• Cambridge college students offering advice for future applicants

    By: Bob Dumas


    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - With applications, essays, and standardized tests, the college application process can be confusing for an entire family.

    Parents try and help, but that doesn’t always seem to calm the situation.

    Another option is what’s known as “Near Peer Advising.” This means getting guidance from college students or recent graduates.

    Five recent graduates from Framingham High School, three of whom are just starting college now, are sharing the secrets of how they got into some of the nation’s most elite universities in a new book, “The Authentic College Admissions Almanac – How to get into a Top 20 University While Still Having a Life”.

    “We put it together mainly because we wanted a college admissions book that was written by students, for students,” said Nathan Halberstadt, a freshman at Vanderbilt University.

    The book is divided into four sections: Inside the Classroom; Outside the Classroom; Putting Together the Application; and Enjoying Your High School Years.

    “I think one of the biggest things is realizing that the college admissions process doesn't just start when you're a junior, and when you are putting together your applications,” said Varun Tekur, a freshman at Harvard University. “This is something that really factors that span across all of your high school years.”

    These young men don’t think college should become an all-consuming obsession.

    “It’s not what high school should be all about,” said Eric Tarlin, a sophomore in the joint degree program between Harvard University and the Berklee School of Music. “It shouldn't dictate every part of your life.  Also, if you're enjoying your high school experience, you're having more fulfilling memories, and that's going to make you a more appealing candidate when you apply to college.”

    Jordan Cline, a student at Columbia University, added “When you are bringing your best self into the application, schools want to admit you.”

    The authors believe one of the big advantages of their book is their age. William Cuozzo, a freshman at MIT, said advice that comes from peers is often easier to hear. “You’re not being talked down to in a sense.”

    This philosophy of Near Peer Advising is shared by College Vine, a consulting group based in Cambridge. They virtually pair a high school student with a coach who is either still in college, or just graduated.

    Company co-founder Vinay Bhaskara believes their coaches are able to “get more personal, to get to a deeper level of reflection and thinking through what has just happened, in a way that's not as threatening as having mom and dad asking you to talk about a time when you experienced failure or overcame a challenge.”

    College Vine also has developed analytic tools which match a student’s profile to a particular school to see if they’re likely to be admitted.

    Company CEO John Carson, the father of a high school student, believes their program brings parents some relief. “One of the things that we see a lot from families that come to us, is a desire to, what we call, outsource the nudge factor.”

    College Vine does charge a fee for its service, but says it's less expensive than traditional college coaches because of their reliance on new technology.

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