How to Reach the Elites: Sydney’s Story

Sydney was accepted to one of the elite business programs in the country.


Problem: Sydney was a stellar student who wanted to apply to one of the best undergraduate business programs in the Northeast US. Her parents wanted her application and, therefore, admissions essay to be the strongest in the prospective class. But Sydney’s writing sounded forced; she was trying too hard to sound smart when, in fact, she should have been drawing from her own authentic, in-depth experiences.

Solution: Sydney took part in our college admissions boot camp and learned about the funnel writing model, using the appropriate vocabulary, and audience analysis. She also learned how to see her essay through the eyes of a college admissions officer.

Results: Sydney was accepted to one of the best undergraduate business programs in the country. The regional college admissions officer for the university personally told Sydney that her essay was impressive, heartfelt, and unique.

Lessons Learned: Sydney learned how to embrace her personal experience as a chess volunteer, and tie it into her ambitions. She wants to go into business and make the developing world a better place. We taught Sydney that it’s the explanation that counts.

The Full Story

While researching college admissions, Sydney’s parents discovered an alarming theme: Good grades and solid extra-curricular activities weren’t enough to get students into top schools.

Sydney was a stellar student at a school in New York City who aimed to major in business administration, international business, or finance in college. Her parents knew she was a bright young woman with ambition. Sydney had participated in numerous extra-curriculars, including DECA, FBLA, and the chess team. It was obvious she had geared her interests towards business and mathematics. On paper, her resume and GPA made her a competitive applicant for her target and reach schools.

But Sydney’s parents were worried that wasn’t enough. In her practice essays, Sydney’s voice sounded forced, and nothing like the heartfelt student they knew. So they enrolled Sydney in Transizion’s college admissions boot camp for help.

We specialize in helping students attack essay prompts at compelling angles. Sydney had significant life experiences that could be emphasized in her college essay. But when writing for practice prompts, Sydney strived for high-mindedness and sophistication at the cost of sounding clear and earnest. To demonstrate standard intelligence is not enough; today’s high school students need to reveal their perspectives with sincerity, logic, and relevance.

We have solved this exact problem with countless college applicants. During our college admissions boot camp, we taught Sydney the concepts of audience analysis and topic brainstorming. We broke down the typical profile of a college admissions officer: Admissions officers are smart people who are looking to learn about you, not your test scores. We showed Sydney that demonstrating her intelligence and perspective by being clear about her goals and life lessons was key to catching their attention.

Slowly, Sydney understood how to authentically demonstrate her perspective. Instead of writing about a trip she took to Europe with her parents, she wrote about how she teaches chess to disadvantaged youth. As a ranking officer on the chess team, Sydney would travel to a school in a nearby district, and coach middle-school students on the strategies for winning chess matches.

Our boot camp teaches students how to tie in their unique experiences to their ambitions. In her final essay, Sydney wrote about how volunteering inspired her big dream of becoming a social entrepreneur. Sydney described how she wanted to run a business that provides students in developing countries with clothes and school supplies.

Through participating in our college admissions boot camp, Sydney’s writing improved before her parents’ eyes:

“Transizion worked with Sydney to get her ‘natural voice’ out there,” Sydney’s mom wrote, “We wanted her to sell her qualifications, but she sounded forced. Transizion helped her college essay by teaching her how to structure the essay, and making her aware of interesting writing techniques.”

Sydney’s new essay was more sincere and less abstract, more informed and less exotic. Her parents’ trip to Paris didn’t set her apart from competitors, but her chess team volunteering and social entrepreneurship ambitions did. “The admissions officer who lives in our state told her that her essay helped her stand out from the crowd,” Sydney’s mom said.

As of writing this testimonial, Sydney is a freshman at a top-tier school in the Northeast US. Of course, she is pursuing business administration, and is still dedicated to teaching at-risk youth how to play chess. Great work, Sydney!