If you think a perfect GPA and SAT score will guarantee your child a spot at Harvard or Stanford—think again.
Rebecca Cohen, a freshman at Boston College, dreamed of attending Yale when she applied last application cycle. “Everyone I knew was sure I would be accepted. I was a straight-A student, captain of the volleyball team, and president of the student government.” Her parents had both attended their first choice colleges, and they assumed that they were more than equipped to help her gain admission to her dream school.
In the spring, they were shocked to find that she had been rejected from all three of the Ivies she had applied to. Rebecca’s mom Lisa recounts: “Rebecca was crushed—we had no idea where we had gone wrong. I felt like we failed her.”
Rather than selecting high-achieving, well-rounded students, colleges seek to build well-rounded classes composed of students who have distinct passions and dynamic interests. “Most top-tier schools could fill their incoming freshman class several times over with 4.0 GPAs and 1600 SAT scores,” says Christopher Rim, Founder and CEO of Command Education, a boutique college consulting firm specializing in Ivy League and top-tier college admissions. “This means that elite colleges are now looking for students with unique backgrounds or niche interests who are making an impact in their community.”
Rebecca’s parents sought Rim’s help when their younger son, Joshua, began high school. Rim explained that in order to become such an applicant, students must start tailoring their passions early in their high school careers so that they can pursue meaningful experiences that convey their depth of engagement with their defining interest.
Joshua had high ambitions for his academic career, but he did not have a 4.0 GPA and experienced some bumps in the road along his academic journey. By working one-on-one with one of Command Education’s expert counselors, Wafa Muflahi, Joshua not only demonstrated a newfound motivation for his school work and extracurricular activities, but his love of gaming flourished into a passion for computer programming, which he used to start a nonprofit dedicated to helping middle school students develop technological literacy skills.
“We were paying $50,000 in annual tuition at Pine Crest [School] and we assumed that the price tag would provide what it takes to get into top schools,” Lisa stated. “When we started working with Command, we realized how much more we should have been doing for Rebecca that the school simply couldn’t provide.”
Ultimately, Joshua was accepted to Columbia, where he majors in computer science. Through the process, Joshua’s parents came to realize that high schools can only do so much. Parents may not have the time or the skills to convince teens how important it is to stand out—but luckily, experts can help.
Names have been changed to protect students’ identities.