Get Into College Without Going Broke - A Conversation With Shelle Howard

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Parents of high school-age students are always looking for the most effective ways to help their child attend their dream college with a full or partial scholarship. To help explore this topic, I recently spoke with Shelle Howard. Shelley is the CEO of College Ready and a consultant to hundreds of college-bound students around the world. We discuss ways to help your child get into their dream college, regardless of what their grades are, or what their household income is. Her guidance can also help colleges and universities find the right-fit students for their programs.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation. And if you'd like to listen to our conversation, you can do so here:

Ian Evenstar: It's wonderful to have you here because, obviously, getting into college without breaking the bank, that's top of everyone's mind, and we're going to try to relate this back to senior administration, deans, and provost, to make sure that they get value out of this conversation as well. But to start, if you could tell our audience just a little bit about your mission to help 1 million families understand how to simplify college.

Shelle Howard: Absolutely. So I think it first has to be said, why I'm on a mission. It all started my oldest. I am a mother of four and he came home from middle school and said, mom, I know exactly what I want to be and where I want to go. And I was like, oh, my goodness, please share, because I changed my major five times. It was crazy and I was the first to go to college. So my why was I was a mom with a student who wanted to go to a top-tier school and be a brain surgeon. This was so far out of my wheelhouse as a parent and a child. We had no idea where to turn. We didn't feel like we knew what to even say to colleges, or what questions to ask that didn't seem silly. And when I went to his local high school counselor, she said, why would you waste your time or money doing that? Doctors don't make money anymore.

So we weren't getting a lot of support from his high school either. So my mission of helping one million families not only get into the best match college, but to do it without debt is because I watched my oldest do it. We started the process in 2008. So we're going through our 13th application season College Ready. And I have to say as much time as past, not so much has changed. My students who come into our program are still feeling overwhelmed and undersupported.

So my mission is to help them simplify the process, to find the best match university or college, and understand the return on investment. So if they want to be a certain major, does it make sense to go to a certain college and help them actually work out a plan not only get to get into college, but to graduate from college. So I believe my mission will not only help families, but also help universities because if students come in having a really good idea of what their major they want to do or potentially the career they want to go get, the whole process is going to be so much easier on the student and ultimately on the university themselves because that student will have a direction, a path and understand what their role in it will be.

IE: Well, I know it's common for every CEO or founder to have a personal story. So it's delightful to hear yours. Thank you for sharing that. I do have a question later on, because not only did you help your son get into college, but we'll get to this. It happened to be Harvard. And it happened to be very little out-of-pocket expenses owed at the time he graduated. So we'll get to that in a moment, but I love this mission and I love this sense that it comes from a personal place. But what I'm wondering is how does this mission help the university or the college? Is it bidirectional in that sense? Is it symbiotic or maybe another way of asking how might this mission help senior administration at a college or university?

SH: The way I have seen it played out was in my oldest son's situation. When he went to Harvard and he knew exactly what he wanted to be, he had focus. He knew exactly what classes to take, what internships, he really had a business plan if you will, that we set up for him, which was not only just to get him into the school, but it was to get him to the next level. So we knew when to take the MCAT. We knew how many medical schools to apply to. This how it helps colleges, I believe is it takes the capacity off of them, because their college counselors are so maxed out with all of these students with no direction or uncertainty or changing their major thousands of times, or dropping out, or the mental instability of these kids who are so overwhelmed or so out of place. It gives them a really easy student to work with.

My son basically just had his counselor say, okay, take this class and this class and do this and this and you're good to go versus having to spend hours. I have a lot of students who come or families who come to College Ready after they messed up their first child. And I've seen what happens when they don't have direction. When they don't know their major, when they don't have a career trajectory, it's they start doing this floating thing and then they keep changing their major. And then they graduate with a major that doesn't have a job. So when they graduate, they have this very fluffy idea of what life is going to be like. And then they end up back on their parents' couch.

