client success story: bear and adriana midkiff

Overview: Success Story 

We’re back with another installment of our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories. In this series, we feature students who successfully navigated the college application process and achieved their college dreams. For each of our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories, we’ll interview our students and their families to learn more about their college advising experience. We will talk about how they used the CollegeAdvisor network and our college resources to ace the college application process. As well as how they built their college lists, prepared their college essays, and more. We will also share their advice about how to best handle the college application process, for both students and parents. 

Our CollegeAdvisor Client Success stories and the feedback we receive from our reviews remind us why we do what we do. Our mission is to empower students of all backgrounds to achieve their college dreams. We hope that our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories motivate you as you begin the college application process. Whether you are starting your college lists or writing your college essays, you can learn about how other CollegeAdvisor students navigated the process.  

Introducing the Midkiff Family

For this chapter of our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories, we spoke to one of our beloved families: student Adriana and her father, Bear. Adriana is an international student who grew up in Prague. As a high-achieving student at an international school in Prague, Adriana was interested in attending a top university in the U.S. or the U.K. 

Bear turned to to guide Adriana through the college admissions process. Adriana completed the college application process for the U.S. and U.K. with the help of her CollegeAdvisor team. 

This CollegeAdvisor Client Success Story focuses on Adriana and Bear’s experiences as they began the college admissions process. It also highlights the unique nuances of the college advising and application process for our international students. 

The college admissions process has become increasingly competitive for applicants, including international students. So, Bear knew how important it was to get expert college advising support for Adriana. 

How did Bear know CollegeAdvisor would be a good fit for Adriana? 

“As the first person in my family to attend college,” Bear said, “I didn’t have a lot of good advice going into the [college] admissions process. I didn’t want that to happen for my daughter.” 

Bear understood that getting college resources and expert advice about the college application process was key. Because Adriana attended a school in Prague with a British curriculum, she and Bear had “more of a familiarity with applying to the U.K. university system.” Bear said, “Since we were living overseas, the availability and experience with the U.S. system just wasn’t readily available.” 

When discussing college acceptances at Adriana’s school, Bear said, “There had been several students accepted into top U.K. schools, such as Oxford or Cambridge, but only two that had been accepted into the Ivy League.” Thus, to get into top U.S. schools, Adriana wanted more guidance. 

Getting the extra advice they needed

Bear knew that Adriana had the scores and grades to go anywhere she wanted. His main concern was “to make sure that she had better advice than [he] had.” Bear told us, “We felt we needed some expertise that we didn’t possess, to provide Adriana with the opportunity to compete on an equal level with students from the U.S.”

Bear and Adriana decided that they were looking for “a company that was capable of delivering the top schools.” With that in mind, Bear decided to go online and research companies that specialize in college advising and assisting with the college application process, particularly for international students. 

That’s where came in. Bear saw an advertisement for CollegeAdvisor on the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) website. After looking at our reviews, Bear sent an email to the CollegeAdvisor team for more information. Then, following a quick online discussion, Bear and Adriana made the decision to register Adriana with 

After joining CollegeAdvisor, Adriana was matched with her advising team. Adriana’s advisors worked with her to demystify the college application process and help her stand out at top schools. 

When he reflected on how he knew CollegeAdvisor was a good fit for Adriana, Bear said, “I especially liked the fact that the team that was assigned to Adriana had great credentials and had served in selective positions for some of the top schools in America. Further, her personal advisor [had] some experience with Oxbridge schools.” 

Now that Adriana had joined the CollegeAdvisor family, it was time to get serious about applying to college. 

Applying to top schools in the US and UK 

As our international students know, applying to top schools in the U.S. and U.K. can be a daunting experience. The college application process differs from school to school. Trying to keep track of college admissions requirements in two countries is overwhelming, to say the least. 

Adriana’s advising team understood how standing out in the college application process is key, especially for international students. Her advisors worked together to provide college resources. They collaborated to support as Adriana began the college application process for top schools in the U.S. and U.K. 

Adriana’s primary advisor was Roger Lopez, who she met with every one to two weeks. He provided Adriana with helpful college essay tips as she began the writing process. Adriana said, “[Roger] advised me on the topics to write about for my supplementary questions as well as my primary Common App essay.” 

The team approach 

Adriana also received college essay tips and college advising assistance from Kevin Dupont, a former Admissions Officer. “[Kevin] helped check and edit all of my drafts and gave me suggestions to improve my supplementary answers.” She also received college admissions support from former Admissions Officer Lauren Lynch. Adriana said, “[Lauren] primarily advised me when applying to my Regular Decision schools.” 

