College Admissions FAQ

Questions About Ivy Scholars

How is Ivy Scholars different from other admissions consultants?

We aren’t just about writing great essays. We want our students to become great applicants and for those great essays to flow naturally from developed writing skills and meaningful experiences. In essence, we want our students to become true “Ivy Scholars.”

Do your services only help students looking for admittance to Ivy League schools?

No, we work with students seeking admission to a variety of schools. 60% of our students apply to top tier schools like Rice and Harvard, and 40% apply to schools like the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, and Baylor.

When is the right time to start thinking about college admissions?

The best time to start planning is 8th or 9th grade. Students are rarely self-motivated at this age, so parents have to take responsibility for helping their children to plan. Ideal students walk into their first day of high school with a list of extracurricular activities to explore and specialize in 1-2 activities by 10th grade. By 11th grade, a student’s college candidacy is mostly set, but quick intervention can still help juniors qualify for higher-tier admissions than they otherwise would.

When do colleges start looking at your grades?

Universities will often disregard freshman year grades and always value grades from 11th grade as most indicative of a student’s maturity and academic performance. Check here for a full article on the subject.

What are the benefits of hiring a college admissions coach?

A college admissions coach serves as an intermediary between parents and students, provides clear expert advice, structure,  and understands what universities want in an applicant. A student from Ivy Scholars class of 2018 (Wharton class of 2022) put it best, “going into the admissions process alone is like going to court without a lawyer – you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don’t have all the facts in front of you or the help you need to navigate the system.”

What is Ivy Scholars’ process?

We begin by developing an understanding of each student’s goals and perspective and teach parents how they can best support their child. By identifying the strengths and passions of each student, we provide them with opportunities to develop and capitalize on needs or problems in their community. From here, we help each student build projects that make the world better and showcase their candidacy. Finally, we help students explore which schools are compatible with these interests, and help them find their voice through admissions essays, focusing on how to convey an authentic, mature self to their target schools.

Do you only work with students from Texas?

No. We work with students from all places and of all backgrounds.

Do you work with college students that are preparing to transfer?


Do you work with international students?

Yes, about 20% of Ivy Scholars is international students.

What grade levels do you work with?


What is your success rate in working with students?

Last year, 70% of our students gained acceptance to their top-choice school. 100% of Ivy Scholars’ students got into a target or reach school.

I’m a rising senior that is behind on the application process. Is it too late for Ivy Scholars to help me?

No. Every year, we get a few students who call in with weeks on the clock and rush with us to finalize fantastic essays. Often, students rejected from their ED school reach out to us, and we rush to help them wrap up strong applications before the end of December.

What things can high school freshmen and sophomores do to prepare for the application process?

Candidacy building! Freshman and sophomores should focus on exploring interests and taking the initiative to apply the skills they learn with small-scale projects around their school, community, or in connection with a research group or nonprofit organization.

Do you work with homeschooled students?

Of course! We have homeschool students every year whose parents are used to finding the best resources possible to support their child’s unique needs and ambitions.

Depending on the year they come to Ivy Scholars, we can help them choose classes to take to meet and exceed admission requirements. We also look at the student and family’s goals and make sure that they are aligned with every aspect of their education from extracurricular activities to determining how they present themselves on their college application. Working closely with parents and students who are passionate about their education is always a bonus when working with homeschooled families.

Do college requirements differ for homeschooled students?

No. While state requirements vary for high school students, admission requirements for colleges are the same for homeschooled children as traditional applicants alike.

Applying to College: Frequently Asked Questions ​

How many schools should I apply to?

Take 100 and divide it by the admit rate of the schools you really want to go to. For example, if you want to attend Harvard or Stanford, each with a 4% admission rate, you should apply to about 25 schools. If you want to attend a school about as selective as UT Austin, applying to five to seven schools is sufficient.

How many reach schools should I apply to?

Four for students taking a conservative application approach, and ten or more for students doing everything possible to get into top tier schools.

How many colleges should I visit?

Three to four. There’s no way you can visit all of them. Visit the schools on your list that track demonstrated interest and use your visits as learning opportunities, not ways to build candidacy.

How can I make my college application stand out?

