Ivy Coach’s Brian Taylor of Ivy Coach discusses the College Admission Scandal

Brian Taylor of Ivy Coach discusses the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal on The Scott Sands Show. The full transcript of this radio appearance is below:

Scott Sands: Brian Taylor is managing director at Ivy Coach, which is a consulting firm that helps kids get into the college of their choice. Brian is with us right now on NewsRadio 1370.

Brian Taylor: Hi Scott, how are you?

Scott Sands: Good. I gotta think when this story broke this morning that people in offices like yours and other consulting firms were like all of us are going to get a bad rap now.

Brian Taylor: Of course. There are thousands of private college counseling companies. And most, by the way, aren’t very good, but most are ethical. And, like in any industry, whether it’s real estate or plumbing or finance, there are going to be bad actors and this is an example of a very bad actor.

Scott Sands: So, what do you do as a college admissions coach/consultant?

Brian Taylor: We help students get into their dream colleges. Just because a high school recommends certain coursework doesn’t mean that’s the coursework they should be taking. We help recommend the right testing. We help tutor students for the SAT. That’s how you beat the SAT — by getting great tutoring. You don’t have to pay a service to pay a proctor to get you extended time to then put a proctor in a room so someone can take the test for you. Just pay for a great tutor. And we help students develop singular hooks.

Scott Sands: What I remember — and it’s been a long time for me — was that the tests weren’t necessarily hard if you prepared for the ACT. And I pulled a 32/33 on the ACT, which was a great number to pull and get into the colleges that I applied to. But if you’re a good test-taker or even a marginal test-taker and can take a little bit of training, you can do well on those standardized tests because they are the same year after year.

Brian Taylor: Even if you’re not a good test-taker, with good coaching, they’re extremely coachable exams. And even though ACT and The College Board, the maker of the SAT, say otherwise, for many years, people have been beating those tests by having great tutors.

Scott Sands: Do you find a lot of kids are embellishing their resumes a little bit to try to get into their first choice colleges? Are they extending their references?

Brian Taylor: Not like this!

Scott Sands: Well this wasn’t even embellishing a resume. This was just writing a check to somebody.

Brian Taylor: Right. There are ten activities that are listed on The Common Application and you want to be involved in the right kinds of activities — the kinds of activities that will wow admissions officers. What many people think is great is the three-sport athlete. The kid who plays there sports, does music and community service. That worked in 1992. That doesn’t work these days. Admissions officers at elite schools like the Ivy League schools want singularly talented kids, kids who excel in one specific area. And that one area needs to be of interest to these colleges. So what we do is we help figure out what those activities should be so they can start participating in those activities. And we develop a hook that can be part of their storytelling. That’s how you beat an unfair system at an unfair game. You don’t beat an unfair system at an unfair game by bribing college coaches, by bribing admissions officers. Many people when they first come to us — before they become our clients — they say to us, “Do you have connections with admissions officers?” And if we don’t hang up on them first, our answer is, “Of course not!” We tell them if anyone should say that, they should run really, really fast and run for the hills. It’s a red flag!

Scott Sands: It’s interesting that you put that in perspective of what colleges are looking for today because when I went to school, when I graduated from high school in 1987, that was the resume that I had worked hard through high school to put together. I was involved with three sports. I was senior class president. I was involved with community service. I had a full time job. I’ve got a 10-year old son. Shaggy’s daughter is going to be preparing for college in a couple years too. So what is the one area these colleges want colleges to focus on?

Brian Taylor: They want a singularly talented kid and together those singularly talented kids are going to form a well-rounded class. Maybe it’s a science researcher who is a Google Science Fair winner who developed a test that can identify if you have Ebola. That’s the Ebola kid. Maybe it’s a blueberry farmer in Vietnam. That’s the blueberry farmer in Vietnam who is going to change farming in her homeland. Those singularly talented students together form a well-rounded class, but they haven’t been looking for that well-rounded kid in over 25 years. It’s a common misconception. And that’s what great private college counseling companies can do. They can tell parents and students what those common misconceptions are because so often school counselors either don’t know or they’re not trained to know what college admissions officers are looking for.

Scott Sands: So here’s the disappointment with Lori Loughlin. One of her daughters, Olivia Jade, is apparently singularly focused as I play this from her YouTube channel:

Audio of Olivia Jade Giannulli: I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend but I’m going to talk to my deans and everyone and hope that I can balance it all. But I do want the experience of game days and partying. I don’t really care about school as you all know.

Scott Sands: So she is singularly focused.

Brian Taylor: That doesn’t sound like singularly focused to me.

Scott Sands: I think she’s singularly focused on her Instagram.

Brian Taylor: I think the actress from Full House is headed to the Big House.

Scott Sands: So social media doesn’t cut it anymore.

Brian Taylor: No, our students don’t have social media profiles. Most admissions officers don’t check social media but who wants to risk it? Who wants to risk them seeing a student kissing their boyfriend at prom? Who needs that?

Scott Sands: Brian, what do you think is going to change for the job that you do coming out of this?

Brian Taylor: I think this too shall pass. I love the ridding out of bad actors in the space. But there are bad actors in any space. There are bad actors in real estate and finance. They’re always going to be there.

Scott Sands: Brian, I got to be honest with you, and maybe this works to your advantage longterm, before this story broke, I was thinking who could I call to be on our show to talk about this story, I didn’t even know that there were college admissions counselors like you. My school principal 30 years ago was a coach, an advisor for the SAT and ACT tests. So he was a college test preparer. But I didn’t know there were people like you who could coach and advise and consult students through their four years of high school on the path they should be taking to get into the college they want.

Brian Taylor: Sure, there’s an expert in every space that matters. This is an industry that’s existed for decades. This shines a light on this industry — in this case on a bad actor in this industry — but hopefully it also shines a light on the fact that there are a lot of people who need help and can improve their cases for admission.

Scott Sands: What’s the latest a student should be thinking about their college choices?

Brian Taylor: We have students who come to us in 8th grade. We have students who first come to us after they’ve been denied admission in the Early round, around December 15th, and they want our help for the Regular Decision round on January 1st. So we work with them over those two weeks before the New Year. So, it totally depends. The earlier they come to us, the more we can correct. The more we can make sure they’re in the right courses, testing, and extracurriculars. When they come to us too late, there are going to be some things we’re not going to be able to correct.

Scott Sands: Brian Taylor, managing director at Ivy Coach, one of the legitimate organizations you can call on. Brian, I appreciate your time.

Brian Taylor: My pleasure. Thank you, Scott!

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