And ultimately people say, well, it's a waste to spend that money on college. I'm here to tell listeners it's not a waste, but it has to be done like a business plan, or you would never just go buy a home and then figure out how you're going to pay for it. But yet people send... They leave their 17-year-old, the opportunity to go figure out this whole college admissions thing when they don't have a concept of how much $300,000 in debt is going to be because they don't have an exit strategy. So now I think it's going to help the universities is it's going to make successful students who feel that they got a solid return on their investment because they got in, they got out in four years, they are now a productive citizens and they can pay for any student loans they may have had to go and get.

But most students unfortunately are picking a school by their football team, or their basketball team, or where it's located. And it's not a very thought-out strategy. And they're counting on the university to do all the heavy lifting, to get them not only educated but help to get them out and into a career. I'm doing all that work prior to them applying to the university, which means they have a plan, a strategy and now the university just has to support getting them through.

IE: So what I heard there was, this is a way to decrease the burden on your staff and administration, that programs such as College Ready, this can actually help improve placements within the programs in a more thoughtful and meaningful way. Decrease may be the amount of time someone is changing a major as you mentioned, and it can give them a sense of direction, which ultimately can lead to probably better job placement, post-graduation. So it really helps, them across the board, have you had universe, or colleges reach out to you and say, hey, will you help our admissions team with this process, or is a business model really not accommodating work for the university as well as work for families at this point?

SH: I would love the opportunity. So if you have a listener who would be into working, partnering, and supporting whatever I can do, it can help them. I've seen it time and time again. The students that go through the College Ready program are so much better prepared for life, not just for college, we're helping them to do passion with a purpose. So as part of our program, each student commits to doing 200 service hours before they leave for college. Just think of every student coming to your college, who did 200 service hours or more what your students would do once they got there, what the world would be like when they graduated from there.

And so partnership would be a true blessing for not only the universities, not only our students, and I would love to help them see both sides of how this is playing out because I'm truly the middle person in the strategy, what is the student's pain points? Why is this so difficult for them and what makes them most successful while helping the university saying with just a little pre-planning and strategizing on the student's part, coming into the program, they'll have all of their pre-reqs done. They'll have everything necessary to be a productive student who is mature enough to not suffer their freshman year grades because they're already looking at, I have to do well all four years to get to where I want to go.

Most students honestly are being thrown into the university sink or swim. It's like taking a baby, throwing them in a pool, and hopefully, they come up for air and they're freaking out once they get there. And that's how I end up with their younger siblings because families see that, that wasn't a good strategy. And I don't want to do that to my other children.

IE: Lesson learned on the first and then they come back for the second and third. Well, I mean, I think the key takeaway might be for our listeners here, working with a program such as College Ready, cannot only help the families alleviate or mitigate some of the debt implications or the financial implications. It can also help alleviate the student, obviously, because it's allowing them to get the planning and the direction in place to find the right program that fits them best. But the administration might consider working with a program because it also helps them find those right fit students as well. So maybe instead of this catch-all recruitment process, maybe part of the augmented recruitment process could be working with a college readiness program such as yours.

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SH: Absolutely. And then while you were speaking, I thought of another way that it would absolutely benefit them as a student. So colleges have numbers that they have to keep such as retention. So when we're evaluating a school, we're looking at retention. So from a college's perspective, if they have a student ready to enter, ready to be productive, their retention rate is going to go through the roof, which statistically is going to make them a more valuable school for my students. So I think that's another huge win. When a student drops out, that's not a great reflection on a university where our students, they're not all over the place because we've already done the hard lifting when they get there it's like, how do I make this most successful and then graduate and be one of those success stories.

IE: Speaking of success and key measurements that we're looking at one year, you touted that your students had earned over 10 million in scholarships. How did you help make that happen?

