Afterschool's Exclusive Interview with The Girl Who Got Accepted Into All 8 Ivy League Universities

Published by on Apr 10, 2017, 03:20 pm

Many of you have now heard about the accomplishment of Cassandra Hsiao. The Malaysian-born lass who emigrated to the United States at the age of five, and now has received offer letters from all 8 Ivy League universities. If you missed it you may read the article. The article includes her essay detailing that detailed her struggle adapting, an ultimately conquering the English Language.

Struggles and challenges

As an immigrant to the US, one of Cassandra’s challenges was learning English in which she explained her struggles in her essay

In an exclusive interview with, Cassandra gives us insight into her life and what it takes to achieve what she has and how to get there. Her essay highlighted one of her biggest challenges growing up overseas: Identity and belonging. “While my essay talked about the struggles of learning the idiosyncrasies of English, I understand that there are many people who have much greater struggles as an immigrant than I did. Some of my peers moved here when they were 7 or 8 without any prior exposure to English, and I think their struggles are much greater than mine.”

However, I think something everyone might be able to relate to is the struggle of not quite knowing where we belong. I do not fit into the cookie-cutter shape of ‘American’, and in some people’s eyes I have lost touch with my overseas culture and language so I cannot be considered a true ‘Asian’.I realise I am not alone in feeling unanchored, and that means that my story among other’s needs, to be told so that readers might come away feeling a little less alone.”

The girl, who proudly embraces her Taiwanese-Malaysian heritage looks up to her mother. “My mum is my role model. I love her passion for life, her boldness, her compassion and her honesty. She keeps me grounded yet inspires me not only to dream big but also take action to make those dreams come true. She prays for me and guides me in my relationship with God.”

While she has achieved the unthinkable, with most students getting an offer from just one Ivy League school, Cassandra is no stranger to facing difficulties in certain subjects while at, with one of them being Mathematics (She is human after all!).

Spanish and math are two of the hardest subjects I struggled with. I visited my teachers during lunch and study hall to get the maximum amount of help; I asked older students for guidance; I bought study books and did a lot of practice outside of class.”

Overcoming challenges

The hard-working Cassandra would try to finish her homework in school or class. Time management is one of the keys to her success

Cassandra isn’t just brilliant with her books, as evident from her brimming CV detailing her other ventures, which include being a writer, journalist, poet, playwright and editor. While time-management is obviously crucial to her, she detailed how she actually juggled all these activities on a daily basis, going on to say that we have time than we think we do.

I try to finish as much of my homework as I can in class or when I am at school. I find that we have much more time on our hands than we believe, whether it’s between classes or waiting at the bus stop.”

Additionally, it’s easy to let time slip us by when we start a never-ending Internet quest or go down the rabbit hole of Instagram’s Discover Page. I don’t usually watch TV or movies on the weekdays but weekends are fair game, after I’ve finished all my work”.

A girl such as herself, while many would think has never faced rejection before, has in fact had to deal with just that. In dealing with rejection, she talked about how persistence and honing your skills is key. “This is not a “failure,” but I have faced many rejections in life, whether it is applying to a specific programme, submitting to writing magazines/competitions, or asking publicists for opportunities to interview celebrities.”

“Persistence is key; keep trying and honing your skills. Sometimes it took multiple years for me to get into a competition; for example, I have applied to a national competition called YoungArts (writing discipline) every year since I was eligible. This year, I finally won! Eventually you’ll hear a yes. The next time you send something into the world could be your next YES!”

Important traits


The most important traits for a student is to stay passionate, optimistic and being open to new ideas and adventures

When asked what she thinks the three most important traits a student should possess, she mentioned staying passionate, optimistic and open to new ideas and adventures. Those who read her essay are probably aware that she had to improve her command of English when she initially arrived in the United States, from pronunciation to comprehension, she made it the central theme of her essay. She even details exactly how she went about improving her skills, highlighting the need to read.

Read. It’s so important to get a sense of syntax through other people’s work. In order to better pronunciation, watch as many movies as possible, or listen to audio books. Additionally, for me it was easier to improve my English because I am surrounded by native English speakers.”

Serving as an inspiration to many students from various backgrounds, she had a message to those who feel that they aren’t allowed to dream big or are too scared to apply to the institution of their dreams, in the form of a basketball analogy.

In basketball, there’s a saying: You’ll miss 100% of the shots you’ll never take. My greatest fear is having regrets of not doing pursuing something because I was scared.”

If there is an opportunity and you have a healthy fear of not succeeding at that particular activity, that is a likely sign for you to go for it. You’re not dreaming big enough until your dreams scare you a little with their immense scope.”


Cassandra has a passion in the arts and she wants to pursue her higher education in creative Writing or storytelling - Image via

Cassandra says she plans to pursue some form of storytelling arts, either in English, film or theatre with an emphasis on Creative Writing. With many students alike torn between choosing a course they love and choosing a safe option, Cassandra has this very apt message to those in dilemma.

I would much rather be poor and doing what I love than be rich and doing something I hate.”

“That being said, I also believe that the world will take notice if you are pursuing your passion with all of your heart, and success will naturally follow. “Pursue excellence, success will chase you.” — A quote from the Hindi movie, ‘3 Idiots’. I highly recommend ‘3 Idiots’. It is a movie that tackles the issue of intense pressure in Indian education; I believe ALL students should watch this movie as it redefines the meaning of success.” I would also recommend “Like Stars on Earth” also known as “Taare Zameen Par.” This is a movie also about the education system—more specifically, the importance of art in school.

You can check out her movie review from 2012 here:Like Stars on Earth Movie Review

Having interviewed a few members of the Avengers themselves (She does it all!), including Chris Evans (Captain America) and Mark Rufallo (The Hulk), Cassandra had another enthusiast of the creative arts in mind when choosing her favourite interviewee.

Celebrity interviews

Cassandra posing with Auli’I Cravalho who plays Moana from the Disney film of the same name

I sat down with Moana’s Auli’I Cravalho and talked to her about her love of biology, girl power, and connecting with her Polynesian culture. This was an in-depth interview where I could connect to her through unique questions!”

Check out her interview with Auli’I Cravalho

I also enjoyed my interview with Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer!”

Who wouldn’t want to interview the First Avenger, Captain America, Chris Evans Himself?

Watch her interview with Captain American himself, Chris Evans.

Watch her interview with Octavia Spencer (Zootopia).

Finally, the Malaysia-born girl, who has detailed her pasar malam escapes in literature in the past, obviously misses food from her birthplace, who wouldn’t? When pressed for her favourite dish, she said,

Nasi lemak! The last time I had (authentic) nasi lemak in Malaysia was two years ago. (Roti canai and ice kachang will always be favorites as well! I look forward to returning!)”.

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