Adriana knew that she wanted to apply to highly competitive colleges in the U.S. and U.K. She used the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the U.K. equivalent to the Common App, to complete her applications. The UCAS system allows students to apply to a maximum of five colleges. 

We asked Adriana to shed some light on what college admissions is like in the U.K. She said, “European colleges want you to apply for a specific course of study, where schools in the United States are more general in their first or second years. I think that’s a big difference if you are unclear on the path that you want to take.” 

Applying to colleges in the UK and the US

There are also different rules for college admissions overseas. Adriana shared more information with us about certain restrictions that international students face in the college application process. “If you apply to Oxford,” Adriana said, “you cannot apply to Cambridge and vice versa. I guess the rivalry goes that far. I had completed summer courses at both schools and selected [to apply to] Cambridge.” 

For her U.S. applications, Adriana applied Early Action to Princeton, an Ivy League school. Her U.K. applications were due before Christmas break, which reduced the total number of applications she had to submit. Considering the timeline for her international applications, Adriana did not apply to many safety schools. 

We asked Bear what his involvement was like when Adriana was finishing the college application process for schools in the U.S. and U.K. “You will be surprised,” Bear said, “but after the initial orientation and the first session, I actually was only involved in reviewing and discussing different input with my daughter.” 

Bear received updates on the college admissions process from Adriana and the CollegeAdvisor team. “I heard through my daughter the advice and progress,” Bear reflected. “All I had to do was read the finished product and ask about the schedule to make sure it wasn’t going sideways… because the U.K. application is due before the Christmas break.” 

As she reflected on the college application process, Adriana appreciated the personalized guidance she received when working with her advisors. Adriana said that “being able to talk about my goals and desires outside of the school or parental environment was a help.” 

Adriana did not have to wait long to hear back with a college admissions decision. “By January,” Adriana said, “I had two offers from schools that were on my reach list and the rest of the year could just unfold.” 

Adriana’s advice for getting started on the college applications process 

With her college admissions decisions in tow, we asked Adriana to share her advice for getting started on the college application process. 

“Start thinking about it early,” Adriana said. “Earlier than you would ever expect, if you want to get into a top school. By that, I mean even before your first year of high school.” 

Although that might sound too early to some, Adriana is right. Starting the college application process early is incredibly important, especially for our international students. For Adriana, starting early made a huge difference in the college application process.  

“With top schools,” Adriana said, “there are always special essays and questions that are unique to each school. This was one of the areas that the CollegeAdvisor team and their tools can help.” With our college resources and her advising team on her side, Adriana felt prepared to apply to top schools. 

Although Adriana had support from her CollegeAdvisor team and family as she completed the college application process, she and Bear still faced some unforeseen challenges in the time of COVID. 

Bear and Adriana reflect on college admissions in the time of COVID 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, students and families experienced additional stress about how to handle college admissions. Even though families were spending more time with one another due to lockdown, there were still plenty of questions. Specifically, families wondered how to access college resources and how the college admissions process might change.  

Although Bear had worked from home since 2000, he was unprepared for the challenges that COVID brought. “Working from home has its advantages,” Bear said, “but in fact it can start to take over your family time, because you are available 24/7. But when COVID-19 hit, the entire world became available 24/7 and the tidal wave was hard to hold back.” 

During COVID, Bear struggled to coordinate his work life and time to help Adriana through the college application process. Bear said, “Coordinating the time to go over the applications, fill out forms and discuss essays, was actually more difficult, even though our physical proximity was closer.” 

Bear helped Adriana as much as he could, but he recognized that she was also struggling. “With requirements for U.K. applications,” Bear reflected, “U.S. applications and the SATs, it was a stressful time.”

Concerns over missing out

Bear worried also about what Adriana might be missing from being out of school. He said, “I believe that the students who had to do their schooling remotely experienced a separation from the social norms and the emotional growth that occurs when they are physically in class.” 

Across the world, high school students have been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift toward online learning. We asked Adriana what her college application process was like during COVID. “As I understand it,” Adriana said, “this year was a particularly difficult year due to COVID. There was a perfect storm, as students who did not want to start their first year of college virtually requested deferrals.” 

This unexpected factor changed the college application process for students. It also affected college admissions enrollment. Adriana said the number of deferrals “significantly reduced the number of spots available” for prospective students. This made it even more important—and more difficult—to stand out. 

