learn / 2015

Conquering the College Essay

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by ApplicantLab

The ApplicantLab essay-writing software tool is currently live for MBA candidates, but my dream is to expand it for college applications also. This money could help me "pivot" my existing tool to adapt it for high schoolers; I could offer it for free for LAUSD students and thus help expand pathways to college. "Admissions Consultants" charge thousands to help with essay-writing; ApplicantLab can level the playing field!


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Westside
  • LAUSD

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Conduct research
  • Implement a pilot or new project

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics?

  • College matriculation rates

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.

This grant money will help me adapt the product and test it out – I would then offer it to LAUSD students for free. This would give them an advantage in college applications vs. their peers from other cities who face similar resource constraints (e.g., dire counselor-to-student ratios), but who would not have accesss to advice like this.

I think the college essay intimidates kids and totally stresses them out – and I see repeated, common mistakes in essays that might be keeping kids from being accepted to the best college possible. Students need a tool to teach them how to tell their story in an effective, compelling way that will make college admissions officers (and their scholarship-granting counterparts) take notice.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

I envision the project unfolding over three key phases in 2016:

Phase 1: basic research, spring of 2016 – meet with LAUSD counselors / English teachersto learn their tips for college essays. We will thus amalgamate “best practices” from LAUSD’s finest. Meet with students who have recently completed the college process to learn which challenges they faced.

Metric of success: a product plan with concrete deliverables.

Phase 2: development, summer of 2016 – take the feedback from Phase 1 back to my developers and UX designer and iteratively create the new product, getting constant feedback along the way. Hire LAUSD students to help (internships!).

Metric of success: software developed & delivered to LAUSD

Phase 3: launch, autumn of 2016 – make the product available to help with the UC and “Common App” essays. View this as a prototype/pilot: get feedback & iterate!

Metric of success: successful pilot + tons of feedback + college acceptances!

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Network/relationship support