We had the good fortune of connecting with Wei-Li Sun and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Wei-Li, what makes you happy? Why?
I find a lot of joy in rock climbing outdoors. The physical and mental challenges associated with it are exhilarating. Every climb is a problem that needs to be puzzled out and requires a solution executed with my full physical and mental commitment. It’s a great way to constantly push myself to my limits.
I find similar joy in my work. Every new student presents a different set of challenges that demands unique strategies and solutions, driving me to expand my expertise and improve my services. I also get to guide and encourage students to better understand and articulate their stories, enabling them to make a persuasive argument for their college worthiness.
What should our readers know about your business?
My start as a college admissions consultant, more specifically a UC Admissions Expert, was by complete accident. When the University of California system was hit with major budget cuts in the mid-2000’s, the individual campuses began recruiting alumni to volunteer at college fairs for admission outreach. Eager to give back to my alma mater, I signed up and began more than a decade of volunteering to answer students’ admissions questions at college fairs, first for UC Berkeley and then also for UCLA, where I’d spent a year in a PhD program.
My interaction with students at college fairs allowed me to see major gaps in how admission information is conveyed and perceived. In an attempt to bridge those gaps, I first started a blog to post information I learned about the admissions process. Then, I began answering questions posed by students in online forums. Eventually, I started working with students one-on-one, first for free when I was still gainfully employed and then for a fee when I was laid off during the Great Recession. By the time I officially launched my business, I had already built a large potential client base through my blog and online activities.
I always had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve for my business: helping young people navigate the complex and sometimes confusing process of gaining admissions to the University of California campuses, and ultimately succeed not just as a student but as a contributing member of society. To accomplish this, I am constantly gathering and compiling information to stay on top of the complex and ever-changing admissions process. Maintaining my own personal library of everything UC admissions related ensures that I have credibility when answering questions and clarifying misunderstandings parents and students have about the process.
To provide comprehensive support to students and alleviate the stress created by uncertainty that comes with college admissions, I develop well-defined expectations and design a well-structured plan for each of my clients to follow. I have also built a process that focuses on guiding students to discover their own strengths and take pride in their successes, thereby helping them gain confidence in their ability to excel in college.
By always pushing myself and my business to improve, I have come to understand my own limits and learned to delegate. Letting go of complete control over every aspect of my business was difficult, but I discovered that bringing in other experts, such as a writing coach and portfolio specialist, ultimately better served my clients.
My distinctive origin story demonstrated to me the reach and impact good online content can have and the difference a better understanding of the admissions process can make for students. This led me to continue offering majority of my online content for free, with the intent of helping as many students as possible.
By making sure all of my business decisions directly support my vision of demystifying the UC admissions process and helping students succeed, I have been able to establish and maintain my expertise in my field, earn the trust of my clients, and continuously guide students to gain admission to their dream UC campus.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I have hosted climbers visiting Los Angeles a few times, and I always take them to areas I consider to be must-climbs around the city: Echo Cliffs, off the Mishe Mokwa trail to Sandstone Peak in Ventura County, and New Jack City, in Sawtooth Canyon just outside of Barstow. When climbing at Echo Cliffs, we’d stop at La Paz Mexican Seafood in Calabasas on our way out for a burrito the size of my forearm. After a day climbing at New Jack City, we’d head to Manny’s Restaurant in Victorville for the sloppiest burger imaginable.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am grateful for my husband, who has been the stalwart of my business. Because of his encouragement and financial/emotional support, I had the freedom to experiment with different business strategies and expansion/contraction of service offerings. This allows me to rapidly adjust or improve my business model whenever something doesn’t work, resulting in a much better overall experience for my clients.
I also want to give a shout-out to Angie Bates, a writing coach who has been working tirelessly to help me provide the absolute best service possible to my clients since 2015. Her responsiveness and accountability have been vital to my ability to support my clients in a deadline-oriented process!
Last but not least, I want to thank the woman, whose name I no longer recall, who took the time to compliment me at a college fair 15 years ago when I was volunteering for my alma mater, UC Berkeley, answering student questions. She suggested I consider becoming an educational consultant and pointed me to HECA, a professional organization, where I was able to gather the initial set of information that eventually helped me launch my business five years later. Thank you kind stranger! Your advice inspired a thriving business!