The number one most important factor in top university admissions is that applicants create a unique story that shows their past (what they did in high school), their present (what they will do on campus), and their future (what they will do after they graduate). Based on our research and experience, we find that students who COMPLEMENT 1-on-1 preparation with a group class to start, actually produce better and more unique stories, thereby increasing their admission chances. Why? A group class improves the student’s ability to connect with his or her true personality. This enables them to create better stories in a more efficient time period. Let’s understand why.
Everyone is supposed to win at college admissions
A top university - say Columbia - wants to accept roughly 1500 students who are different. This means that there is no one story that works to get admitted. There’s actually 1,500! When you work with a counselor 1-on-1, there’s the risk of creating an “echo chamber” - where ideas keep bouncing off the walls with no real critique. While experienced and qualified consultants who have seen many applications before bring tremendous and great perspectives to the student, in many cases gaining admissions - they all know there is still the challenge of pushing each student to a specific style. And we know these essays just won’t stand.
This is where the group class breaks the echo chamber. By hearing exactly what other students are thinking and do, you force yourself to come up with better and more unique ideas.
Students are going to say “why is this a good essay? why is this a bad essay?”. They’ll help each other to create better essays - learning why something may be good and bad, but also providing opinion as to why happens to be good or bad. More importantly, the students drive the creative process, and thus each student is forced to create a different story.
But can’t someone steal my ideas, you ask? There is no way. If you have truly unique and stand out idea, it is because they match YOUR specific past, present, and future. Even your best friend, who you do almost everything with, can’t use the same idea - the stories should not match! By sharing ideas and hearing from other students, you force yourself to get more unique stories within just a few hours!
You use your time better
Group classes are structured to maximize your time working. Most people think 1-on-1 is more efficient, but this isn’t usually true.
Here’s rough timing based on my experience of students 1-on-1 versus a group:
With roughly 20 hours to accomplish the first 4 steps, most well qualified tutors can take 2, 3, or even 4 weeks! And sometimes this could just be for your first essay, not even your whole application. What takes up this time? Learning the many different ways that a college application can be filled out. To avoid the echo chamber (from either the student or the counselor), we need the applicant to understand and relate to different ways of thinking that can gain admission. 1-on-1, it takes students much longer to figure out the different opinions that leads to a great self-awareness.
In a group setting, we can easily cut those learning times through structured planning, and the strategic sharing of ideas. By repeating the following four step schedule, you can cover much more ground typical 3 hour session will repeat the following schedule twice:
Learn topic - 30 min (See other ideas)
Practice topic - 20 min (Share ideas)
Plan topic - 20 min (Critique ideas)
Do it - 20 min (Write out ideas)
During the learn, practice, and plan, students are sharing ideas in a group - this helps students to have fewer questions. Additionally, we break the classroom into pairs - allowing only 5 or 6 small groups to operate at once. In each 3 hour session, each student could receive roughly thus receives a dedicate 36 minutes of individual attention! This enables the student to achieve a stronger application more efficiently.
Avoid Instant Rejection
If an admissions officer meets a student who has a weak handshake, doesn’t make eye contact, and cannot self-assert, it can be an instant rejection - no matter how good the grades, scores, or activities. Colleges want a student to socialize as well as be academically capable. By learning in a group, you provide yourself with an opportunity to focus on those very skills you may have to demonstrated in your application. This provides an opportunity to work on your ability to explain, present, and debate - something that most admission officers know is not a strength of many students.
For your sake, do the smart move and choose a group class before beginning any 1-on-1 application prep. Both your counselor and you will thank you!