Case Studies

Ria’s Case

She intended to apply to Northeastern and wanted to be a physician. With her love for art, she gained admission to Harvard.


Ria came to Ivy Coach in 11th grade. She wanted to be a physician and, as such, intended to apply to several BS/MD programs. She had top grades in fairly rigorous courses, wow AP scores, and near-perfect SAT scores.


Ria presented a profile to Ivy Coach that is all too common in elite college admissions: an Indian American applicant who wanted to be a doctor. It is indeed the single most common profile we see at our firm. Both of Ria’s parents were already physicians. They attended college in India and medical school in the United States — just not top-tier medical schools. To boot, Ria performed classical Indian dance and played tennis — two of the most stereotypical activities for Indian American applicants to America’s top universities.

While Chinese-American and Korean-American applicants have garnered much-deserved publicity for the wrongful discrimination they face in elite college admissions, we at Ivy Coach would argue that Indian American students have it just as bad. Admissions officers discriminate against Indian American applicants, too, particularly when they present profiles associated with wanting to be doctors, engineers, computer scientists, or businesspeople. We didn’t wish for Ria to face this same discrimination.


First, we helped her realize that she needed to go beyond the coursework offered at her high school if she hoped to get into HYPS (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford) and mapped out how she could do just that. Then we put the kibosh on the BS/MD programs in which Ria had initially expressed interest. We informed her that it would become much harder to get into Brown or Northwestern by applying to their BS/MD programs. And we felt she could do so much better than the other schools on her list that happened to offer BS/MD programs. A student we believed could get into Harvard should not be considering Northeastern — even if it means not having to apply to medical schools and saving a year of schooling.

While it was difficult to convince Ria to think beyond the BS/MD programs, there was one line we said that she told us at the end of her admissions process that stuck with her. We asked, “Would you rather have brain surgery from a doctor with a diploma from Harvard on her wall or from Northeastern?” Sorry, Northeastern. We tell it like it is at Ivy Coach. Besides, medicine is not a major at any highly selective university in America. She could major in whatever she’d like when enrolled at college — irrespective of the hook she chose to run with to get in.

So instead of presenting medical activities that would appear like she’s trying to follow in mom and dad’s footsteps (elite colleges want students who blaze their own trails!), she got involved in several activities we specifically recommended that centered on her interest in art history.

She led a group committed to finding the stolen paintings of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She worked for an art attorney, fighting to return masterpieces stolen by the Nazis from Jewish households to their rightful owners. And she wrote an unauthorized biography of famed art dealer Leo Castelli.


Ria earned admission to Harvard College in the Early Action round. And while Ria’s now a medical school student, she chose to major in art history — not only because she loves the discipline but also because she knew it would make her a more interesting medical school applicant than a biology or chemistry major. She still took the pre-med requirements. She just happened to become a student of contemporary art along the way.

Michelle’s Case

Read Full Case Study

Priyanka’s Case

Read Full Case Study

Sam’s Case

Read Full Case Study


If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s college counseling,
fill out our complimentary consultation form and we’ll be in touch.

Get Started