SH: So it's an interesting story. When my son was going through this, he was my firstborn. So I did make some mistakes. I had him do 33 private scholarships applications because I'm thinking, oh, like most people let's just get scholarships. He's the same kid who had seven full-ride offers. He got $300 in scholarships. So you ask yourself what is broken here? What is broken is you don't get the big money from these teeny tiny private scholarships, finding a university where the student is a solid fit. I put it to adults this way: if you own a business and I come to you and I give you a very small resume, you're my first job. Like I haven't done really anything to prepare. Are you going to pay me well? Oh, no.

If I come with a brilliant resume, that's deep and thoughtful and wow, are you not going to give me a very nice salary? Helping families understand this idea that college is a business and they're looking for the best and the brightest and they do have endowments for those students, there is a great thing that happens in that world. So making that match of the student and the university, I help both people. I help the student find the best fit and I help the university find the best student. Guess what, it happens, money happens. Yeah. Everybody's super happy. Yeah. That's what happens.

And I hate to simplify it to that point, but that's what people can wrap their minds around, it comes down to, if you are not qualified for a school and you apply to get in, you should be thankful. You just got in. But if you're overqualified and that school is like, yes, we want the next Nobel peace prize winner. They're going to be a lot more generous with the funds that they have to offer.

IE: So that's brilliant. I think the aha moment for me there was, that you're essentially making high school kids overqualified for their school or program of choice. And by increasing their value at an accelerated rate compared to other high school students or prospective students for college, you're actually creating a little bit of, I wouldn't say a bidding war necessarily, but you were incentivizing the program administrator who might be having their eye on, okay. Who is the best fit? And look at this student, this student's actually overqualified.

SH: You're a quick study. Absolutely. And it works for both sides. I'm bringing the university, the best students and the university is incentivizing them. It's the same when you go get a job. I mean, it's just cause and effect you bring the best you... I always say to my kids, what do good girls get, good things that, I mean, it's such a simple foundation. It shouldn't be a shock, but what students have a hard time understanding is what is the right fit school for them and where is the money? So what we do is we had 61 seniors in 2021 who earned over $10.7 million in scholarships, those are the straight numbers.

You divide that out, you can't make an investment in anything and get that kind of return on your investment. What the best part is these students are now the best student they can possibly be, which, oh, by the way, is not a terrible thing. And the universities are thrilled because they're getting amazing students applying to their university. So in my world, it's called a win-win. And I think if we did more of the strategizing and planning and look at the return on investment for these students, everybody would win and everybody would stop complaining about the cost of college because the return on estimate would be worth them going to and graduating from.

I look at it from an economic perspective as a business owner, this is my seventh business. I didn't get into this business for just the sheer fact of, I wanted to help kids. I wanted to help the world look at how do we not stay in this world of students questioning is college worth it. Of course, college is worth it.

IE: It's a win, win, win, I think. It's a win for the student, a win for the family, and potentially a win for the college. I've seen that pretty clearly. That's really nice to look at it. I think by the numbers, but have you also seen it on the qualitative side, do the students in general, in the families, do they feel that the quality of the education also improves or I guess the way that the student is developing before they enter college, that, that formative process that they're going through is also increasing or enhancing their quality of the search or their quality of that process?

SH: 100%. And to me, that is the most important piece is preparing these young people for life. And if we do it while they're maturing, not in a way of hammering them you got to go to this, do this, but nurturing through what are you passionate about? What comes naturally? What are your gifts and talents? What are your core values? I mean, how can that hurt a student as they move forward in life? It's really giving them the gift of figuring out who they are and why it matters and then trying to connect them and put the puzzle pieces together, to get them to where they want to go.

And ultimately it's a huge win for the student and the family, because now those students are not only going to graduate from high, high school than college, but they're going to have a career that they like, and that can provide for them at the level the student wants. And we talk to students, nobody's having those hard conversations. How much will it cost when you move out? They don't have a concept of how much $300 or $1,000 in debt is. And when I talk to them, they're like, well, I don't want to work for free because that's what I call student loans. And I'm like, ding, ding, this is a good conversation. You need to be mindful. There are universities that are tuition-free. They're out there, but they're not advertising. They're not the ones with the big NCAA championship.

