Education is being disrupted big time, but of course, before you can take advantage of changes in the system, you have to get into a school, and preferably the school of your choice. That’s where AdmitSee comes in, providing information and profiles on students who got into that school that may well be on your radar. And advice that may well help you to get that prized letter of acceptance, too. All, at a fraction of what you’d pay a professional advisor. Today, we chat with founders Stephanie Shyu and Lydia Fayal.
Tell us about the service.
AdmitSee provides a platform for current college and grad students to share college application essays and advice. It serves as an affordable alternative to hiring private consultants and as a supplemental source of information and guidance in a student’s application process. The site offers successful past candidates’ application details, such as academic history, essays, extracurriculars and test prep strategies, all for purchase. It also provides over 1,000 free profiles with content supplied by guidance counselor, and each week, two new Admit profiles (complete with essays) are unlocked for free access. The site will also feature data analysis and tools to compare statistics at different schools. For example, the percentage of students admitted to Harvard and Yale, who chose one school over the other.
How is it different?
The current market offers fragmented application guidance. College entrance guidebooks and compilations of essays don’t provide the full picture of a successful candidate’s application history and require digging through many stats and essays that don’t answer the reader’s needs. College consultants provide targeted information, but they cost upwards of $40,000. The tech scene for college admissions advice hasn’t improved much in the past 10 years—College Confidential’s forums remain the most popular source of information, with over two million unique visitors each month, but the posts are neither organized nor verified. Threads are full of trolls who take pleasure in knocking down fellow applicants.
AdmitSee offers an individualized “college counseling” service, since students can search for profiles that are directly applicable to them, based on factors such as similar test scores, backgrounds or target schools. Users browse basic profiles (a lot like LinkedIn profiles) for free until they find a profile that parallels their background. They can then unlock these profiles by paying $5-20, after which they get to read the admitted student’s full essays, answers to advice topics, test scores, and everything else that went into him or her having gained acceptance. This is the same sort of information that private college consultants provide, but at a fraction of the cost. The site contains an extensive database of institutions ranging from small fine arts schools to Ivy League schools to large state schools, plus every type of undergrad and grad degree available in the U.S. We also verify profiles using school IDs, so our users don’t need to worry about fake profiles.
AdmitSee is essentially a virtual, aggregated admission officer’s file cabinet. By treating each Admit profile as an individually tailored case study, applicants can gauge their chances of admission at specific schools. Plus, our blog features advice from successful candidates, college consultants, and admission officers. AdmitSee is intended to be a resource that makes repeat users and active participants out of casual browsers.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
AdmitSee’s audience consists of high school and college students applying to U.S. undergraduate and graduate schools. Each year, 4 million students apply to four-year colleges, and grad school applicant numbers hover around that figure as well.
According to the 2012 U.S. Census, over 10 million students were enrolled at four-year colleges. These numbers exclude the 700,000 international students currently enrolled in U.S. schools, indicating an even larger group of applicants.
As for graduate schools, over 3.5 million students were enrolled in a grad school in 2012. The total number of students applying to medical school increased by 3% over 2011 to 45,266 applicants. Likewise, two-year MBA programs see a pool of approximately 45,000 business school students each year while law schools had 44,481 incoming students for the 2012-2013 school year.
These enrollment figures don’t fully represent the number of national and international applicants we’re hoping to serve!
What is the business model?
Already admitted students and alumni (“Admits”) anonymously create a profile with their application particulars. Admits can share as much or as little information as they would like, but the price they can charge for their profile is based on how much information is shared. Until their profiles are purchased, certain information is locked to the public user. The user can see previews of locked information, such as test score test score ranges and the first 50 words of the essay. The Admit gets 50% of any money received for their profile. Both Admits and site users earn a commission by referring friends to the site—5% of each dollar a referred user spends or earns on the site gets credited to the referrer’s account. The paid referral system not only bolsters our database, but also gives every user the opportunity earn extra cash or put their earnings toward school expense purchases on our partner sites.
The EdTech space is hot right now. What else do you like that is happening in the space?
The EdTech space is increasingly communal and participatory while being user-driven and customizable. Applicants are turning to online communities for guidance and obtaining catered information directly from the source. Endeavors such as Kahn Academy and computer adaptive e-learning are commendable in that they design individualized curricula for students so that every student has the opportunity for one-on-one attention and unhindered development.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within 6 months?
We hope to have the site with all the user-driven features we have planned up and running so that students are coming to the site not just for Admit profiles but for our additional analytics, our blog, and our sale offers with partners in the education space. We hope that our users will treat the site as a social one that makes for easy browsing and sustained participation. We hope to double the size of our profile database and have college admission offices plugged into the site to boost our anti-plagiarism policy. We would like to see profitability by the third quarter of 2014. If all goes as planned (a lofty goal), we want to add additional helpful features for students, that will also generate extra cash for our Admits.
Why are you launching in New York?
Both co-founders consider New York their home base. The proximity to top East Coast schools makes New York an ideal choice. This is important, since we regularly visit schools for buzz campaigns and hiring interns. Plus, Silicon Alley is growing and we’d like to be part of the community shaping the evolution of that space.