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On Saturday, 6 June 2015, more than 100 students with their families attended a seminar on “An Insider’s Look at US Admissions,” presented by Mr. Christopher LaBounty, formerly an admissions officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), Boston, USA. Currently, LaBounty, Director of CollegeWise International, advises students applying to U.S. colleges.

Students from virtually all curricula from a broad range of schools such as Dubai American Academy, Delhi Private School, Gems Modern Academy, International School of Choueifat, Jumeira Baccalaureate School, Jumeirah College, JSS International School, Our Own High School, Raffles World Academy,The English College, The Millennium School, The Winchester School, etc., were present to learn about how admissions officers at highly selective colleges choose which candidates to accept. According to LaBounty, unlike admissions decisions made in other countries, those made in the U.S. at the most selective colleges are not objective. They are, instead, based on a range of factors including performance in high school, standardized test scores, extracurricular involvement, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and the fit between the applicant and the university.

LaBounty further explained that those applying to US colleges must “understand that the admissions system in the USA (at highly selective colleges) is a ‘holistic’ process, which means it’s subjective, so therefore you must balance the list of colleges you apply to.” He advised students to apply to a variety of colleges and not exclusively those that accept fewer than 20% of applicants. Among the topics discussed were common mistakes made on essays, misconceptions about why students are denied, and the importance of extracurricular activities. He also reminded applicants to look beyond the fees quoted on the college’s website, as many colleges offer financial aid and scholarships to international students.

Students found the seminar enlightening. “Listening to a former admissions officerfrom a top-ranked school like MIT was exciting and insightful,” Rayan Chelli from Jumeirah Baccalaureate School said. “It was a shocker to know that one shouldn’t try to impress the application reader. He emphasized that simplicity and communicating like a true 16-year-old mattered more.”

“Understanding that the highly selective colleges in USA looked at the applications holistically with no single factor like GPA, Test Scores, Co-curricular Involvement, etc. adversely affecting the application was encouraging and morale boosting,” JananMostajabi from Raffles World Academy added.“I can now confidently apply to top schools.”

AagneyNarasimhan from Ambassador School Dubai added, “getting to know the ‘MAGIC P.I.I.L.L’ for securing admissions into highly selective US Universities was indeed the biggest take away. I can now confidently invest my time across various activities and emerge as a true all-rounder.”

National Head for Admissions Consulting Services of ScorePlus Suresh Nathan was excited to seeLaBounty underscore “the importance of building the right profile for college begins while one is in the high school freshman year. Starting early helps the students explore various careers options, develop skills and knowledge to succeed in a chosen path, and more importantly, demonstrate passion as well as academic curiosity in the field that one aspires to pursue.” Such planning, he said, is crucial in differentiating oneself in the eyes of the application reader and the admissions committee.

Director of ScorePlus Middle East RituKalwani, an almuna of Babson College, Boston, USA, was enthusiastic about making available such rare expertise to the high school students of theUAE in partnership with Collegewise. “In such a highly subjective and competitive US college admissions system, it’s imperative for the student to be mentored and guided by former college admissions officers as graduating from ‘better colleges’ is one of the sure shot ways of landing up with ‘better careers,’” she said.

Earlier, on Thursday, June 4th LaBounty met with guidance counsellors from various schools in the UAE such as Ambassador School, Al Ittihad School, Dubai American Academy, Greenwood International SchoolDubai, Jumeirah College, JESS Dubai, The Winchester School, Towheed Iranian, etc.During the interactive seminar, counsellors clarified with LaBounty certain misconceptions surrounding how applicants are chosen in schools in the U.S. Labounty said he was impressed by “the number of school counsellors embedded in their work and how these counsellors seemed enthusiastic about the idea of sending their students to best fit college rather than yet another university in the world.”

Collegewise is America’s largest and best-regarded private college counseling service. They employ a staff of 38 full-time counseling professionals who are dedicated to helping students get into the right college. Their counsellors who work with international families are former admissions officers from prestigious universities such as Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Cornell, the University of Chicago, and other elite private colleges. These are people who played a role in saying “Yes” or “No” to thousands of qualified applicants over the years.

Since their founding in 1999, Collegewise has helped more than 7,000 students gain admission to various U.S. universities. Over the last two years, Collegewise students have been admitted to every one of the U.S. News and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings Top 50 schools, but they’re just as thrilled when students choose to apply – and get into – excellent colleges and universities that are not on that list.

To learn more about Collegewise, please email Paul Kanarek at

To learn more about ScorePlus, please email RituKalwani at

- Collegewise & ScorePlus