Case Studies

Here you’ll find examples of how we helped former students of ours stand out from the pack of applicants to highly selective colleges and ultimately gain admission. Each case presented below is a unique case. And that’s true of each of our students’ cases because if a student doesn’t seem unique, we’ve got to find a way to help present the student as unique.Read More

Much of this work is done in college admissions essays. College admissions essays are an important opportunity to stand out and tell your story. So many students either fail to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities in their college admissions essays or they make major mistakes that could adversely effect their candidacies.

Much of this work is also done as we help students prepare answers for college interviews. It’s done on the activity sheet. And it’s even done in teacher and school counselor letters of recommendation. Yes, we help our students influence what is written in these letters. For our students, all components of the college application must contribute to the powerful and truthful narrative that we’re sharing with admissions officers. It’s what gives our students the edge. It’s why our students get into highly selective colleges year in and year out.

Sam

Situation

In the middle of December, after colleges sent out their Early Decision / Early Action notifications, we received a phone call from Sam. Sam was expecting to gain admission to Yale, but he was deferred. While he knew that he had another shot in the Regular Decision round, he wasn’t sure if he had made any mistakes on his Yale application. He was particularly concerned about his college admissions essays. And if he did make any mistakes, he didn’t want to make the same mistakes on his other applications.

Challenges

Sam was an orthodox Jewish student coming from a yeshiva. He had an A average, and between a 720 and 740 on each section of his SATs. He had scores of 700 and above on three Subject Tests. While his extracurricular activities were good, there was nothing that he had that would wow admissions officers at Ivy League colleges. And aside from being viewed as a well-rounded candidate, Sam’s biggest challenge was that he applied to a school (Yale) with a student body that was almost 30% Jewish. That’s a huge number! As a result, Yale may have viewed Sam’s application as one that brought no diversity to the freshman class. Yale saw Sam as just another orthodox Jewish student. Also, while the competition in the Early round is certainly keen, the competition in the Regular Decision round is so much more intense. For example, in the year that Sam applied, Yale received 5,257 Early Action applications and accepted 761 applicants at a rate of 14.5%. In the Regular Decision round, Yale received 22,025 applications and accepted 1,245 applicants at a rate of 5.7%. So this intensified Sam’s challenge.

College Goals

Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Penn, Cornell, and NYU.

How Ivy Coach Helped

After reading through Sam’s college admissions essays and his Yale application, we found a number of issues that hurt his candidacy. The college admissions essays were ordinary and while he had some very unique characteristics, he neglected to discuss them. We helped Sam craft new college admissions essays that told his story. We also encouraged him to apply to Princeton University. Princeton doesn’t get too many applications from orthodox Jews who attend yeshivas. In fact, Princeton’s undergraduate Jewish population is about 7.5%. That’s a vast difference from Yale’s. Harvard’s Jewish population is about 25%. And Penn’s is about 27%. Jewish students aren’t exactly a minority at the University of Pennsylvania!

College Results

Sam was accepted at Columbia, Cornell, NYU, and Princeton. He chose to attend Princeton. He was waitlisted at Harvard and Penn and denied admission at Yale. We can never be 100% certain why he got into Princeton. But we can have a very good idea. We feel that while he had wonderful grades and good scores, as an orthodox Jew, Princeton saw him as a way to add diversity to their class.

Deepak

Situation

Deepak came to Ivy Coach in June after he graduated from high school. He had been rejected from all of the colleges to which he applied. Every now and then, it happens. While he could have applied to some less selective colleges at the time or attended his local community college, he and his parents had bigger dreams.

Challenges

With an A- average in the most rigorous high school courses, solid SATs and good Subject Tests, Deepak's extracurricular activities were, to say the least, ordinary. He played the piano, was a member of his school's math team, ran track, and volunteered at a local hospital. The main issue was that with these activities, he looked like too many other Indian American applicants. In addition, one of the college admissions essays that he submitted was about how he loved to sleep. Another was about how he would stare out his window and watch people as they passed by. Again, from his bed. Take a lesson from Deepak: Don't ever write about sleep in your college admissions essays! Oy vey.

College Goals

Since he previously applied to Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and Amherst, he couldn't reapply to these colleges because they would have reviewed his previous applications. And if they had a look at his college admissions essays again, he was doomed. His new college choices were Penn, Duke, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, and Emory.

How Ivy Coach Helped

We encouraged Deepak to take a GAP year and then reapply for admission. A GAP year is a year between high school and college. When we asked him what he would like to do for this year, he mentioned that he would love to go to India and visit with his grandparents and cousins. But playing with his cousins wasn't going to score him any points with highly selective college admissions officers. This was not going to work. So we brainstormed further.

