30 Sep College Admissions is Rigged. I’d Like to Push Back.
From start to finish, the college admissions process favors wealthier applicants.
If your family has the means, you can afford expensive test prep services to improve your SAT or ACT score.
If you go to an elite school, you likely have dedicated college counselors to help you with the process.
Or you can pay for services like the one I provide. The high-end of the price range is around $10k-15k, though cost doesn’t necessarily correlate with quality.
Wealth also means privilege when filling out the applications themselves. Many of us take computer and internet access for granted.
There are students who complete the entire online CommonApp on a cell phone that belongs to a parent or friend.
It also costs money to submit applications. Applicants can request waivers for the $40-70 fee (per school), but it’s generally recommended to not ask for more than four.
The message that sends to low-income students? “Limit your options.”
It’s absurd and problematic, but then comes the bigger issue of paying for college. The vast majority of private institutions are expensive and offer abysmal financial aid to low-income students. Merit scholarships often go to high-performing students who don’t financially need them, as a means to entice them towards enrollment.
The system is broken. I am part of that broken system.
Parents come to me to help their children craft the best possible applications. The process becomes more competitive each year, so it makes sense that people want to get a leg up anywhere they can.
I work with students to select the best schools to match their credentials. I provide advice on each part of the application—from how to craft strong activity lists to selecting the best recommenders. I conduct mock interviews to give students practice and feedback before the real thing.
My main task, however, is to help students become better writers.
Personal statements and college-specific essays require a different approach than academic papers, and I work with students to find their voices. It’s the most exciting part of the job for me because each student is unique and has at least one great story to tell. It’s rewarding to encourage their sense of self-discovery.
I believe every student is deserving of this service and that it should be a part of high school curricula.
That’s not the case.
It’s not even the case within my industry, where high-priced “exclusive” firms sell access to self-professed admissions gurus while quietly giving the work to inexperienced, low-paid recent college grads. The firms put profit first and promote a one-size-fits-all approach.
The bigger problem is that most students who need and deserve college admissions help can’t afford it.
Initially, I conceived WiseApp as a nonprofit. I had an early plan to collaborate with a superintendent in a specific school district to offer college readiness courses to grades 6 through 11 and application help to grade 12. Several obstacles prevented that plan from materializing.
I founded WiseApp in October 2017 as an LLC out of necessity. I couldn’t afford to self-fund it, and trusted friends in the educational nonprofit space advised me to prove my concept first as a for-profit. Only then would I be able to fundraise to sustain WiseApp as a nonprofit.
Turns out I’m impatient.
Each year, I witness the admissions process tilt more and more in favor of wealthy applicants, and I cannot sit by wait without pushing back, at least in a very small way.
I am beginning to offer my services free-of-charge to a limited amount of students who need it.
Granted, I am one person whose actions are no match for a bloated, gargantuan system. I’m not trying to change the system.
I’m trying to help a handful of applicants. It’s the least I can do.
I will still be offering WiseApp’s paid services because I need to make a living, and I have enjoyed working with all of my clients thus far. I truly mean it when I say I find the work exciting.
At the same time, I want to move towards my original vision of WiseApp.
Check out the details of my Free Application Readiness (FAR) program, including instructions on how to apply.
I don’t know how many applicants I’ll be able to help during the 2018-19 application cycle. For one, we’re a month away from the most common Early Action/Early Decision deadline, November 1st.
Also, I’m having neurosurgery on October 11th. I’d estimate this will only prevent me from working for 3-4 days if all goes well, and I’m informing my paid clients of this, too.
So how many new students am I aiming to take on?
At least 1-2 before the EA/ED deadline. I will select these applicants over the next two weeks, then get to work right away.
For the regular decision deadlines—mostly Jan 1st, but also the 15th, and some Feb 1st like UMich—I’d like to work with as many students as possible.
At least 5, but perhaps 10. I’ll need to figure out how the work balances out with my paid clients, who will be equal priority.
Once the applications are submitted, I will be offering exclusive financial aid advising services to students enrolled in FAR.
If you’re a senior in high school and think this sounds right for you, hop on the instructions page and apply!