Our Case Studies

A few student profiles that might give you some insights to our process.

Justine Filler, Princeton Class of 2024

Situation

Justine was a long-term client of ours. Her mother reached out to us while she was a sophomore in high school. She attended a medium-sized, predominantly white, suburban high school. She was on-track to be in the top 3% in her graduating class; but at the time, it was still too early to tell. 

Challenges

As we read over her initial extracurricular activities, which consisted of: volunteering for NHS, playing varsity tennis, performing piano, working at the local food bank, and working at the Iranian culture center. We encouraged her to spend the majority of her time on piano, but enlarging the scope by performing at various German and Iranian cultural conventions. This tied together her interest in music with her cultural background, great material for her personal statement.

College Goals

How We Helped

We focused on solidifying her extracurricular activities, cutting out those that did not have potential to be placed on a college resume. The harsh truth is, colleges really only want to see two to three extracurricular activities that show strong leadership rather than ten where you are just another club member. The next step was deciding whether Justine should take the SAT or the ACT. After a few diagnostic tests, we decided she fit better with the faster paced, less analytical style of the ACT. After one year of instruction at our ACT programs, she scored a 35 on the ACT, which put her in the 99th percentile of national ACT takers. After we had set the groundwork for her application, we began tackling the centerpiece: the personal statement. During the initial brainstorming process, we helped her branch away from the biographical approach she thought was best. Unlike what most students think, the personal statement should be a story telling an experience that shaped you. One story, not two, three weaved together, or a synopsis of your life. In the end, we decided to stray from our original plan on meshing piano with culture, and focus entirely on her many cultures. How she learned to accept who she was and reinvent her ideas on her clashing background. Read her personal statement here.   

College Results

Justine was accepted to Princeton and Duke, waitlisted at Williams, and denied admission at the University of Pennsylvania. We guess that as a pure liberal arts college, Williams is seeking more well-rounded students, while top universities such as Harvard and Princeton want students that peak in specific skills, creating a class that is well-rounded. Justine is set to attend Princeton this year. 

Jerome Harris, Harvard Class of 2022

Situation

We received a call from Jerome’s parents in the middle of summer while Jerome had just started drafting his personal statement. Jerome told us that his application felt all over the place, and his essays did not carry a central theme. He came from a small, private school that only graduated around twenty students each year. All of his seniors all went to community college, but as an overachiever, he wanted to see what he could accomplish if he just pushed himself during this critical moment in his academic career.  

Challenges

Just as Jerome noticed, his interests were spread far and wide. He was a nationally ranked chess player, captain of the basketball team, and a passionate painter. Academically, his GPA was quite strong, but as his school had a decentralized curriculum, we knew colleges would not put much weight on his grades. On the other hand, his SAT put him above the 90th percentile of the national average, so he had potential. He told us he spends the majority of his time on the basketball court, and that the sport had really shaped his values. But he was nowhere near the level of D1 athletes in order to get drafted to university teams. 

College Goals

How We Helped

After our initial consultation, we unraveled an entirely different side of Jerome to focus on. As a child, he was constantly uprooted from country to country, allowing him to develop a greater acceptance of many international cultures. We blended his international flair with his foundation in basketball to create a compelling narrative that exposes the hardships of not having a permanent home. His time in Malaysia, Singapore, and China as an African American allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of race relations in countries that were predominantly homogeneous while bonding with the natives as he slowly transitioned from a foreigner to a local. We are confident his transnational journey touched many admissions officers on the day his application was reviewed. Read his personal statement here.    

College Results

Jerome was accepted to Harvard, Princeton, Rice, and Dartmouth, and denied admission at Stanford. Jerome has chosen to attend Harvard University.

Jonathan Wu, Yale Class of 2022

Situation

In the middle of December, after universities released their Early Action/ Early Decision round of admission letters, we received a call from Jonathan. He had expected to gain admission to the University of Pennsylvania under their Early Decision program. He was the salutatorian of his inner-city, magnet high school. Everyone expected him to succeed. When he was rejected, which is quite rare for Early Decision, he was very anxious about whether he made a serious blunder on his essays. There was only three weeks until Regular Decision applications were due.  

Challenges

Jonathan was an Chinese American student who wanted to become a practicing neurosurgeon. The issue is: there are thousands of Asian Americans applying to Ivy League universities under the pre-med route. In last year’s lawsuit against Harvard University for the alleged discrimination against Asian Americans, comments such as ‘typical Asian pre-med student” were highlighted. We told Jonathan the truth. He was a stellar student, and a genuine guy, but volunteering at a local nonprofit unrelated to your interests and being concertmaster of a symphony orchestra was not going to make him stand out.   

College Goals

How We Helped

We brainstormed ways to back his passion for the medical field with a personal story that could touch the admissions officers. It turns out, Jonathan’s father had Stage 3 Melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. During his sophomore year, Jonathan spent many hours of each day caring for his father in the hospital. He witnessed the tenacity of the medical professionals who cared so deeply for his father’s successful recovery. We helped Jonathan integrate this compelling story as to how he became so invested in the medical field. We also polished his resume and extracurricular activities, cutting out many honors that were just too trivial to be mentioned in a college application, such as being a NHS member, just like hundreds of thousands of other applicants, and being 2nd place at his freshman year art competition. 

College Results

Jonathan was accepted to Yale, Columbia, and Brown. He was waitlisted at Harvard, Stanford, and was denied admission at the other Ivies. He chose to attend Yale. Yale and Princeton puts more emphasis on the personal statement than any other colleges in the country. This moving story likely made his application noticed by the admissions committee.