University Of Pennsylvania

Student: John

Admitted school: UPenn

John is a student who went to a private American high school who eventually went to University of Pennsylvania.

9th Grade

As a 9th grader, we worked with John in helping him to understand what was expected of American students inside the classroom by reviewing the recommendation forms that colleges require teachers and school officials to submit on behalf of a student during their application.

As students are required to demonstrate leadership, passion, maturity, friendships, kindness, and integrity among other qualities, John and his RayD counselor talked about each of the categories and brainstormed how he could start to demonstrate these in his school community so that was a twelfth grader, he had the most compelling application.

John was interested in business, and through some research about his high school, we found that his high school offered a micro finance club that combined community service with small business.

We encouraged John to become a member in 9th grade.  John and we also assessed his other activities with the goal of projecting his participation for four years.

In addition to the micro finance club, John was a good soccer player, so we encouraged him to participate on his school’s junior varsity team.  John had also played the piano for a long time but he was not particularly good or particularly passionate about the piano, so we encouraged him to quit piano in order to spend more time on his academics and on the things about which he cared.

Finally, we encouraged John to become involved in his school’s student government.

Academically, we checked in with John regularly and helped identify challenges in his transcript.  John was struggling in his Spanish class, so we made him a schedule to go for extra help from his teacher and found some online tutorial resources for him to use independently.  Prior to midterm and final examinations, we gave John study tips and a study schedule in order to maintain his academic accomplishments.  John and we carefully considered all of his academic options for his 10th grade schedule, and we helped him pick the hardest courses that we believed that he could succeed in which included one AP course and encouraged him to take some computer-related electives to build on his business skills.

Finally, John and we carefully planned his summer after 9th grade.  We felt that it was a good opportunity for John to delve deeply into a part-time job and into community service.  In addition to working at a local business, John volunteered at a camp for children with disabilities.

10th Grade

As a 10th grader, we encouraged John to delve more deeply into his most important extracurriculars: his micro finance club, soccer, and student government.   John was able to run one of the committees for a fundraiser for his micro finance club, and raised money for his organization. Also, through some summer training and conditioning, John was able to earn a varsity spot on the soccer team although he was not a star.

Finally, John decided to focus all of his community service through student government and use his position as class representative to include a food drive at a school sponsored dance.  John was able to do this because at every opportunity, he and his RayD counselor were talking and brainstorming ways for him to demonstrate initiative and kindness.  Further, because the school and teacher recommendation forms ask about a student’s friend relationships, we made sure that John also maintained an active social life in order to gain respect and reputation among his peers and to show that he was a valuable member of his community in multiple ways.

Academically, we continued to encourage and give specific tools to John to help him succeed in areas where he was struggling.  We helped John to select his courses for 11th grade which included AP Economics and AP Statistics in order to develop the skills he would need in a business major.  Finally, we made a working college list for John that included many universities of all different levels that have strong business programs.  We encouraged John to visit as many of these colleges and universities as possible over the summer in addition to preparing for his SATs.

11th Grade

John had a great summer going into 11th grade.  He practiced soccer frequently in order to take a more important role on the boys’ varsity soccer team, he took an SAT preparatory class, and he visited 10 colleges.  Based on his college visits, John told us that he wanted to go to school on the United States’ east coast and major in finance. John was taking three AP classes and was doing well, although he continued to struggle in Spanish.  We continued to find resources to help John and helped him maintain a balanced schedule with plenty of time for academics, socialization, and extracurriculars.

In October of 11th grade, John took the PSAT at school.  When the results came back in December, we spent a lot of time analyzing his score report.  We noticed that John consistently struggled with problems involving ratios and geometry.  We found some resources that helped him to understand this better. We had John take the SATs in March of his 11th grade year.  John took AP tests in history, statistics, and economics in May.  Because many top colleges encourage the SAT subject tests, we had John take the SAT subject tests in June in literature, math, and history because those were his strongest subjects.  Outside of the classroom, John was consistently engaged in his activities.

In addition to soccer, John was elected vice president of micro finance club because of his long dedication.  He also became the chair of the community service committee for student council.  At this point, John had narrowed down his list of colleges that he wanted to apply to.   To finish 11th grade strong, John was pleasantly surprised to win the “Outstanding Junior Boy” award at his school for the student who is most respected by both faculty and peers for both academic and social reasons.  John and we selected a rigorous course load for his 12th grade year including APs in Calculus, Government, English, and Physics.

The summer leading up to 12th grade was a busy one for John.  We felt that his SATs were good enough to not require extensive SAT prep.  Instead, we helped John to find an entrepreneurship camp at a major US university and a service learning trip to an impoverished region of the United States with a small business focus.  John also continued to work at his part-time job. Many of John’s top choice colleges offered either on-campus or alumni interviews, so we helped John to prepare for his interviews by giving him practice questions and helping him to come up with the best answers that showed his strengths without seeming arrogant.

John and his RayD counselor also brainstormed, wrote, and edited his college essay over the summer.  This process began by our reviewing the essay questions together and selecting the one that John was going to answer.  We then broke the question down into many smaller questions and had John free-write his answers.  We reviewed his writing and identified what we felt were the best pieces and gave John some structure to his essay.  He filled in the gaps.  John and his counselor continued to work on the essay by using screen sharing technology until the essay was compelling and grammatically perfect.  We used the same approach for all of John’s supplementary essays. Finally, through our guidance, John filled out all of his applications before the school year began.  We were able to review them electronically.

12th Grade

As 12th grade began, John was in great shape on his applications. Because he was so far ahead of the process, he was largely able to concentrate on his academic and extracurricular demands which now included being the president of the micro finance club, a key player on varsity soccer, and student government treasurer.  John and his counselor brainstormed about his recommendations and he decided to ask his economics teacher and statistics teacher for letters.  We encouraged John to follow up with both an email and a hand-written thank you note.  Prior to each of John’s college interviews, he and his counselor reviewed what was special about that college and came up with specific questions for the interviewer. John also followed up with each interviewer with a hand-written thank you note that we made sure he had completed.

John retook the SAT in October and his score increased slightly for a total score of slightly over a 2100.  John had a lot of challenging colleges on his list in addition to some “matches” and “safeties”.  Through our encouragement, John kept up his extracurriculars and academics.  He was thrilled to eventually enroll at University of Pennsylvania.

As shown, this process is best done over a period of 3-4 years.  We have families who did not start working with us until their oldest was at the end of 11th grade.  Almost always, for their second child, they start working with us in 9th grade or 10th grade.  The most often thing we hear from families who start later is “we should have hired a consultant earlier.”

Case Highlights:

  • John was a high school student from China.
  • John started working with us in 9th grade.
  • John followed our suggestions for each step throughout the application process.
  • Our counselor carefully selected extracurricular activities and successfully helped the applicant enter his dream school.