We have to let students know that there's more to this world of college than just the top five names that they can ruddle off and let them look at the best fit. So for my master's thesis, I took all the labels off the school. I matched the student to the quality of the school that I put the label back on and they were floored. Students were like, I had no idea that would be such a great school for me. So I'm really opening up their world into what is available and then helping them to be the best version of themselves, which is ultimately going to help them be successful in life. So I do think it's a win-win and win. I agree.

IE: And it also enhances the quality of their educational experience and the quality of the process that's leading up to that final decision. I think that's neat too, that you're demystifying, who the usual suspects might be on a student's shortlist of colleges and really allowing them to do that assessment or some of that personal work before thinking about the name that's attached ultimately to their degree. What can you tell us about the process? What does it look like if a family wants to work with you and what kind of regimen do you go through as a student?

SH: So our process is very planned out, but it's custom one-to-one. So in other words, we don't make cookie-cutter students. We're not looking to just do this, do this, do this, do this. We're really working one-to-one with each student to bring out their gifts, their talents, and their core values and help them to continue to grow those while using their weaknesses to support what they're trained to do. So what that looks like is we have an online cloud-based portal. Inside this portal, I call it the file box in the sky, which is everything that student needs. So we work to put together a standout strategy. What other than the GPA and test score, why else would I want you to come to my college? Okay.

SH: We start with that fundamental principle. Then we start to build out who are they? What's important to them. What would be a good fit academically, financially, socially, and where will they thrive? And then we build this plan A, B, and COVID and help them to understand, it's going to pivot, they're young. When we pick them up, they may be just out of eighth grade. They don't have all the answers yet. But if we work with them over a four-year time, when they leave us, oh, you better bet, they know exactly where they want to go and exactly what they want to do, but it can't be done overnight. And it can't be forced on them. Like, what do you want to do right now? They don't know.

So we help them to get internships and research projects and build passion with purpose projects, where they lead others to create change, or real looking, to make a solid student, a young adult, not just force them into a college because we know just because it's an academic fit, doesn't mean it's going to be a good fit. We know that a student has to be happy for them to be successful. We don't want them to drop out from the overwhelmed and anxious. So by putting together that plan, the whole family can just rest assured that they're just going to be nurtured through the process. Most students will tell you in our program. I don't know what everybody's so stressed out about. This is really easy because that's the goal.

IE: What a great compliment, huh?

SH: Yeah. The goal is yes. It can be really, and it can actually be fun. Our students, we have a great time in our conversations. It's not painful and overwhelming. It's all about, what do you like to do? What are you good at? What's important to you? What do you want to see changed in the world? Nobody's asking these kids any of those questions, they're just saying, go test prep. Nobody's telling them why they need to test prep. How that's going to help them to be a better test taker in the future. They're just saying, just go do it. And I'm saying, whoa, whoa, whoa. If you can't tell me why I'm doing it, I don't think we should be doing it.

And so we're really, in your words, demystifying and simplifying and taking away the overwhelm and having fun, it can be fun. And so a lot of times students look forward to our time because they'll come with huge stress and we're able to say, you know what? It's okay. It's normal. You don't have it all figured out when you're a freshman, but we will when you're a senior.

IE: That's great. So you're typically starting this process at freshman level or eighth-grade graduation level?

SH: I wish. When we're starting, it is when families find us. Like I said, I typically get the second student, because parents are pretty freaked out about what happened to student number one. And my business College Ready, we are 40% word of mouth, 40%. That's because what we do works and you want to tell your aunts and uncles and cousins, we don't advertise. We are looking for people as well as they're looking for us. If a student does not want to do the work. If they truly don't just want to cruise, they're not a good fit because that's not life. We can't prepare them for that.

