College Application Booster​®: High School Seniors, Get ahead on your college application!

Q&A with Head of Client Operations Alex: Command Education’s Unique College Admissions Expertise

Jun 3, 2024

Command Education’s pioneering approach to the college admissions process provides students with individualized, one-on-one guidance from a near-peer mentor. As recent graduates of Ivy League and other top colleges, our near-peer mentors are uniquely equipped to help students excel in the rapidly changing world of elite college admissions. At the same time, many parents want to know how our team stays up-to-date on admissions committees’ expectations and familiarizes itself with what admissions officers look for in prospective students now.

In order to answer the most frequently asked questions from parents, we sat down with Alex Brown, Command Education Head of Operations, who shared insights into Command Education’s results-proven approach to college consulting:

Graphic Designer Ashley L

If you don’t have admissions officers on your team, how do you know exactly how an application is evaluated?

Alex: The seismic shifts of the last few years have led to greater transparency than ever before regarding admissions considerations, meaning that former admissions officers are no longer the only individuals who are privy to the particular considerations that matter to admissions committees. For instance, the lawsuit against Harvard revealed that admissions officers rate students on a scale of 1–6 (with 1 being the most desirable score) on the basis of their academic, extracurricular, athletic, and personal skill sets, as well as the strengths of their recommendations and their interview. Each individual reviewer’s scores are combined with others’ into a cumulative rating, which is the most critical factor in a student’s overall evaluation. Likewise, the results of the study that led to Dartmouth’s reinstatement of their standardized testing policy revealed that the submission of standardized test scores often benefits applicants, even if the scores do not align with students’ perceptions of what a “high” or “good” score is.

Finally, we rely on our years of experience mentoring students who have gotten into their dream schools—we look at the clubs they were involved in, the independent projects they built, the recommendations they secured, and the anecdotes they shared in their essays to identify the particular strengths of successful applications. Our results are the greatest asset we have to have to offer—we know firsthand what works, and we bring that knowledge to each family who works with us.

Graphic Designer Ashley L

How do Command Education Senior Mentors know what admissions committees are looking for today?

Alex: Given all of the newly publicized information about elite admissions that I’ve mentioned, the biggest question parents should be asking is not how do we know what colleges want, but instead how do we help students to become the kind of students colleges want. How do we guide students to discover their authentic interests and articulate those in unique ways in their applicant profiles?

It’s important to note that the admissions landscape has changed drastically—between ever-changing testing policies, the continued fallout from the pandemic, and the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action, the world of college admissions looks vastly different today than it did even five years ago. This means that former admissions officers are less equipped to help students prioritize what is important to admissions officers now than graduates who have recently succeeded in the process. Our Senior Mentors have successfully navigated the admissions process at the most elite and selective colleges in the country in recent years. We know that admissions committees are looking for intellectually curious, ambitious leaders—but more importantly, we know how to help students tap into their passions, develop and demonstrate these coveted characteristics, and do so in a way that is completely original and unique to help them stand out to admissions officers.

Graphic Designer Ashley L

How important is it for my child to stand out relative to other students at their high school? How do you help them distinguish themselves from their peers?

Alex: Many students don’t understand that they aren’t only compared to students across the entire nation— they are evaluated against their peers at their high school and other similar schools, as well as students who have similar interests. Colleges receive high school profiles along with students’ applications. These profiles offer insights into each school’s curriculum, academic opportunities, and resources available to students. Admissions committees use this information to gauge the academic rigor of a student’s transcript, as well as their level of self-motivation and involvement on campus—they want to know that students have taken advantage of every opportunity their school provides for them to deepen their engagement with their core passions.

Valedictorians and other students who have significant academic credentials will of course stand out in the classroom, but the majority of students—those who aren’t vying for valedictorian status—need to find ways to stand out outside of the classroom. We help students to identify and maximize the resources and opportunities they can take advantage of to further explore their passions and interests through passion projects, service to their communities, research initiatives, or extracurricular enrichment.. For instance, if a student is passionate about environmental science, we encourage them to attend beach cleanups or join environmental clubs—and create such opportunities if they don’t already exist at their school or in their communities. Our goal is to guide students to align their involvements and achievements with their interests and aspirations.

Graphic Designer Ashley L

How do you build a college list? What’s the process like?

Alex: Senior Mentors encourage students to use our College List Generator (a resource that is publicly available online) to kickstart the process of building their personalized college list. We aim for every student to create a well-balanced list that includes a mix of about 4–7 reach, 4–7 match, and 2–3 safety schools. To determine where a student stands, we focus on two key metrics: the middle 50 percentiles of standardized test scores and GPA of admitted students at each school. If a student falls below the 25th percentile, a school is considered a reach school—and possibly too ambitious overall. Our approach is to meet students where they are and take their applicant profile to the next level from there—while we use these numbers to determine a student’s initial odds of admission, we help students stretch themselves and maximize every opportunity to succeed at even the highest reach school on their list.

We typically start crafting the college list in the spring of junior year, as students have a clearer sense of their standardized test scores, their intended major, and the type of school where they think they will fit in by then. Beyond rankings and program offerings, we also prioritize finding schools that align with a student’s personality and passions—we look at the extracurricular activities, student body, research opportunities, and campus community to determine whether a student will thrive.

Graphic Designer Ashley L

How do you source opportunities outside of the classroom for students to explore their passions?

Alex: Colleges care a great deal about community impact, so sourcing opportunities for students to explore their passions starts locally. Once Senior Mentors have a good understanding of a student’s interests, passions, and the kind of work they might enjoy doing, we look into opportunities within their communities through which they can pursue their interests. It is important for students to understand the problems that their own communities are facing—often, a student’s passion project or chosen area of impact comes organically from learning about a challenge within their community and finding ways to affect positive change using their talents. The best place to start is through students’ individual and family connections; if those do not yield an opportunity, we then expand our reach, looking online and helping students to network with members of their community they don’t already have relationships with. Whether it’s with non-profit organizations, political campaigns, public service offices, or through volunteering, becoming a changemaker in their local area helps students explore their interests and demonstrate to colleges that they will be active members of their future campus community.

Most importantly, our Senior Mentors stress that just because a position doesn’t exist in a formal manner doesn’t mean there is nothing to be pursued—we help students design opportunities that no one else is taking advantage of. There is no cookie cutter approach to the college admissions process—and we don’t seek to input students into cookie cutter opportunities. We use our extensive insights to help students find or build unique initiatives that allow them to explore their authentic interests, and eventually showcase their singular interests and passions on their college applications.

Graphic Designer Ashley L

What are the benefits of hiring your team over a local counselor who may know more about the region and differing opportunities in said region?

Alex: At Command Education, we work with a select number of students to offer comprehensive and personalized support that goes beyond the application itself. Our team helps students identify and pursue meaningful extracurricular activities, internships, and other experiences that showcase their unique talents and interests.

Additionally, while local counselors understand the opportunities within a student’s region, Command Education’s global reach gives students the advantage of our more expansive insights. Through our team’s collective experience, we have helped students earn acceptance to the top 20 colleges and universities in the country, and our shared knowledge allows us to bring in the diverse members of our team to take a student’s candidacy to the next level. With Command Education, students received the individualized, high-touch support of an individual Senior Mentor while also benefiting from the expertise of an entire team behind the scenes.

Share our Blog