As an alum, I conducted Harvard admissions interviews for almost a decade.
This is also my business.
My clients come to me for application help, from school selection to essay editing.
The system is rigged, and I am part of it.
All of my clients except one have been in the top economic bracket.
For 6 years, I worked for a company with international clientele. Most of the kids were from China and South Korea.
I paired with an underperforming school district, and I was going to work with grades 6-11 on college readiness and grade 12 on application prep.
Life happened. The superintendent got cancer.
I couldn't afford it. Better to first have "proof of concept" as a for-profit.
In October 2017, I founded WiseApp.
I've kept working with privileged kids because it helps pay my bills.
Yet it's unfair.
The kids typically go to private schools, and they already have college counselors.
(Side note: college counselors are mostly awful, so you're not missing out if you don't have one)
The essay is crucial, and most kids don't know how to write personal narratives.
Some kids come to me like, "Cool, write my essay for me."
"That's not what I do," I say. "I teach you how to tell your story."
Most schools are not "need-blind" when it comes to admissions. That means they take into account, "Can this kid pay?" when deciding to accept or reject.
My service helps a privileged kid present a better application.
Joe paid to work with me. We spent a lot of time together, and he crafted stellar essays with my help.
Tim could not afford such a service, but he has stellar essays.
All other things equal, the school gives the edge to Joe.
The rule: Privileged kids have access to better prep services.
Money can buy help like mine, and other services like SAT/ACT courses.
It's the legal way to gain advantages.
But there's a quieter, more powerful one.
The impact of legacy status.
"Legacies" are those whose parents and/or grandparents went to the university (and likely gave money regularly).
If you're a legacy, you're given admissions preference.
I don't want to tell you who told me that.
In 9 years doing admissions interviews for Harvard, I never interviewed a legacy.
Nobody I interviewed has ever been admitted.
My brother began interviewing a few years ago. He's had several admits, many legacies.
I strongly recommended at least 5. None were accepted.
For 5 years living in LA, most interviewees were from East LA, some brilliant Latinx & Black kids who thrived despite odds.
None were accepted.
I saw mediocre legacy kids get routinely accepted to the Ivies and comparable universities.
That's the scandal. That's what we should focus on.
In past years, it was <10%.
Even at 20%, Harvard remains a bastion of the privileged, inaccessible to most, but wide open to legacies.
It never will be though.
Colleges and universities are businesses, and they operate as such.
Tuition prices have ballooned, even at state schools. It's only getting worse.
The education you'll get at Harvard or any of the schools in the Top 250 is comparable.
In most cases, you get out what you put in.
My advice to students, then, is to go somewhere that won't break you financially.