COVID and a changing admissions landscape

The pandemic also led colleges and universities to change their admissions requirements. Adriana said, “The requirement for submitting an SAT score was optional, and the number of applicants for [top] schools was significantly higher than the average year.” As schools implemented new test-optional policies, students like Adriana faced even more competition. 

Fortunately, Adriana’s college advising team helped to ease the stress that Bear and Adriana felt as they navigated the college application process in the time of COVID. With Roger, Kevin, and Lauren, Adriana built an application strategy that helped her accomplishments shine—even during a global pandemic. 

What’s the most challenging aspect of applying to college? 

COVID aside, we asked Adriana and Bear to describe the most challenging aspect of applying to college. 

“It has obviously been many years since I applied to college,” Bear said, “and the system is quite different today than it was then.” 

Bear is right. The college application process has become more competitive than ever. As the college admissions landscape has evolved, students like Adriana must account for more considerations and nuances than ever before. 

This rings particularly true in the world of college essays. “I know how easy it is to answer a question,” Bear noted, “but the person on the other side [might be] expecting something completely different.” As Bear and Adriana learned, your college applications aren’t just about what you do—they’re also about how you present it to admissions teams. 

From Adriana’s perspective, the most challenging aspect of applying to college was twofold. “Knowing what exactly you want to do in life at this stage is difficult,” Adriana said. “Then, it’s about keeping track of the various deadlines that need to be met for the different schools.” 

That’s where her team at helped the most. Through their college advising sessions, Adriana’s advisors learned more about her college wants and needs. They assisted her in all parts of the college application process. Whether it was standing out in her college essays, keeping track of college admissions deadlines, or building an international college list, Adriana had the support she needed. 

Building an international college list 

Researching colleges and building a college list can feel overwhelming at first. There are more than 4,200 colleges and universities in the U.S. alone. Add international schools to that list, and the number of colleges to choose from grows exponentially. 

After getting to know Adriana, her CollegeAdvisor team set to work on collaboratively building her international college list. Adriana’s team worked with her to figure out what she was looking for out of a college experience. 

“Being able to have open discussions about what type of environment I would feel most comfortable in and learn more information about each school was extremely helpful,” Adriana said. 

These college advising sessions with her CollegeAdvisor team, along with access to college resources like college admissions data, were instrumental in helping Adriana build an international college list that matched her goals. 

We asked Adriana to describe the impact of her college advising sessions as she built her international college list. “Several of my advisors had only recently graduated from top schools and they were able to present many thoughts and considerations that I had not taken into account previously,” Adriana said. “My reach and target schools changed after those sessions.” 

“Safety,” “Target,” and “Reach” Schools

Adriana is referring to finding balance when building a college list. There are three categories to think about when deciding which colleges fit on your list. These are: “safety,” “match” or “target,” and “reach” schools. Adriana and her college advising team made sure she had enough of each on her list. 

After researching different schools, Adriana found “safety,” “match,” and “reach” schools where she knew she could thrive. After a few sessions with her college advising team, Adriana finalized her international college list and began to work on her applications. 

Bear’s advice for parents supporting their children in the college admissions process

Now that Adriana and Bear have reached the college application finish line, we asked Bear to share his advice for parents as they support their children during the college admissions process. Bear’s first recommendation echoes what Adriana shared with us—start early. 

“If you want to get your child into a top 10 or even top 50 school,” Bear said, “you need to start early. Probably earlier than you want to believe.” By helping her start early in the admissions process, Bear made sure that Adriana would not fall behind. It also gave her more time to research schools and review college resources. 

Additionally, it is important to remain realistic about how time-consuming the college application process can be, particularly for international students and their families. “My wife and I discussed how at [age] 10,” Bear said, “our daughter came in and stood in front of us and said, ‘I want to go to a top 10 school, not top 10 here in Czech, not in Europe, but in the world.’” 

Getting into a top 10 school in the world

Although that kind of aspiration is inspiring, Bear knew that Adriana would have to be disciplined in order to achieve that goal. Standing out in the college application process is hard, as there are lots of considerations to keep in mind. 

“We discussed what that would take in terms of grades, competition from other students, and the fact that she would need to keep a high degree of discipline throughout her academic career,” Bear reflected. “Her music, sports, diving, and environmental activities would be as important as the 1500+ SAT scores.” 

As Bear mentioned, a student’s academic profile and extracurricular involvements are two major aspects of the college application process. However, as Bear and Adriana learned, standing out in the admissions process takes much more than just having great scores or participating in unique activities. 