If a student is like, just tell me what I need to do and I'll do it, ah, the sky's open up and we're like, yes, we can help. So we are helping students, but I have seniors who call me every year and they're like, Shelle, I thought I had it, but I don't. And I need help. And so I won't say, no, I can't help you, but they better be mature enough to receive the fire hose of information because it still has to come quick. These students, you can't pick a good academic, social and financial fit if you have only three meetings with a student.

It takes time to really help them to be the best version of themselves. And that's why I made our process and procedure flexible enough to start early or to start anywhere through the process. A lot of people will say, I know I'm early. And I'm like, great, what year? And they're like, oh, end of the junior year. And I'm like, huh, what are you early for? So-

IE: Yeah. It's all relative.

SH: We still help them we still nurture them. We still can give them, but we have to do it quickly. We have to do rapid-fire versus a nice easy conversation.

IE: So in a perfect world, you would start much earlier. It seems like you're part matchmaker, part counselor, part coach, part advisor, part mentor, maybe a part therapist. Not sure we're not going to go into that aspect of it, but I'm sure it's a very personal process as well. So we alluded to the fact that your son went to Harvard for four years and then emerged debt-free. Is this the same process that he went through?

SH: Absolutely. And it is how... I call it proof of concept. I never meant for this to be my career. I just meant for my son to get into a top-tier school. So to be clear, College Ready was not a thing back then. I couldn't find anybody to help us. So whatever crazy mom would do, no, I put together a business plan as if he was an entrepreneur and I'm like, this is what you need to do. This is how you're going to market yourself. This is how we're going to put the application together. But he had to do the work. I do not take credit for any of that. He worked really hard.

He had the GPA, he had the test scores, he had the leadership, and he had community service. He had extracurriculars, his letters of recommendation. His essays were phenomenal. So I don't want to make this a like anybody can do it by doing nothing. Anybody can do it with a plan and the desire, I can't give desire to any student. What we figured out is I was a single mom at the time. And even if he got in, how would I pay for it? So I had to take the financial side a little bit stronger because I was terrified to let him get in. And then as moms say, I'm so sorry, thank you for getting in, but I can't afford it.

So we had to look at how we were going to help get him the opportunities and the desire. And the beauty of it is just like a scholar-athlete. A strong academic student has so many opportunities that nobody talks about. And this is, I call it a standout strategy is the words I put into place. It's not one thing. It's just not. And he didn't have a 5.0 GPA. In 2021, I had three students with a 5.0 GPA and a 36, ACT. A 5.0, who does this? These kids are amazing. That was not my son. But he was an ASB president. He was varsity soccer. He was the whole thing. And that's what I want families to understand. A GPA is no longer the ticket to get into these schools and especially to do it without debt.

They need to be thinking as if they were applying for their dream job. You can't just go and have, I got a degree. That's not going to get you the big paycheck or the dream job. You have to have more. And that's what I'm trying to help people understand. So to answer your question, it was everything he did. It wasn't one thing he did.

IE: And this I think goes back to how you described your process. It's very holistic. The plan includes a complete package really. It's a complete package on how to become overqualified for college application, GPA, leadership, sports activities, financial planning, volunteerism, there are all of these things that really go into making you that complete package, or overqualified applicant. Along that same line there with this is a special project or a set of special projects that you call passion with purpose community service projects. So, this is a volunteer from what I understand, how do these projects set these students apart from other applicants?

SH: So this is something that's very near and dear. And it started the day I started the company because it made my son a better person. And what I'm talking about is he had to do 20 service hours a year for his high school, 20. In leadership, he did 20. It didn't teach what I was hoping he would learn. So when we would have conversations about why do you want to be a doctor? I don't know. I'm good at math and science. Well, okay. Being a doctor is more than just math and science. And so I never heard from him the why.

And so I put together a challenge for him that was, I need you to put together something that you are passionate about to create the change you wish to see in the world. And I want you to lead others to do it. And he is like, what? Like-

IE: It's a great assignment.

