Oxford University
  • A global organisation, co-founded by a South African, has launched locally to help high-school learners get in to top universities abroad.
  • These universities require excellent academic records, entrance exams, essay-writing and a strong extracurricular trackrecord. 
  • The local representative of Crimson Education says South African teens should start planning their applications as soon as possible.


Securing a place at Harvard, Stanford or Oxford is extremely tough. Securing a place from South Africa, even tougher.

A new organisation has set up shop in South Africa to help local learners get into the world’s top universities.

Crimson Education was founded by the New Zealander Jamie Beaton and South African-born Sharndre Kushor in 2013. As a high school student in Auckland, Beaton applied to the world's top 25 universities. He was accepted into all of them, and chose to study at Harvard University. He graduated with a double-degree in mathematics-economics and applied math. 

He saw a gap in the market to support other ambitious learners from across the world to gain access to top universities. Together with Kushor, a UNICEF Youth Ambassador, they started an organisation that can help mentor high schoolers for acceptance into universities in the US and the UK. The business grew quickly – it is reportedly now worth $160 million, and present in 15 countries. 

The company has helped to secure more than 460 offers to top universities and R545 million in scholarships.

It recently started its South African operations under the leadership of Duncan Parsons, a New Zealand student at Duke University, who is currently on an exchange programme in South Africa. Parsons was also admitted to Harvard and Stanford, and received a scholarship to go to Duke.

Duncan Parsons, representative of Crimson Education in South Africa.

Parson’s advice for South African learners who want to get into the world’s top universities is twofold: 

  • First, start early. The most successful candidates started working with Crimson from Grade 9 and 10. They research their options early, and have time to make sure that their school career presents the best possible case for acceptance. 
  • Second, make sure that your extracurricular activities reflect your passions and are directed to where you can make the biggest difference. “Universities want to know that you will offer leadership, that you will take all the opportunities on offer and give back,” says Parsons.

Parsons says that, especially for US colleges, an outstanding academic record isn’t all that counts. “It’s about who you are –whether you are a well-rounded person who can make an impact outside the classroom.”

South African students have a good reputation among leading universities, he added. “They are usually do-ers, who take initiative and tend to be are entrepreneurial.”

“SA applicants are attractive because they bring a different perspective and cultural background to the universities.” 

Crimson’s support programme works as follows: 

  • The student consults with a Crimson representative for an hour, without charge. The learner’s academic record and extracurricular activities are reviewed and Crimson explores the universities that could be a good fit for the candidate. 
  • A plan of assistance is worked out. It focuses on academics, entrance exams, essay-writing and extracurriculars. This will include mentorship (via video links and email) from students who are currently at those universities. Crimson has a team of current and former students from top universities, which can include Harvard, Stanford and Oxford. They provide the strategy and motivation, even guiding students through starting their own small business or community project in the senior years of high school.
  • The cost of Crimson’s services will depend on the scope of the support required.