As my business continues to grow, we have been fortunate enough to think more about what makes our services unique. This is fortunate because we are able to identify these pieces and perfect them. I wanted to list a few of these things here for you. These are also things that I would say to you as an educator and parent first.

1) We are teachers teaching you.

Recently I was published in Newsweek discussing our undervaluation of education. It frustrates me when people who don’t have any experience in education self-appoint to become educators. People assume that finding success in a course or the application process inherently makes them experts in teaching those same things to other people. I think we can easily see it in other professions–I’ve had surgery, does that mean I can be a surgeon? Other consultants will profess to be experts because they have been admitted to a top-tier college. But that does not mean they have knowledge in how students learn, the process of education, and what is applicable to all students.

Over my nearly two decades in education, I have worked with thousands of students. Having studied education as a science, I can see what pieces in that process are not working for students. Because I’ve written curricula and been in front of students, I know how to deliver that information. It’s not easy to do, and certainly something that requires a lot of self-reflection. It was that insight that went into creating the strategies we employ here, and why we’ve been so successful.

I say “we,” because soon we are officially welcoming two additional people to the firm. They both come with decades of similar experience, from higher education and post-graduate options, and K through 12 public and charter schools. And we can boast similar stats as our college counseling peers: we are alum from New York University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Harvard and have three Master’s degrees and a PhD between us. But we are also all first generation, immigrants or from immigrant parents, multilingual, products of public school in the US, people of color. Helping students through college is our passion and something we have been working towards in some capacity for more than four combined decades.

2) Not all colleges are made alike.

I think anyone can get a student into a college. But is it a college you will graduate from, in four years, and with as little debt as possible? These are our three goals for clients which means we don’t look at every school the same. Using those criteria, I only look at schools that graduate students at least 70% of the time and meet at least 95% of financial need. I think people don’t realize that of the over 4,200 colleges and universities in the country, only 175 of them meet that standard. So we are working to get students into those schools first. If that isn’t possible, we are preparing them to be part of the minority of students that do graduate. For me, it doesn’t make sense to support someone’s admission to a college where they are likely going to drop out of in the first year or leave with insane debt. This is because educating students is a social justice issue. We can’t profess to work for students and then put them in situations where they are saddled with debt or worse, saddle with debt and without a degree to get a job to pay it back. It’s that Hippocratic Oath-style of education that drives our work.

3) Admissions is easy. Graduating is much harder.

With that said, we know that the things that will get students into these types of schools are also the things that will get them to graduation. Some of that is related to curriculum, such as being prepared for certain courses in college. But a good chunk of that is in soft skills. Being self-motivated, resilient, resourceful, a team player, and determined look great in college applications because those are the things that get students to graduation. And those are not things one can manufacture. I think one of the things we’ve learned as people who have gone through the process ourselves is that the sort of, hardware pieces came easy. But it would have been great to have that cheerleader at some point in the process, that person who understood those microaggressions or the need to seek out particular resources on campus, or to remind us of the bigger picture. I think this is the other thing that frustrates me with other college counselors–they assume a lot of college knowledge on the outset. While we think things are straight-forward, there is a tremendous amount of knowledge that students get when their parents have gone to college, and when everyone around them has gone to college. Those are folks that already know what they don’t know. But what about those that don’t, those that assume the available resources are meeting their long-term needs?

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to inspire you as much as you inspire us.