It didn’t take long for Greg Kaplan — an unconnected public-school graduate attending the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business — to realize how unusual he was. Well after graduating in 2009, he couldn’t stop thinking about the reality of how hard it is to get into a premier B-school with no relationships and no help during the complicated, often daunting application process.
“People always ask, ‘How did you do it?’ and I just kind of fell into this role of informally helping people,” Kaplan says. “Finally this last year I sat down and wrote it all down.”
The result, Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges, is a compendium of accrued wisdom and pragmatic advice on everything from deciding majors to obtaining scholarships. Its target audience is not prospective students but their parents, because, as Kaplan says, the process should begin well before most students are cognizant enough to understand the complexity of the process.
HOW TO OFFER ‘VALUE’ TO AN ELITE SCHOOL
“My goal is to empower families to use planning and marketing in the undergraduate college admissions process, to separate themselves from the ever-increasing amount of competition of really high-qualified and talented applicants,” Kaplan says. “I am taking more of a real-world approach — this is about using real-world skills to kind of market and distinguish children from other applicants.”
He says he starts with the question: What do admissions officers look for when they’re admitting for the incoming classes to, say, Harvard or Penn? The answer: whatever will add value to their campus.
“Value can be, do you play on a sports team or play in an orchestra, leading a club — those sorts of things — things that you can really touch upon in a personal statement,” Kaplan says.
NOT JUST FOR THE ‘SELECT FEW’
“When I went to Penn, it became very clear that a lot of students there were either coming from prep schools that have relationships (with the university) or they had hired consultants to help them write the (admissions) essay,” Kaplan says. “I went to public school, a good one in San Diego, and my view on education is that this is something that, if you are talented and bright, this should not just be reserved for a select few who are connected.”
It’s about empowerment, he says. “To me a good education is the first step on the path to success, and I want to provide families with the means to be able to take control of their children’s destiny.
“You can say, ‘Woe is me, Stanford has a sub-5% admissions rate,’ and that’s okay, Stanford might not be right for everyone. But people should at least have the tools to be able to try for it.”