content:
http://affiliate.relationshipmastersacademy.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=124

He's got a course too, but even the free content is incredibly valuable. He's included many of the techniques I used to get dream jobs and travel around the world on someone else's dime -- and he's included many I didn't even know about.

Sign up to get a month of free material and learn more about his upcoming course on networking:
http://affiliate.relationshipmastersacademy.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=124

Hope you enjoyed this. Feel free to forward it to anyone who's benefit from it.

Talk soon,

-Ramit

P.S. Here's the cleverly disguised affiliate link to get a month of free material on ethical networking to get better jobs, more money, and better relationships: http://affiliate.relationshipmastersacademy.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=124

 

 


  

------Disclosures-------
I want to be crystal clear. I run a business and generate revenues through a variety of means, including direct sales, affiliate promotions, partnerships, speaking, book sales, and more. I only recommend products I love and use. You should assume that I'm generating revenues from these recommendations.

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