Do you Need a College Admissions Consultant?

What about college admissions consultants? If you can afford it, it will definitely take some stress off of the application process. The consultant will hold the college applicant’s hand throughout the process, with virtual consultations, essay writing help, advice on majors (the advice that was worth the money was to go for the less popular majors so there would be less competition), and generally being there during this stressful time. During the college application ordeal, it is very important to take care of yourself: exercise, eat right and get wellness treatments and massages.

Jason, a high school senior who was accepted to attend an Ivy League college, was one of those lucky ones who did have a college coach that cost $15,000.

Jason reported:

My college coach, a former admissions officer at an Ivy League university, worked with other former admissions officers and guided me throughout the college application process.  They helped with the essay, emphasizing my special circumstance, such as needing to care for my little brother due to my parents being divorced.  The college coach assisted with prepping me for my interviews.  College admissions officers are looking for the perfect fit.  The most important parts of the application are a great essay and spectacular extra-curricular activities.  Everyone has top grades and excellent SAT scores, so you need to stand out with a personal essay that shows your special circumstance while maintaining good grades.  There are so many students who have the best extra-curriculars, such as creating their own company, winning international awards, creating patents, playing in Carnegie Hall, starting their own non-profit, etc. The Ivy League is looking for someone who is so passionate about something that he is willing to spend all his time and effort on it, such as a Regeneron winner or Olympic athlete, not someone who dabbles in something.  How was I to compete?!  One kid hired a college coach who created a website that showed his non-profit, started by donating his birthday money to poor kids and tutoring them.   My coach also gave me advice such as, everyone wants to apply to UPenn Wharton for finance, so perhaps UPenn’s art history major might be better. 

Vanessa, Ivy League Student

The Pieces of the Pie for Admission to an Ivy League College

Think of admissions to an Ivy as pieces of the pie: If you have enough pieces and they are large enough, then you make up the entire pie.  The pieces of the pie include: grades, extra curricular activities, achievements and awards, opportunity in high school, the essay, recommendation letters, the university-specific questions and SAT/ACT. 

Pieces of the Pie for Ivy League Admissions
Photo by Felicity Tai on


What grades do you need to have to get into the Ivy League? 

Since the Ivies have so many applicants to choose from, they will probably choose the straight A (weighted Grade Point Average 4.0) student over the B student.  The colleges want students who can handle the rigorous academic standards, so grades are a good indicator of future success.  Does it mean that if you have the occasional B that your chances are zero?  No it does not.  However, you are competing with the straight A students, so the higher your grades are, the higher your chances of getting into an Ivy. 

What if your grades are not perfect?

By not perfect, we mean a GPA around 3.3 to 3.7. 

  • Apply to less-choosy Ivy League schools. Out of all the Ivies, Cornell probably has the top acceptance rate, which is still uber- selective at approximately 8.7%. However, students with average grades will have an improved chance of getting into Cornell as opposed to Harvard, with a 4% acceptance rate.
  • Explain your grades in the Common App Additional Information Section. 
  • This is where you can explain your special circumstances, such as needing to do the housework or get a job because your parents are divorced.  Nowadays, divorce seems to be the norm rather than the exception, so discuss how the divorce has affected your grades: emotional distress, extra housework, need to take care of siblings, etc.
  • Excel in other areas of the college application. Grades are just one part of the pie that  Ivy League colleges use to assess their applicants. If a student has great extracurricular activities, top letters of recommendation, and poignant college essays, he can still be a viable candidate with so-so grades.
  • Look into transferring to an Ivy League.   Even if you don’t get in on your first try, perhaps you can transfer to an Ivy after a year or so at another college.

The College Essay

The college essay is your chance to shine, to stand out amongst all the other stellar grades and perfect SAT scores.  Here is where you need to reveal something about yourself.  The admissions officers want to know who you are, so that they can make a right match for the school.  Think of it as matchmaking for your significant other: you will be spending the next four years of your life in this college, so the admissions officers need to know that it will be a good fit.  Of course, there are some exceptions, like if your dad wrote a large check to support the school, but for the rest of us, the essay is very important.  The dirty secret, according to high school students I interviewed, everyone has some help with their essays.  Even those who cannot afford to hire a college coach will probably get some help, even if it is from a friend.

Please take this poll about whether you hired a college admissions consultant and check back for the results.