Stephanie Klein Wassink is a college admissions expert and the founder of AdmissionsCheckup.com, a service that allows students to run their applications by three former admissions officers before they submit them, and Winning Applications, a college consulting firm. Based in Connecticut, Stephanie has over 15 years of experience in college admissions and was formerly on the admissions committee at Northwestern’s Kellogg School. Learn more about Stephanie in this 5 questions interview.
1. How did you get your start in college admissions?
Before going to my first class at Brown University, I knew I had picked the wrong school. There was nothing wrong with Brown, it was what it promised to be, an amazing education with an open curriculum; 28-32 courses equals graduation. What I did not know then was I needed more structure. After graduating from Brown I lacked direction and jumped from job to job, finally ending up on the admissions committee at Northwestern’s Kellogg School. Years later as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, I would learn what “the right fit school” truly means.
2. Why do you think Winning Applications has been so successful in helping students get into their top schools? What sets you apart from other college consulting companies?
While my background as an admissions officer enables me to give my student information about the process they might not otherwise have, I have to admit that my students tend to be focused and motivated. They really earn their acceptances to top schools over the whole of high school. One of the most important reasons we have had so much success is that we start with our clients as early as 9th grade. I also suggest each client use AdmissionsCheckup.com. Once I get to know a student and his/her family, I am no longer impartial. With AdmissionsCheckup.com, three former admissions officers (sometimes from the same schools the student is applying to) review a student’s file and give him/her feedback before the application is submitted.
3. What has been the biggest change in the college admissions process in the last few years and how have you adapted to help your students get into their dream schools?
There is no one change. Instead, the challenge is to be nimble, learn quickly and adapt to all of the changes that happen each year: the new Common Application essay questions, the new SAT, texting versus emailing clients…change is constant. , etc.
4. In your opinion, what makes a great letter of recommendation and what can students do to help guidance counselors and teachers create meaningful and engaging letters of recommendation?
Meeting with teachers and guidance counselors 2-4 times per year is very important. Have a resume you can submit to them so they know what you do in your spare time. In a perfect world, you want teachers to offer to write your letter of recommendation. It makes a difference when a teacher really knows the student and can quantify why a student stands out compared to his /her peers. Remarks like, “This student’s intellectual curiosity ranks among the top 1% of the students in our high school.” Impresses the admissions committee
5. In a previous interview, you recommended that high school students save their writing assignments because they might be useful for application essay questions. This is a wonderful idea—simple and practical. Are there any other tips you can leave our readers with regarding preparation for college application essays?
AdmissionsCheckup.com puts students’ applications as close to the admissions committee as it is possible to get. Having three impartial former admissions officers from the school(s) you are applying to review your application file before you submit it gives you time to edit –mitigate red flags, uncover buried gens and submit your application with confidence. Not that is priceless.