SH: I'm 17 and you want me to do what? Well, I'm an entrepreneur. So my brain's like, yeah, it's so simple. He's like a left-brain. Do we put it together like a lab? What do we do? And I really sat down with him and I first took him through, what are you truly passionate about? I need to know if you had all the money, time, or energy to do anything. What would that be? We got really clear on that first. Second, I need you to tell me if you had all the resources, the determination, nothing stopping you, what would you want to see changed in the world? And I have to tell you that's realized I raised him in a bubble because he was not thinking as big as I needed him to think. He was thinking very local.

So that allowed me to help him mindfully look at the world in which he was going to be growing up. And the things that really touched his heart, because what was passionate to me and what I wanted to see the change he's like, I want to do that. I don't want to help that, that makes no sense to me. So I knew that it was going to be a barrier to entry until he bought into it. It had to be his idea. He's a teenager. So once we had his passions, once we had the things that he wanted to see changed in the world, it was very simple to help him build a passion with a purpose project. Great. Who do you want to help? What do you want to do? When do you want to do it? How are you going to do it? Who will you serve? How do you know if you've been successful?

Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. We built this whole passionate idea. And then he started talking to his friends are like, that's so cool. I want to do that. How can I do that? And then it was an incredible thing because he says, "Mom, I don't have time for that kind of stuff. I am really busy doing my schoolwork and my leadership and my sport." But all of a sudden, all of his priorities changed and he was on fire. He ended up where we went to Africa and we worked in a Swahili village because this was to help students who were underserved, who just did not have the opportunity to get the education he was getting. That's where his passion was. And how it tied into medicine is he felt that they were underrepresented.

In other words, these kids were not having the opportunity to go and get an education to then go into medicine and be able to help their villages. And so we went and we lived with a Swahili family for three weeks and we didn't understand a word, but we were able to help them and understand what was the bottleneck to the problem. And once we figured that out, then he came back to America and he helped put together a solution to the problem. With that, he raised thousands of dollars. And that's how he figured out that wait, my desire to be a doctor is not just a fix a cold, is to fix a system.

So ultimately he wants to be an orthopedic surgeon, but more importantly, he wants to run a hospital to be able to give all people the ability to have the opportunity to have medicine in their world. And that started all because he went there to figure out... He thought he was just going to go play with some kids and teach American sports. What he found out is there's a big problem over there, and it's not just kids playing sports, it's kids staying in school. How do I use the sport to keep the kid in school, to graduate, to get these degrees, to support their village. So all of a sudden this little thing turned out to be this huge thing. And it's what he talked about in his interviews.

It was the thing that the essay was published in books. And it was all because he had the opportunity to figure out who I am and why do I matter? And how can I make a difference in the world? And it wasn't all for college. This truly wasn't, I'm doing this to get into college. It was, I'm doing this to figure out who I am and where I want to go in my life. And oh, by the way, this is a great story to tell colleges of why I think I need an education. So it really is so much bigger than just community service for college. It helps them to figure out, do they want to leader follow? Do I want to work in a lab? Do I want to work in sales?

It gives them an opportunity to help others while not focusing on, I'm scared to try this because I don't know if I'm going to be good at it. Well, nobody's doing it. So I'm better at somebody else who's not done it. So it really gives these teenagers a world where they can explore opportunities while helping other people in the meantime and ultimately figuring out a major in a career.

IE: What an amazing story. And I'm sure you have similar stories for every student who goes through this process. They approach the process around establishing that passion with a purpose project. That seems very similar to our brand development workshops, where we help guide a program through who is this program for? Why does this program matter? How does it ultimately help and what makes it different? So the individual is asking those same questions almost as a way to develop their personal brand. And then that story and that experience, as you pointed out, that becomes part of the storytelling that goes into the essays and goes into the application process.

And it coincidentally gets them to buy in on their own path forward. So you're no longer prescribing to your children what they should do, and why you think it's best for them, but having them figure that out on their own. And then leveraging that in a way that becomes really powerful every step forward.

