ivySuccess header1 ivySuccess header2
home Our Partners Contact us
ivySuccess header3
spacer
  Home Page icon
spacer
  In the News icon
spacer
  Our Partners icon
spacer
  Testimonials icon
spacer
  Admission Strategy icon
spacer
  Admission Stats 2019 icon
spacer
  Admission Stats 2018 icon
spacer
 Admission Stats 2017 icon
spacer
 Admission Stats 2016 icon
spacer
 Admission Stats 2016 icon
spacer
 Admission Stats 2016 icon
spacer
  Admission Stats 2015 icon
spacer
  Admission Stats 2014 icon
spacer
  Admission Stats 2013 icon
spacer
  Admission Stats 2012 icon
spacer
  Admission Stats 2011 icon
spacer
  Admission Stats 2010 icon
spacer
  Admission Stats 2009 icon
spacer
  Transfer Strategy icon
spacer
  International Students icon
spacer
  Private Tutoring icon
spacer
  Athletic Recruiting icon
spacer
  Business School icon
spacer
  Medical School icon
spacer
  Join Our Team icon
spacer
  Contact Us icon
spacer
     
     
SmartMoney - The Wall Street Journal Magazine

The New College Gurus
By Kristen Bellstrom, September 2006

On Jane Shropshire's cattle farm outside Lexington, Ky., a herd of happy Black Angus cows lazes in the summer sun, fattening on the state's famous bluegrass. Meanwhile, inside Shropshire's office, a converted outbuilding once used for storing breeding records and vet bills, something else is being fattened up: Kal Littrell's resume.

Littrell is meeting with Shropshire to draw up a road map that will take him from her farm to the college of his dreams. For nearly an hour and a half, she combs through his course load, grades and standardized test scores. She peppers him with questions on everything from his favorite teacher to the summer camps he's attended. Finally, she hands him a copy of the Common Application, the form he'll use to pitch himself to schools and the document that will ultimately decide his collegiate fate. As Shropshire begins to walk him through it page by page, the boy's glance drifts toward the window, and he fidgets with the Livestrong-style bracelet on his skinny wrist. If Littrell seems distracted, it's more than typical teenage ennui. After all, he just finished ninth grade - and won't set foot on his college campus until 2009.

Even so, Shropshire had plenty of suggestions for how he can get going. Some are predictable ("Start looking for ways to stand out.How can you be more of a leader on the soccer team?"), while others come as a surprise. Start a journal? Sure. Details can make or break an application, says Shropshire, so he'll be glad to have it when essay time rolls around. Littrell's not just a jock; he's a drama fan, too. So why stop at acting? Schools like to see kids take their passions to the next level: "Can you get involved in other aspects - production or directing?" And who would have guessed that his years as a knot-tying , tent-pitching Scout might be a deciding factor? Believe it, says Shropshire. When she was an admissions officer at Tufts and Washington University in St. Louis, committees swooned over kids who made Eagle. Sitting nearby, Littrell's parents hang on every word - even father Ken, who'd originally thought Kal was too young for college planning. And now? "It's never too early to start the process," he says.

This fall nearly 2 million American students will start the annual ritual of college-application season - only this year a surprising number will have a new edge: the hired coach. In a field already crowded with private tutors, test-prep classes and a library's worth of how-to books, "independent college consultants" say they can get Junior a bunk in the dorm of his dreams - mostly be adding a personalized touch to the application process. Coaches like Shropshire critique essays, draft professional looking resumes and even help develop eye-popping extracurriculars in an effort to make a kid's application leap out of the pile. And some consultants aim only at the very top tier of colleges. Subtly named outfits like IvyWise and IvySuccess tout sky-high acceptance rates, 24/7 service and Ivy league pedigrees that they say five them the inside scoop in wooing elite gatekeepers. They'll do anything from videotaping students' mock interviews to flying an SAT tutor to Hong Kong - provided students pay a fee that rivals the price of a luxury sedan.

As recently as a decade ago, admissions consultants focused mostly on applicants to prep school. But today's new breed has zeroed in on the much bigger and fast-growing ranks of kids looking for a leg up in the college competition. With selectivity at top schools at an all-time high, admissions anxiety has skyrocketed, and so had this profession: There are now about 3,000 consultants in the country, a threefold increase since 2001. And specialists have positioned themselves to meet every conceivable need. Your son's a center forward on the soccer team? There's an athletic specialist ready to find him a scholarship to a Division 3 school. Daughter's a physics whiz, but not much of a wordsmith? You'll want an essay adviser. And it's not just the privileged few signing up: The Independent Educational Consultants Association claims that in the fall of 2004, 22 percent of incoming students at four-year private colleges had used an educational consultant.

Kids applying to college today face a perfect storm of admissions demographics. For the past decade the number of high school graduates has steadily risen; at the same time grants, loans and scholarships have made higher education accessible for more families. But the number of desks at the top-tier schools has stayed relatively flat, leaving more kids battling for the same coveted spots. The colliding trends were evident in admissions rate this spring: Yale turned down or waitlisted a record 91 percent of applicants; Stanford, an all-time high of 89 percent. And the applicant glut has only been aggravated by the popularity of the Common Application (now accepted be 299 schools, including Harvard and Princeton), which lets students apply to multiple schools using just one form. The percentage of kids applying to six or more schools has risen to over 25 percent, with an ambitious few submitting a carpal tunnel-inducing 20 apps or more.

The eight-person team at Long Island-based IvySuccess boast of their experience in management consulting, which may explain why they advocate 'strategic positioning" (consultant speak for playing up your strengths) and "reverse-engineered perspective" (translation: We worked in admissions, so we know what schools want). The team's techniques include briefing students on the tastes and quirks of regional admissions officers who are likely to review their applications. Harvard's guy is an opera buff? Play up your stagehand gig in the school production of Carmen. For students who opt for the Complete Strategy package, IvySuccess will take calls at 2 a.m. or fly hand-selected tutors to work with foreign clients in their home countries. The team even urged one New Jersey student to switch high schools so her class rank would improve; she's at MIT now. "Our job is to get kids into 'reach' schools," says founding partner Robert Shaw.