Today, former AdmissionsIntel.com (AI) client, Cole, University of Michigan Class of 2014, sits down with us to share how he benefited from our services – The List in particular, what he learned from his college experience, and where he’s headed next.
AI: Cole, first, thank you very much for sharing with AI site visitors details about your time engaging with us.
Cole: Oh, sure, no problem. In fact, I am happy to tell this story because it was important to getting me where I am today.
AI: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We will get to that. First, please share when and why you started working with us.
Cole: I went to Gilman (editor’s note: Gilman is often mentioned as Baltimore’s most prestigious and rigorous private school) for years and I was really enjoying my time there but my first not so good experience at Gilman came in eleventh grade when it came time to meet with my college counselor about college.
AI: What happened exactly?
Cole: Well, my counselor threw out these college names that were so far from what I wanted. I have no idea what he was basing picking these colleges for me on. I mean, essentially, I had completed a questionnaire and so had my parents and he had looked at my grades and scores and honestly, I felt like he was lowballing me.
AI: Did you tell him of your concerns?
Cole: I was sort of unable to because of the power he held over me. People don’t realize how hard it is to stand up for yourself in front of your college counselor. I mean, this is the guy who is going to be writing a recommendation on my behalf to all colleges I am applying to and he is telling me he thinks the best I can do is University of Maryland. I mean, Maryland is fine for the person who wants that, but I wanted to get out of Maryland and I also wanted a better fit school, honestly. The best school on his list for me was Maryland.
AI: What do you mean the “best school?”
Cole: Oh, thanks. That’s important because I am not going solely based on U.S. News or anything like that. I am basing it off the type of students on campus, the diversity of people and ideas on campus, the variety of majors, and the campus vibe. Maryland did not check all of those boxes for me and many of the other schools like Elon were honestly so far from what I wanted. I later learned that he pushes every high B low A student to apply to Elon. As a result, every year over ten kids from my school apply to Elon. As if Elon is like this perfect place that all private school kids from Baltimore would love. So much for personalizing his college list.
AI: So, what did you and your parents do next?
Cole: When I got home we talked and we decided that we needed a second opinion. My parents called their friends and were told about AdmissionsIntel.com, known by those “in the know” as AI. We looked them up online and we were very impressed, but even more importantly, my mom’s friends said they had used AI for their sons and daughter and that it was the best thing they ever did. I was pretty excited by this, so we made an appointment to get this second opinion.
AI: How did that go and when did this happen.
Cole: It was second semester of my junior year and it was awesome. I met with my mom and AI founder Craig Meister, and I was pretty relieved actually by the end of the meeting because he saw right away that I was being lowballed by my counselor. Craig gave me great advice on how to rework my extracurriculars in a way to highlight different aspects of my experience and background, but even more important to me at that time, which was stressful because of all the tests I was taking and all the homework and pressure, was the fact that Craig encouraged me to apply to USC, Miami, and Michigan. These were my dream schools at the time and he encouraged me and said it was possible to get into them. I felt my Gilman counselor just wanted me in a box. He wanted me at Elon or Maryland so he could work on the recruits and the academic all-stars as they applied to Princeton, Yale, and Penn.
AI: So, just to be clear, AI said you should apply to your dream schools?
Cole: No, not at first anyway. I didn’t tell Craig anything about my dream schools. I just filled out the AI questionnaires and he looked at my grades and scores and activities and background and he said he thinks Tulane, Michigan, USC, Miami, College of Charleston, Wisconsin, maybe Miami Ohio and some others would be great for you. And I said, some of those are my top schools. And he was like, good, they should be.
AI: So, what happened next?
Cole: I visited most of Craig’s colleges in the spring and summer and I even visited Elon too, which was pretty but sort of like Gilman all over again, so that sort of sealed the deal for me that Gilman may be good at a lot but giving great college list advice is not one of the things it is great at.
AI: Gilman is in fact a great school. Some of our best Baltimore students have attended Gilman. Some of those “all-stars” you referred to that go to Penn, Stanford, and Princeton also worked with us. I don’t think your counselor was trying to hurt you as much as just basing his advice on the limited information he chooses to use during his meetings with students and families.
Cole: Well, whatever. It’s over now.
AI: Yes it is, but what happened next for you?
Cole: Oh, yeah, so I applied to UCSB, UVA, Michigan, and Maryland. I got into Michigan Early Action. My Gilman counselor and actually my whole class was shocked. He had told me it was up to me but that it was very unlikely. I was sort of going it alone in his opinion even applying. I got into UMD EA too, but I chose to go to Michigan. I owe this all to AI’s positive attitude and Craig’s help on my application – my resume and essays. He helped me put the most unique aspects of my background front and center on that resume and we brainstormed so many essay topics together. The one I used for the Common App was one I never would have thought of without his help because it was so random, but he got me to tell the story and I admit it was pretty good, I just never knew colleges would want to hear about it. My two Michigan essays were the hardest and Craig taught me how to research on Michigan’s website to create an essay that specifically explained why Michigan was a great fit for me. The other one was about my background, and that connected with how I did my resume.
AI: So, that was a nice ending to your story.
Cole: It really was just the beginning. In my class I was the only one who really “over performed” compared to what he was expected to get into. So guys were coming up to me and congratulating me from December of senior year all the way through August right before college. It was awesome. I was all of a sudden an all-star myself.
AI: And college? How did it go?
Cole: Well, it was hard at first. I was really in a whole new environment and I struggled academically at the beginning but I kept going and learned from my mistakes in a pressure filled environment. I never would have been stretched so much and so hard at Elon or Maryland. Elon because of its size. It just wouldn’t have been that much different than Gilman socially, other than having girls of course. Maryland was so close to home I feel like I would have used home as an escape. At Michigan I had to stick it out and grow on my own.
AI: Elon and Maryland are right for the right types of student. You are clearly not a UMD or Elon type of student. What did you major in at Michigan?
Cole: Engineering. It was hard. But getting through it and graduating is an amazing feeling.
AI: And now? What are you doing?
Cole: I am working for a major industrial engineering firm in South America. I really have a positive outlook on my career and what I am cable of doing. I thank Craig and AI for all of this. I mean, I did the work, but they helped me see I could do it when those at my school were sort of of a different mind on things.
AI: Thanks for sharing your story about how we helped you and please keep in touch. We want to hear more about your engineering work and hopefully you can put in a good word there for some of our younger students who may need an internship next summer?
Cole: Ha. Yes, I will do whatever I can. Thanks for everything.
Do you have an amazing AI testimonial you want to share? Contact us with your interest and we might just interview you next!
Note: Cole’s real name is concealed to protect his identity and the identity of his sibling who goes to the same high school as he did