Our College-Prep Expert Interview series gives parents and students an opportunity to meet an expert who can help them on their college-bound journey. We ask each expert how they got into the business of college-prep, why their work is so important and to share their biggest tips and tricks!
Expert: Frances Wong
Location: San Francisco
Catchphrase: If you’re going through hell, keep going. – Winston Churchill
Why we interviewed Frances: She works at AdmitSee, a startup demystifying college admissions with real application examples, essays and trends. Their searchable database of successful college applications helps students approach the process more holistically and find colleges that are the best fit for them.
How long have you been working in the college-prep world?
I’ve been at AdmitSee for a little over 2 years, but I’ve been involved in the college-prep world starting freshman year of college. I used to work at a test prep center in Hong Kong, so I’ve seen first hand what a difficult process it is for domestic and international students.
How did you get into this work?
It came quite naturally to me. The majority of my experience has been in education, and the college admissions field is one I can relate to the most. My personal application process made such a mark that I’ve always been very active in helping others with their application essays, or going back to my high school to give advice to incoming applicants.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your experience?
The college application process is always going to be stressful. While there are so many new resources out there, including AdmitSee, that make the process more transparent and easier for the applicant, the stress component will always linger.
Why is your work so important?
Because I believe everyone who wants to pursue higher education should be able to access admissions information to help him or her succeed. The application process right now is advantageous to those who can pay upwards of $10,000 for a consultant, and even more internationally. There need to be more reliable, trusted and affordable options for students to turn to when they are looking for more information to apply to the college of their choice.
Who is your typical client?
High school students who want to apply to college. For freshmen and sophomores in high school, we have the data insights for them to start discovering the colleges they may want to apply to, and explore the different extracurricular activities they can get involved in to demonstrate their interests and passions.
For juniors and seniors, our data insights can take them a step further to analyze the admissions trends at the schools they are interested in, and find out how they can set themselves apart from other applicants. Students can even see how they compare with their GPA and SAT/ACT against students who have been accepted, rejected and waitlisted. But that’s not all. They can even click through each data point to see the respective student applications to see how their test scores fit into their full application.
Finally, students can find inspiration with their college application essay with the thousands of examples on our site. Whether it’s for the common application or a supplemental essay, we have examples that can help you out.
What have you found your clients struggle with the most?
Not knowing where to start with their personal statement, and how they compare with other applicants. With college application essays, they can be so personal and because of that, so different from the essays students typically write in school. They struggle with knowing what is too personal to talk about and what isn’t. Is it okay to talk about depression? Is it too much to talk about my family’s financial troubles? It’s not only giving students references on how to write their personal statement, but giving the confidence to do so.
Getting accepted to college is no longer just about good test scores, or a good essay. It’s a combination of different elements of the application. Because of that, they want to know how they compare holistically against students just like themselves, not just test scores and extracurricular but also by home state and ethnicity.
What is the most important piece of advice you give them?
Apply to colleges that are right for you. AdmitSee’s platform doesn’t only share the application materials of each student, but also the advice each student has about applying to college and the college they currently attend. Find out if the student culture is right for you, if they have the classes you want to take, the social life you could get used to and the internship opportunities you want to apply for. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just applying to the brand name schools because they are more widely talked about it, so do your research!
Do you have any tips or tricks to share with families on the college-bound journey?
The college application process involves the entire family, not just the student. For parents, sit down with your college applicant and have an honest conversation about the financials of going to college. It’s heartbreaking for students to turn down their dream school because they aren’t able to afford it. Be upfront about it, so applying to scholarships and financial aid can be factored into the college-bound journey.
Finally, communication is key. Every college applicant wants to take into account what their parents think, but the final decision is going to stay with the applicant, and parents have to respect that. Remember, they are the ones going to college after all.
What is your favorite college-prep resource?
What is one thing that makes what you do unique?
We are crowdsourcing data from successful college applicants to help future applicants. While reading successful essays have always been around (I still remember my copy of the “50 successful Harvard Essays”), there has never been an opportunity to see a full college application. I mean, how are students expected to put one together without seeing one in full? When you put together your resume, you’re likely to do that with a template in front of you. This gives applicants a framework to work with, making the process a lot easier and they know what to expect.
What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Hiking and running! Living in San Francisco, we have access to so many great running and hiking spots. It really helps you keep in shape and free your mind for 1 hour+ after a long day/week at work.
Anything else we should know?
You can use the promo code SCHOLARPREP for a $10 credit on your AdmitSee account!