teenagers hugging10 Things Your 8th Grader Should Be Doing Now for Top College Admissions

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An educator, writer, and editor with over a decade of experience, Dr. Annie Malcolm earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a BA from Barnard College. As a college counselor at Crimson Education, Annie’s students appreciated her precision and rigor in writing, and her care and warmth in guiding them through the college admissions process. Her expertise has helped students gain admission to prestigious institutions such as Yale, Cornell, Stony Brook, University of Washington, and Boston University.

Fluent in Mandarin and a Fulbright fellow, Dr. Malcolm spent a year in South China exploring the intersections of contemporary art, creativity, and urbanization. She has taught courses at UC Berkeley in reading and writing composition, anthropology, China studies, ethnographic research, and art. Drawing on her students’ curiosities, Annie forges strong bonds that enhance their skills in observation, analysis, and expression.

An accomplished independent curator, Annie has organized art exhibitions in San Francisco and Shanghai. Her insightful writings have been featured in Quartz, SFMOMA, and Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art. She has also contributed as a researcher for TikTok and Google News Initiative and as an editor for Substack. Moreover, Dr. Malcolm has taught Mandarin immersion at Avenues The World School in New York and ESL to Chinese immigrants with the Chinese American Planning Council.

In addition to her professional achievements, Annie is a multimedia artist who enjoys driving her pickup, hiking with her black lab, practicing yoga, and dancing to Beyoncé.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: With your extensive background in anthropology and education, how has your journey shaped your approach to college counseling at Blue Stars?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: Studying at Barnard College and Columbia University was extremely formative for me. My undergraduate journey revealed how deeply I love learning in an academic setting. I was fortunate to find a cultural fit at Barnard, making lifelong friends and creative collaborators. My background in anthropology has taught me to approach people from diverse backgrounds with openness and curiosity, allowing me to quickly grasp their contexts. I genuinely enjoy talking to people, discovering what drives them, sharing a laugh, and understanding their dreams and the reasons behind them. Teaching in various settings has underscored the value of patient, thoughtful instruction. These experiences have made me acutely aware of the critical phase when students apply to college, taking significant steps in both their education and life.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: Your experience at Crimson Education helped students gain admission to prestigious institutions. What key strategies do you believe contributed to these successes?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: Writing is rewriting! We worked tirelessly on those essays. The first step was getting to know my students well, enabling me to identify authentic essay topics and understand how to work with them most effectively. I pushed them to be specific about their “why.” Why is this essay topic important to you? Why is this college or program the perfect fit for you? What initially sparked your interest in your favorite subject? I also have a knack for keeping students motivated and on task.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: What led you to study Mandarin and conduct research in China?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: I began studying Mandarin at eleven and fell in love with the language and its intensity. I continued my studies through high school and college, including study abroad experiences in Beijing and Hangzhou that significantly improved my language skills. It was then that I began writing about my experiences in China, capturing my observations and understanding of the culture. After undergrad, I knew I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. and become a writer. Combining my anthropological studies with my experiences in China, I received an award to study Mandarin in Beijing again. I chose Wutong Shan, an art village on the outskirts of Shenzhen, as my research site. With a Fulbright fellowship, I lived there for a year, conducting ethnographic research, interviewing hundreds of artists, and studying Chinese contemporary art and urbanization.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: What was it like to be a Fulbright Scholar?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: It was amazing. Immersing myself in another culture, meeting people, learning, and writing was mind-expanding, humbling, and beautiful. I developed my scholarship, style, and intellectual orientation. It was also lonely, harrowing, and exhausting at times, missing my community back home, dealing with food poisoning, and constantly communicating across language and culture. And yes, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: You were an undergraduate at Barnard in New York City, a PhD student in Berkeley, CA, and a Fulbright Scholar in Shenzhen, China. How do your bi-coastal and international experiences influence your counseling methods?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: My institutional experiences range widely. I understand the dynamics of a small, liberal arts environment and a massive public research university. As a teacher, I observed which students thrived at UC Berkeley and which might have been better suited to a smaller school. I am familiar with both Chinese and American pedagogical cultures. When counseling, I aim to create a mini-culture between myself and the student tailored to their needs. Do they need the methods of repetition and rigor of Mandarin study? Or the support of a liberal arts environment? Encouragement to become independent thinkers? It’s usually a combination.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: Parents often look for counselors who can build strong, trusting relationships with their children. How do you forge these connections and ensure students feel supported throughout their journey?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: I’m outgoing and non-judgemental, and I like to laugh and make people laugh, creating ease. The most important thing in a learning environment is a sense of safety. I create a very safe learning environment, drawing on anti-bias training and addiction and recovery environments. I have empathy for students’ struggles and am a direct communicator.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: Given your experience as a researcher for organizations like TikTok and Google News Initiative, what insights do you bring to career exploration for high school students?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: Try different things. Don’t assume you know how you’ll feel about an opportunity until you’ve experienced it. It’s fascinating to enter a tech organization whose products you use regularly and learn how your skills can serve them professionally. Also, network! Meet with adults you admire and ask how they got where they are. Tell your friends you’re looking for new opportunities.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: What advice would you offer to parents of 8th to 12th graders aiming for top college admissions?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: Balance pushing your child and letting them blossom on their own. You know your child best—what forms of encouragement work and when they are most productive. Know that they are already worried, so find ways to let go a little, have faith, and build in fun activities. Mental health is crucial.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: How do you measure the success of your counseling sessions, and what outcomes do you most value in your work with students?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: I measure success by improvement in a student’s writing, a changed mind, and clarification of vision. I love seeing students bring their authentic selves into learning and writing, articulate their truth, and feel confident in academic settings.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: What’s your favorite Beyoncé song?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: I have been living for “Tyrant” on the new album, but “1 + 1” on the album 4 is undeniable.

Dr. Amy Morgenstern founder of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting

DrM: Favorite yoga pose?

Annie Malcolm Senior College Counselor and Editor

Annie: I love Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose). I love the way it combines balance with strength.

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About the Author: Amy Morgenstern

Dr. Amy Morgenstern, affectionately known as Dr. M, is the founder and CEO of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and an MFA in contemporary art. A former professor of philosophy, honors program associate director, and assistant to the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Dr. M brings a wealth of academic and multicultural experience to her practice.

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