Finally, if you are a parent and you’re not sure where to start, Bear recommends reaching out for advising help. “If you or someone close to you is not an expert on college admissions, get some professional help,” Bear said. “You can’t risk it.” 

At the end of the day, students who work hard during the college application process are most likely to succeed. Adriana worked hard. Throughout the college admissions process, Adriana sought out college essay tips and other college resources to help her stand out. For that reason, she had plenty of options to choose from when it came time to select a school.

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Adriana’s admission results and the road ahead

After completing her college advising sessions with us, Adriana is proud to share her admission results. 

“In the U.K., I received offers from Cambridge, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, Durham, and London University of Economics and Political Science,” Adriana announced. “In the United States, I had fallen in love with Princeton University, with their focus on undergraduate students.” 

Princeton’s 4:1 student-to-teacher ratio and small undergraduate enrollment impressed Adriana. She applied through their Early Action deadline and Princeton notified her in December of her acceptance. 

“Receiving the news that Princeton had accepted her prior to Christmas was amazing!” Bear said. “What a pressure relief—that makes the rest of the year easier.” 

Adriana also sent applications to Yale University and Brown University in the U.S. “The other two schools I applied for were Yale and Brown,” Adriana said. “I have been waitlisted for both of those schools.” 

Adriana’s academic interests in college

With this impressive list of college acceptances, it’s clear Adriana was successful at standing out in the college admissions process. Looking forward, we asked Adriana what she plans to study in college. 

“I want to study History and Politics, as I believe this will give me a better understanding of where we are as a civilization and society and help me put more perspective on my approach to the world,” Adriana shared. “After that I am hoping to go to law school, possibly double with an MBA as well.” 

It’s clear that Adriana is confident about her future college and career goals. We asked Adriana to share what she is most excited about as she begins her college journey. 

“Self-discovery,” Adriana shared. “Being out and independent and learning what that means, in terms of making choices about my life and those around me. I believe my generation is one of the first to feel like we absolutely do not have a guarantee of bettering our lifestyle. We have a world with serious problems, whether we talk about politics or the environment. My generation will need to step up and change the business-as-usual approach. It will be a matter of survival for us. Our commitment will need to be more steadfast as we move forward.” 

Final thoughts – Why CollegeAdvisor is a good choice for international students

As we wrapped up our conversation, we asked Bear and Adriana to describe why is a good choice for international students. 

“I honestly think if I had to do it over again,” Bear said, “the only thing I would have done is sign up with CollegeAdvisor a year earlier, maybe two. The offers I see now, for the summer programs and webinars—that would have been interesting to know before we were deep into the admissions process.” 

Bear is referring to our robust webinar series. In our webinars, our experts share advice on subjects such as college essay tips or applying as an international student also has additional college resources free for all students. This includes our international student college application guide, which features specific guidance on the college application process for international students. 

“My parents and I both took advantage of the webinars and essay guides,” Adriana said. “We discussed our perceptions of different schools and also the type of answers the schools were looking for. Being raised in Europe, I know there are significant differences in cultural expectations, and the subtle messages might not always be clear to the foreigner.” 

The value of CollegeAdvisor resources

Bear agreed that the college resources and college essay tips that CollegeAdvisor provided to Adriana were instrumental in helping her apply to college as an international student. “Hearing the little insights on how to better approach the answers for the additional questions given to the applicants for the more selective schools was certainly helpful,” Bear reflected. 

“Now, we are breathing a sigh of relief,” Bear said, “as she has multiple choices on both sides of the Ocean.” 

If you’re wondering how to get into Princeton, Cambridge, or any other top school, we’ve got you covered. When you register with, you’ll receive comprehensive support on every aspect of your college applications. This includes college essay editing, tips on making the most of your college visits, advice on pursuing the right extracurriculars, and so much more.

Are you deciding if is right for you? Our reviews speak for themselves. As our reviews state, our students benefit from personalized guidance on every aspect of the admissions process. Plus, as you can see from our reviews, Ivy League and Top 50 colleges and universities regular offer admissions to our students. 

Check out some other reviews and CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories to hear more from the thousands of students who have benefited from

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This Success Story was written by Abbie Sage, and based on an interview with Bear Midkiff and his daughter Adriana. The Midkiffs reached out to us for college essay tips and to get one-on-one help building her college list. If you are also looking for assistance with your college applications connect with a Admissions Expert today.