SH: 100%. You hit it right. That's exactly we are building their brand, but that's the outcome, is they figure all this out. The whole idea is if we're not doing it, who's going to do it? The high school's not going to do it. Is the family going to do it? I don't know. They're running them out of crazy town, but if they don't do it before they get to college, then why is college supposed to do it? So everybody passes the buck and I'm saying the buck's got to stop being passed around. And let's just hit it head-on and help these kids.

IE: Yes. And this must be a process that gets folded into the family fabric as well. So the parent or the guardian, they're helping draw out or guide some of these leading questions and helping them, I'm sure with some of the research that is necessary, but yeah, you're right. I mean, no one really does branding. I'm going to call it branding at this level holistically big picture, you know what ultimately is going to lead me to have a life of purpose and meaning other than someone like yourself, who can really guide that process, guide conversation, and equip the families with the tools in order to really suss out what their core why is and who their core identity is.

SH: Yeah. I've had families hire us just for this piece because when a parent says, well, what do you want to do? And the student shrugs and says, I don't know, it's a fight. That parents like, well, you got to know. And that student's like, but I don't know. And it could be this student wants to go into art, but they know their parent doesn't want them to go into art. Well, I tell them no. I say, well, what do you want to do with art? How much money are you going to make? How are you going to do it? And so it's a very open conversation that they want to share because I'm not judging them.

I have nothing to gain by them doing art or not doing art. I say you might want to own an art gallery and be able to have that as an option, but that's not telling them, no, you can't. And it may not be the parent's fault. I'm a mother of four. What my kids hear me say is very different than what I say. So, it may be as simple as the parent's been saying it, but the student doesn't hear it that way.

IE: Yes. It's true. It's all about context and the right place, right time, right message. And again, this is a way for them to reach those conclusions on their own, which helps the message get through. We touched on how this process helps with say essay writing, it gets to their core reason why, but there are also other letters that are needed. Great referral letters are needed. So part of your program, from what I understand is unlocking the secrets to a great referral letter. How do we do this?

SH: So, it ties right back into this student knowing who they are because our students build an awesome resume. They give letters of recommendation because they may have a great AP chem teacher who they connect with. They have lunch together, but maybe that AP chem teacher doesn't know that they're also this, this volunteer here does that captain here. And they can only write it from a myopic view where if the student really comes to the request, as I know, you know me in your chemistry class, but here, look what else I've done is that letter not going to be that much better. You're giving them so much more to talk about, which means it's just going to be a better-written letter.

And so we're helping students see that they're doing all of this wonderful stuff, but they're not used to selling themself. They're like, yeah, I joined the national society. Well, what does that mean? Help me understand, how did you get there? What did you do to get there? Is it even important that you got there? What are you doing once you got there? So we help draw this out of the students, so they can then speak to the people that are asking to write these letters, which is then going to give them a much more depth of this letter of recommendation for the student. So it is a strategy that is a win-win again, the more you can help somebody help you, that's what they want to do. Teachers don't get paid extra for writing letters of recommendation.

IE: Yeah. So I was just jotting down some notes on that because what I heard within there is that this is a way not only to mark the box on your application for these LOR, these letters of recommendations, but it's a way or an impetus for those students to facilitate a conversation with their teachers and conversely, a way for those high school teachers to get to know the student a little bit more deeply. What occurred to me, is it also models a very similar conversation that they're going to have the fourth year of their bachelor's program where they're talking to their professors, asking for a letter of recommendation, maybe for postgraduate applications or possibly for careers.

And I think that's also just great college readiness training early on. Moving toward the, I guess the wrap and the closing here of our conversation, I'm wondering how your business model and your approach to preparing these students, how it may have changed during COVID, or how just the digital the online learning ecosystem. Where we now have a lot of options presented across the board, how has it changed your business, or possibly your model of mentoring and coaching these students?



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