The college application process has become incredibly rigorous and cutthroat. According to the Independent Educational Consultants Association, the average cost of a private admissions consultant is $4,035, and 26 percent of the high-achieving incoming freshmen at private universities hired a consultant. A lot of these consultants then keep a database of previous clients’ application files for reference, which they use to help future clients who can afford their services.
AdmitSee.com, an East Coast-based startup, is attempting to level the higher education playing field by providing an affordable alternative to hiring a private admissions counselor. The new website allows users to access a database of profiles by students currently enrolled at different universities across the country, which include varying levels of information about their own college applications.
The site’s goal is to facilitate a deeper level of connection with the actual applicants by exposing them to private information from past profiles. It’s an individualized approach; instead of profile submitters being pushed into a book of generic college application essays, each student has the opportunity to distinguish him or herself and go into more detail about the personal details of his or her application so that he or she can then help those currently applying.
“We’re basically cutting out the middleman by allowing college students to post their own profiles online,” said Lydia Fayal, co-founder of the site, in an email interview. “And the college students get paid — I can guarantee you that the private consultants aren’t sending checks to their old clients for sharing their files.”
Fayal explained that when someone buys a profile, 50 percent goes to the college student who shared the content, aka the “Admit,” five percent goes to the person who referred the “Admit” and five percent goes to the person who referred the buyer. The remaining amount is used for digital marketing and new features.
AdmitSee is essentially a cross between a social media platform and an e-commerce site. It has an easy-to-navigate layout that the creators tried to make similar to Facebook; they have also packaged profiles by essay topic — so, for example, if students want to write a college essay on medical career aspirations, they can see how other people have done it. Fayal said that they’re also currently working on creating packages for controversial topics (e.g. battling depression, overcoming a financial obstacle, explaining a disciplinary action) so as to really provide a variety.
“We have some really crazy essays,” Fayal said. “For instance, one guy wrote about his father’s addiction to pornography — he got into Yale. I think our site inspires people to take risks with their essays. They can search for keywords like cancer, death … even pornography, and they’ll get a list of students who have written on that topic.”
This is one of the ways AdmitSee distinguishes itself from other companies that offer the same service. For example, Princeton Review college essay books are one of its main sources of competition, but AdmitSee contends that it offers more in-depth and personal information and hones in on specific demographics that match up to a user’s background. They also include information such as the major applied to, number of Advanced Placement classes taken, etc. The point is for students to learn, based on the applications people submitted to the schools that they themselves are interested in, what they could do to bolster their own applications.
In order to avoid plagiarism, Fayal says that they upload all essays to Turnitin, a software used by the overwhelming majority of top 100 schools — including USC -— to flag essays for plagiarism. They also go through all the essays personally to check for quality.
In terms of verification, the site confirms students using their school IDs, so applicants will know they’re getting material from a real college student versus a troll from College Confidential. When someone uploads his or her school ID, they get a green checkmark on his or her profile picture. The student has six months to upload their student ID, after which the profile gets taken down. AdmitSee is also very focused on global expansion because writing application essays is especially difficult for international applicants. They currently have an exclusive partnership with Ivy Gate, the most well-known college prep company in Hong Kong, that’s promoting the site in exchange for discount access.
As far as plans for the future, the company is planning on rolling out additional levels of verification for students who send a PDF of their common application and test scores. AdmitSee decided to wait on these items because it didn’t want to scare off potential admits until they reached critical mass (the company now has more than 1,300 profiles).