Deepak mentioned that there was a rehabilitation center for children with neurological disorders in Mumbai and that he would like to volunteer there as a tutor. Since this is not something that would stand out on his college applications because too many applicants are involved in tutoring, we brainstormed some more and came up with the idea that with his love of filmmaking, he would create a documentary for the center. He spent a few months at the center interviewing the staff and the children and when it was completed, he went back home and raised funds for the center by showing his film. His new college applications told his now powerful story.

College Results

Deepak submitted his college applications on January 1st and by the middle of February, he received a Likely Letter from one of his top choices that said, "We loved how you combined your passion for filmmaking with your community service." While he was later accepted at all of the colleges to which he applied, Deepak chose to attend the University of Pennsylvania.

Kimberly

Situation

Kim came to Ivy Coach in her junior year of high school. She had an A average in the most rigorous courses her high school offered with respectable test scores. She played the clarinet, was on the varsity soccer team, and participated in the drama club. Her academic interests were biology and chemistry but although she wanted to conduct science research, there were no opportunities to do so at her school.

Challenges

Kim wanted to apply to Harvard but unless she achieved something that made her more angular, she would be viewed as a well-rounded candidate. And as a Chinese American, her application would not stand out from the thousands of other Chinese American applicants.

College Goals

Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn, and Brown.

How Ivy Coach Helped

We encouraged Kim to conduct research at a local university. We found a professor who was doing work using nanoparticles to attack ovarian cancer cells and was willing to mentor a high school student. Kim ended up loving the research and her college admissions essays would reflect her love for scientific discovery. These college admissions essays proved quite powerful. And in the fall of her senior year, Kim submitted her research to the Intel Science Talent Search. She would be the only student from her state to be named a semi-finalist.

College Results

Kim was accepted at all the colleges to which she applied and chose to attend Harvard University.

Arjun

Situation

Arjun's mom called Ivy Coach during her son's freshman year at Stanford. We had helped Arjun earn admission to Stanford as a high schooler. But her sense of relief (and her celebratory dances -- yes we saw those through FaceTime when the camera was directed at Arjun!) upon learning of her son's admission to Stanford had since faded. Now she was worried her son would never earn admission to a top medical school, particularly in light of his freshman year "B" grades at The Farm. What in heaven's name was he to do?

Challenges

We'll just come out and say it. We told his mom as much -- hey, we tell it like it is at Ivy Coach. Arjun is a bit boring. Over the years we worked with Arjun, he failed to demonstrate much, well, personality to us. His mom knew this was his achilles heel. He's just shy she said. When he applied to colleges, we of course helped him bring out his personality not only in his admissions essays but in his letters of recommendation and interviews, too. As he prepared himself to apply to medical school, we knew this was once again going to be an obstacle. Those freshman year "B" grades, of course, became another obstacle toward his goal.

College Goals

Arun (and Arjun's mom, too!) wanted to earn admission to the Stanford University School of Medicine. But, frankly, he and his mom would have been happy if he earned admission to any top U.S. medical school.

How Ivy Coach Helped

Arjun had to stand out from other applicants applying to top medical schools because it's not as though there's a shortage of Indian American young people applying to U.S. medical schools. And even though he attended one of the very best universities -- if not the best -- in the world, students with stronger grades than Arjun were his competition.

So while other medical school applicants shadowed doctors at university hospitals, Arjun conducted research on the brain when one is in love throughout the remainders of his undergraduate years at Stanford. He studied MRIs of the brains of people falling in love, going through breakups, and everything in between. In so doing, he was able to learn a lot about how the brain changed. His research findings were subsequently published and in his medical school admissions essays (and super important med school interviews), he wrote about love.

When other students wrote about their time working in a hospital, Arjun wrote about the science of love. And, as the saying goes, it turns out that love is all you need. Because it worked. You see, in the medical school admissions process, it's vitally important -- much more so than in the college admissions process -- to demonstrate empathy, to demonstrate a capacity to love. And why? Because as a physician, one's charge is to empathize with those in one's care. So it's certainly something medical school admissions officers are on the lookout for, whether they realize it or not.

College Results

Arjun never did earn admission to the Stanford University School of Medicine. But he did get into Harvard Medical School and a host of other top medical schools. So there's that. Arjun's mom was pleased. We think Arjun was, too. He sent us a thank you note. But we suspect his mom wrote it. There were too many smiley face emojis -- it gave it away.