The process of applying for college is a daunting one, and Stephanie Klein-Wassink has the answers to the key questions.
Ms. Klein-Wassink is the founder of Winning Applications in Wilton, which offers one-on-one and group consultations for students applying to college. The company website — winningapplications.com — says “for the last five years, 90% of our students have been admitted to their first-choice school; 99% stay and graduate from that school.”
Her newest venture is AdmissionsCheckup.com, a website that allows students to upload their application to be sent to be reviewed by former admissions officers from such schools as Tufts University, Hamilton, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, and others. She began the business, to partner with Winning Applications, last November.
“I decided that the best thing I could feasibly do for my customers is to give them an admissions committee from the schools that they’re applying to,” Ms. Klein-Wassink said. “I know enough former admissions officers.”
A former admissions committee member herself at Northwestern University, she runs both of her businesses out of a comfortable office at 387 Danbury Road (Route 7), not coincidentally in front of Wilton High School.
She originally attended Brown University, which she decided wasn’t really for her.
“I needed more structure and Brown is famous for not having structure,” she said. “I needed to be told to take accounting, statistics, whatever. Then I went to grad school [at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School] and loved it. There was so much structure. It was the perfect school for me.
“There’s something about picking the school that really suits you. Not because of the prestige necessarily, but because of the fit and the fact that you’ll stay there. You want the four-year graduation rate, not the six-year.”
Students upload their file to Admissions Checkup’s website, where three former admissions officers review it and provide feedback. The initial assessment costs $399. Subsequent evaluations cost $179.
“I’ve received a lot of good feedback,” she said. “It’s something no one else is doing.”
Ms. Klein-Wassink said that, essentially, Admissions Checkup is “broader” than Winning Applications. The new business is also online, with anonymous admissions committee members reviewing a file. Winning Applications affords students the opportunity to visit with Ms. Klein-Wassink. It is, as she said, “the whole process.”
“I do my best to find the right fit for students,” she said. “I do three different diagnostics to make sure I get a sense of the students’ personality.”
One of her goals is to reduce the stress that goes into the college application process, so she will keep things light by doing such things as bringing her dog to the office during brainstorming sessions with students. Yet she also wants students to know the interview process.
“What I want to do is recreate what they’ll experience when they sit in someone’s office,” she said. “I ask questions that you know they’ll be asked.”
The traditional notion about college applications was that students could never do enough extracurricular activities in high school. While that is somewhat true, admissions committees want the well-rounded student, she said.
“They want to know that when you come to their school, you’re not going to be sitting in your school gaming, you’re not in the library for 24 hours studying, but you’re going to be interacting with other students,” she said. “You want a campus that is vibrant and engaged. You want consistent extracurriculars. Not just one year of an activity, but constant.”
The mother of three boys from Redding, she said she has worked in Wilton extensively over the years, as well as in Ridgefield, Greenwich, and outside the United States in Saudi Arabia and Australia. Yet she’s thrilled to call Wilton home to her businesses now, describing it as a “great location.”
Additionally, she’s thrilled to be next to Wilton High School, where students can come over for mock interviews and brainstorm essays. Asked what makes a good essay, she said it’s not an easy answer, but for her, the simplest thing is that students shouldn’t make a list but weave a narrative that makes her want to read it.
“Make me want to root for you,” she said. “Make me laugh, make me cry, keep me engaged.”
She said Admissions Checkup is a good fit for students of all types. While high school students are welcome, those who didn’t get into their first school of choice are frequent participants as well.
“We have a lot of deferred and wait-listed students come to us to find out why they were deferred or wait-listed,” she said. “It’s very hard to get in as a transfer student as well.”
Admissions Checkup is the place where students can get in front of a committee without actually seeing them, but Ms. Klein-Wassink is concerned how the truth can hurt sometimes.
“When you go through Admissions Checkup, I don’t manage anything that the admissions officers say or do,” she said. “It’s direct feedback. I sometimes worry if it’s too direct, but don’t I want to hear the negatives? Because in the dress rehearsal, it’s easy to fix it. It’s impossible to fix it once they’ve seen your application.
“It allows students to get as close to the admissions committee as possible. I want my students to really go to their schools and enjoy their schools.”