Laurel Scholars 2022 Cohort

Welcome to the inaugural cohort of Laurel Scholars! We are proud of all our students have accomplished, and are eager to share their stories and experiences with you.

Abrar’s Story

Abrar was an accomplished student and scholar when he came to Laurel Scholars, but he needed our support in the college application process. Living in Bangladesh, Abrar’s high school graduation had been complicated by Covid, and his chances of getting into college made difficult by a system in the US he was unfamiliar with. 

Abrar had written extensively on multiple subjects, ran a successful blog, and organized an online and in-person support community in Bangladesh to help both students suffering from poor mental health, and to support the LGBT+ community. Both of these were done at personal risk, due to the societal status of those groups in his country, but he persisted nonetheless. 

We began by helping Abrar find colleges in the US which would meet his full financial need, not just for tuition, but for the associated costs which accrue during college. From these schools we built a college list. 

Abrar was an accomplished writer already, so we advised him how to best demonstrate his strengths to colleges. Through his personal statement and supplemental essays he was able to tell his story fully, and express his identity clearly. 

Finally, we helped him explore the breadth of majors offered at university, and advised him which would best suit his own aims. Abrar was accepted into Carleton college with a full scholarship, including funds for transport and housing. He is planning on studying economics.

Henry’s Story

Henry is a Vietnamese immigrant, who only began learning English seriously when he moved to the US at the start of his freshman year of highschool. Indeed, he didn’t begin thinking in English until he had to take Spanish as his third language, as the act of translating from Spanish to English, and the English to Vietnamese, and then reversing the entire process allowed him to begin to think fluidly in English. 

His parents are separated, and his mom is attending community college, meaning Henry had to step up and assume responsibility for taking care of his younger sister. Henry serves as both academic and personal advisor for her, as other family members are frequently busy with their own jobs. 

Living in a house shared with three families, Henry needed to find some way to manage his studies. He began waking up at 3:00 AM to do his school work, and is the valedictorian of his high school. 

Learning excited him for its own sake, and he soon became engrossed with math. He started a math club at his high school, with the goal of preparing students to take part in national math contests. As Henry’s club grew, Covid threw a wrench into his plans. He ended up forming an online community thousands strong which supported each other in their pursuit of math, and which helped other students prepare for national math competitions.

Henry also worked multiple jobs to help support his family, working as an AP tutor, making short educational videos, and serving as a data analyst. While he had applied for (and received) Questbridge, a paperwork error had prevented him from taking advantage of their match process. He came to Laurel Scholars for assistance in polishing his essays. 

We helped Henry polish the language of his essays, and advised him on application strategy. While he had some work done on essays already, we helped him refine his points to fully express who he was as a person and a scholar. He wanted assistance improving his SAT scores as well, so he met with Alex Nelson, Ivy Scholars head of test prep. Despite only having two weeks before his next test date, Henry improved his SAT score by 70 points, due to his diligent self-study. 

He applied to a number of top universities which offered great financial aid, and was accepted into many of them, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Caltech, and MIT. He is currently planning on studying economics at Harvard, which offered him a full scholarship.

Dean’s Story

Born to Vietnamese immigrants, Dean’s parents worked very hard to provide for him and his family. Unfortunately, this meant he rarely got to spend much time with them, though he cherished what time he got. On top of this, he had many responsibilities placed upon him at a young age, becoming the family’s tech consultant at the age of eight, and serving as a translator for his grandparents. 

As he grew, this led to an increased sense of independence and responsibility. He formed a club for Vietnamese students at his high school, but his primary extracurricular involvement was assisting at a camp for students with developmental disabilities. This not only introduced him to leadership, but also sparked his interest in engineering. 

The possibilities offered by biomedical engineering to substantially improve the lives of individuals intrigued Dean as much as the engineering challenges involved in doing so. He has further explored his interest in engineering through robotics courses and programming languages, but knows that biomedical engineering is his future.

Dean came to us for help honing his essays; while he had some ideas for what he wanted to write, he knew he needed stellar work to get into top colleges. We helped him polish what he already had, and discuss how his past experiences made him interested in biomedical engineering. 

While we had a shortened time to work with Dean, as he joined shortly before the Early deadline, we were still able to get his essays to the place where he wanted them. This approach worked well, and Dean got into Tulane Early Action – his top choice for biomedical engineering programs.

Bri's Story

Bri came to us as a nontraditional student, who had taken time off from pursuing her studies for personal reasons. She had accomplished numerous impressive things in the intervening time, including research in a lab, political advocacy, and musical performance, but the college application system is not set up to benefit students in her situation. 

She had applied to universities in a prior year but been unsuccessful, as she had trouble expressing her story fully in the constraints of space. She came to Laurel Scholars for help, and we advised her on writing her essays and additional information section to capture as much of what she did as possible, but we encountered problems here as well.

While she had been out of high school for some time, colleges still required letters of recommendation from her teachers there, who had not seen or talked to her in years, and would not accept letters from her more recent mentors or employers. While there was the additional information section, the application as a whole is not set up to help nontraditional students, who often have far more experience outside the classroom to highlight and show off.

We helped Bri use her activities list, an additional resume, and her essays to their fullest extent, demonstrating all she had done since high school. While the application process was difficult, it was ultimately successful, and Bri will be attending an Ivy League school in the fall. While the system is not designed to accommodate students in her position, we are glad we were able to help her find success in the application process.

Ready to Apply?

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!