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Shandre Kushor, Founder, Crimson Education, New Zealand

After watching classmates struggle to be accepted into top universities overseas, in 2013 Shandre Kushor decided to take matters into their own hands. Co-founding Crimson Education  at just 18 years old, she is helping mentor and train students to enter universities such as Harvard, Oxford and Princeton. Kushor discussed international education trends and how she’s helping the leaders of the future.


We prefer to work with students when they're younger because deciding what you want to study at university is a really big decision to make

The PIE: What is Crimson Education?

Shandre Kushor: Crimson is a personalised education company that helps students understand what kind of university options, what kind of study options, what kind of career options are a good fit for them. We help them access information and explore their options, and after that we provide them with the support structures that they need to realise their goals.

The PIE: It sounds a little bit like an education agency. Is that the sort of business model you were looking at initially?

SK: When I was going through high school, there was not a lot of information for students about global opportunities. What that meant was that a lot of students were navigating towards very traditional career paths and were only really looking at options that were quite local and in front of them.

For many students, that was a good option. There were great opportunities for them here in New Zealand and even in Australia, but some students who had particular interests, or knew exactly what they wanted to do, they were missing out on a lot of opportunities.

New Zealand was also fairly under-represented at some of the world’s best universities and even at some of the fastest growing organisations. We thought, as young people ourselves, we really had an obligation to make sure that people in our generation were getting access to the best and the newest.

“We expect young people to make those decisions without giving them the chance to experience them”

The PIE: Have you noticed your experience was unique to New Zealand or is the lack of information also being experienced around the world?

SK: A lot of students lack this information. Even students that are in big hubs, students in London or students in Singapore, still have this deep desire to not only get access to the information but also know what these types of opportunities would lead to after they graduate.

So instead of just going to the best school in the world for engineering, to say, ‘I went to the best school in the world for engineering; what is the practical difference for me and how will that help fulfil myself as an individual.’

The PIE: Has Crimson been working towards getting people to understand the best school in the world is not necessarily the best for them?

SK: We prefer to work with students when they’re younger because deciding what you want to study at university and what career path you want to go into are really big decisions to make. Often, we expect young people to make those decisions without giving them the chance to experience them. It’s more about who you know or what you read.

There are so many things people need to take into consideration when they’re choosing what they want to study and where, because it’s an important decision around making sure you set yourself up well for that career path. Definitely very important to consider things other than rankings.

The PIE: How many students are going through Crimson’s programs?

SK: Across the Crimson Group, we have upwards of 20,000 students that are engaging with our different types of support.

“Students from New Zealand and Australia now studying in the US are very much committed to social impact”

The PIE: You started in Auckland and expanded into Australia shortly after. How has Crimson grown since then?

SK: We recently opened in Cape Town in South Africa and Sao Paulo in Brazil. We’re pretty excited to be able to offer students in those locations access to this type of support. We’re very lucky to be living in an age where technology is such a pivotal part of what we do and the way that we live. Being able to provide students with this type of personalised one-on-one support is becoming more and more easy. That’s going to be really exciting.

The PIE: What sort of things are students participating in when abroad?

SK: One of the things that is super exciting for students is this idea of internships and having this culture where students are pushed to actively learn. A lot of our students will engage with research projects with professors and they’ll really enjoy the opportunity to work alongside people who have been global trailblazers.

They really value the opportunity to spend their summer period at organisations that are based in the US. We’ve had students who have interned at fast-growing tech companies like Uber and Airbnb. We’ve also had students that have interned at Goldman Sachs, or that have worked in the not-for-profit space and have done some really cool work at organisations like the UN.

We’ve noticed students from New Zealand and Australia now studying in the US are very much committed to social impact. They’re going into roles in different organisations because they think that what they’re doing there is really going to have a massive impact on the way that people live their lives.

“This idea of the overseas experience is ingrained in Kiwis and Aussies from a very young age”

The PIE: One of your original key goals was to help New Zealanders and Australians access an overseas education and then come back. Why was that an important aspiration for you?

SK: Right now, the world is changing so quickly and I think that if we equip our young people well, we can make sure that as the world changes, we stay totally informed. We’re focused on making sure young people in New Zealand and Australia who are very passionate about being leaders in specific sectors and domains have the opportunity to get the best education for them.

They can get that global experience and then come back and share that with the rest of the country.

The PIE: Australians and New Zealanders are well known for their travelling, especially as backpackers. Do you think there will a transition into more study abroad in the next few years?

SK: This idea of the overseas experience is ingrained in Kiwis and Aussies from a very young age. I think that we’re already seeing pretty significant changes in terms of the way people think about what kind of overseas experience they want.

Definitely, there’s a lot of self-growth and personal development that happens when you go backpacking around Europe, but it’s exciting to see that more students are looking at overseas university options, overseas internships, study abroad opportunities as a complementary experience or something they do instead.

“We’ve had people that have… done some really cool work at organisations like the UN”

The PIE: What do you see happening for Crimson in the next five years?

SK: We’re aiming to have a very significant impact on the way people learn, so we want people to be super focused on having the most personalised education experience that they can. How we do that is making sure people from all around the world have access to global mentors.

I like to think that we live in a very globalised society, and I think that the idea of breaking down geographical barriers is really important. In the next ten to fifteen years, something I’d like to see is a lot of these geographical barriers, in terms of where people study, or the cost discrepancies they experience, dilute a little bit.

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