Be authentic and show that you understand how you’ve developed throughout high school. Be purposeful and have a mission for who you want to be with measurable steps to achieve your goals.

What should I do if I’m rejected from my dream school?

Create a transfer plan. We’ve helped numerous students transfer into their dream schools after being initially rejected.

What do admissions officers know about rejected students that the general public does not?

Students get rejected for failure to demonstrate intellectual vitality. If you didn’t get into a top tier school, but you had strong grades and test scores, you probably didn’t show your ability to learn and grow at their school as well as you needed to.

Can you ask a college why you were denied admission?

Sadly, universities never disclose their reasons for rejection.

How do colleges evaluate my application?

Students with low grades and test scores get filtered out. Schools look for extraordinary reasons to accept students with average scores. Students with high grades are evaluated for achievements. Students with interesting achievements that demonstrate intellectual vitality, the initiative to lead projects, and a sense of purpose and joy in learning, will be judged on their essays. Students with all of these qualities and eloquent essays that can give admissions officers a vision of how they will function on campus will be offered admission. We discuss this in further depth in our article, here.

How much time do admissions officers spend on each application?

15-40 minutes.

In contrast to average to good schools, are there additional factors that selective colleges take into consideration when deciding whether to admit a student?

What sort of role would this student play in their peer group? What sort of abilities does a student have that let them succeed in that role? How will this student add to campus life? How will they participate in classes, extracurriculars, student activities, and campus culture? We discuss this in more depth here.

What classes should I take in high school?

Students should challenge themselves in high school, taking the most difficult ones available.

Are there specific courses or subject areas that colleges look for?

Courses with maximum rigor and ones that students use to explore their interests. Prospective engineering students should take STEM classes.

Do colleges care about senior year classes?

Yes. They don’t want students to take it too easy, but would rather see them finish strong. Taking it too easy sends the message that students were only taking rigorous classes for admissions purposes and not for the love of learning. Universities won’t accept “senioritis” as an excuse for low grades.

Can you get into top tier schools without AP/honors classes?

You won’t be penalized if your school lacks AP/IB/Honors classes, but if you have those options, you should take them whenever possible. If your school offers them and you don’t take them, it’s a red flag to admissions officers.

Can I still get accepted if my GPA is below my dream school’s average?

Yes. Half of all accepted students are below average. The key is to be the type of applicant whose story justifies taking a chance on below-average numbers.

Do Ivy Leagues look at weighted or unweighted GPA?

Mostly weighted, especially insofar as it plays into class rank. Ivies expect high weighted GPAs and for their students to take almost all of the most challenging classes available.

What is the average weighted GPA for Ivy League schools?

About 4.8/5.0.

How do I get into a school that is a reach with my current grades and test scores?

Write outstanding essays and demonstrate a personal and ideological connection with the school. See our Essay Archive here.

I got into my reach school. Should I go, and is there any reason to not?

If you’re asking this question, you’re looking for a reason to accept “no” for an answer. Are you scared of the competition? If so, reach out to existing students and ask how they handle it. Are you scared of finances? Call the financial aid office, and honestly lay out your concerns. Reach out to people.

Do you need to do extracurricular activities to get into college?

Which extracurriculars do universities value the most?

Extracurriculars should convey a sense of unity among your interests. Your approach can be “project-based”: starting a blog about a topic you are interested in, a reading group, club, or even an online business on Etsy. Are you enamored with a particular academic subject or professional vocation (law, medical, or business  practice)? Sign up for volunteer opportunities, internships, or summer programs that explicitly relate to it. For instance, a student interested in medicine might go to a summer medical camp, take some online courses, volunteer at a medical institution, or try their hand at publishing an article in a medical journal/essay contest. We discuss this more in depth here.

What are the best extracurricular activities for Ivy League admittance?

Independent projects that demonstrate initiative, passionate curiosity, and the ability to carry out one’s vision over the long term.

Sadly, no. Sports are a fun way to flesh out a student and show they aren’t homebodies, but sports don’t start having an effect on admissions until you’re a top athlete. For competitive athletes, coaches will approach the admissions office and advocate for your admission.

Learn How Our Program will be tailored to you with our Learning Staircase

12th Grade

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!