client success story; image: a photo of CollegeAdvisor Scholars Program participant Gasser Alwasify

Overview: Client Success Stories

In our Client Success Stories, we feature students who achieved their college dreams. For each of this year’s Client Success Stories, we’ll interview one student and talk to them about their college application process and college advising experience. We will share stories about how they built their college lists, aced their college essays, and what they learned along the way. 

For this Client Success Story, we sat down with Gasser Alwasify, one of our Scholars from Egypt. Our Scholars Program offers free college advising to first generation and lower-income students with demonstrated financial need. 

The college application process is never easy. However, for international students, this process can be especially tough. As they begin the college application process, international students often wonder where to find college essay tips, how to build a college list, and more. As a result, personalized college advising can make a huge difference for international students. 

Through the CollegeAdvisor Scholars program, Gasser gained access to free college advising that would help maximize his admissions odds at top US schools. With help from former Admissions Officer Shannon Kennedy, Gasser learned how to build a balanced college list, craft stellar essays, ace his University of Chicago application, and more. 

How did Gasser find 

So, how did Gasser first hear about and the CollegeAdvisor Scholars program?

Gasser wasn’t actively looking for college advising when he heard about us. Instead, he told us, he learned about by pure coincidence. 

“I participated in the Yale Young Global Scholars program last summer,” he said. “That was when I found out about CollegeAdvisor. I saw some of the students applying for the [ Scholars] program.” After discussing the CollegeAdvisor Scholars program with other international students, he thought it could be a great chance to get the help he needed during his college application process. 

Each year, our Scholars Program offers comprehensive college advising to 100 students with demonstrated financial need. Each of our Scholars is paired with an Admissions Expert who supports them throughout the college application process. With the help of our college advising experts, each student receives one-on-one support, including college list guidance, essay tips, and more. 

Interested in joining next year’s Scholars cohort? You can read more about our Scholars on our website Scholars Program application process

Once he found the Scholars program, Gasser didn’t hesitate to apply. Applying to the Scholars program was easy, he told us. “The application was very straightforward and didn’t take me more than 3 hours to fully complete and submit.” 

Plus, Gasser said, the application itself helped him think more about his college goals as he began the college application process. “Filling the college list and essays helped me solidify some of my [college list] choices and encouraged me to research some of my options.” Gasser impressed our team, and we were excited to welcome him to the 2021-2022 Scholars cohort. 

Once he was accepted into the Scholars Program, Gasser was paired with Shannon Kennedy. As a former admissions officer, Shannon had a lot of advice for Gasser about the college application process. Throughout the fall, she helped him build a college list and offered useful college essay tips. She also supported him as he refined his University of Chicago application and UChicago essay. 

Applying to college as an international student

As an international student, Gasser was unfamiliar with the American college application process. He had a lot of questions—thankfully, his advisor Shannon was prepared to answer them. 

While many aspects of the college application process seemed challenging, Gasser was particularly concerned about his essays. “As an international student, the concept of writing essays to get admitted into universities makes this process much harder,” Gasser said. “Most of us don’t know how to represent ourselves correctly in a personal statement or write a strong supplemental essay.” Armed with Shannon’s college essay tips, however, Gasser had the tools he needed to succeed. 

So, what college essay tips does highlight? At, we often stress the importance of the “candidate profile” and application narrative. Put simply, each student’s candidate profile should showcase who they are, what they do, and why colleges should admit them. With Shannon and the team at his side, Gasser learned how to ace the Common App and write essays that would stand out at top schools. Shannon and the team helped Gasser write essays that enriched his candidate profile. This strengthened his University of Chicago application, earning him acceptance to the UChicago Class of 2026

Beyond essay help

However, Gasser’s work in the Scholars Program didn’t stop with his essays. The Scholars Program also helped Gasser clear up any misconceptions that he—like other international students—had about US colleges. “There are also lots of stereotypes about different colleges that make the process harder [for international students],” he told us. “Meetings with my advisor were really helpful to clear up those stereotypes and always get constructive feedback for my essays.” This advice helped Gasser’s University of Chicago application shine.

By working with Shannon, Gasser felt more confident in his University of Chicago application as well as the college application process as a whole. “It was helpful to learn about the college admissions process from admission counselors who knew first-hand how to create a strong college application,” he said. “[Shannon] always responded quickly to my messages and tried to help as much as possible.” Shannon guided Gasser through his college application process, helping him craft his UChicago essay as well as his other applications. 

Writing a college essay can seem overwhelming for international students and American students alike. For some useful college essay tips, check out our essay editing webinar for a free masterclass with a Admissions Expert. 

Are you one of many international students looking for guidance in the application process? Read our article or watch our webinar about the application process for international students. There, you’ll find tips on what makes the American college admissions process different—and how international students can become their own client success stories.  

Building a college list

For international students, building a college list can be particularly challenging. With so many schools across the country, it’s hard to know where to start. Shannon and the Scholars team helped Gasser look past stereotypes to craft a college list filled with the right schools for him. 

Gasser’s advisor was instrumental in helping him finalize his college list. “CollegeAdvisor definitely helped me incredibly with [the] college search,” he said. “When I got rejected from Johns Hopkins University [Early Decision], I did not have a complete [college list] for ED2 and RD.”

Shannon helped Gasser find more options for his college list. “[She] gladly helped me immediately with a meeting, where we discussed my [college list] options and, with her help, created a complete list of universities,” he told us. Shannon helped Gasser create a balanced college list with a combination of “reach,” “match,” and “safety” schools. 

Under Shannon’s guidance, Gasser decided to apply to the University of Chicago in the Early Decision II cycle. Shannon and the Essay Review Team helped Gasser fine-tune his UChicago essay and gave him advice on his University of Chicago application strategy. With help from our experts, Gasser created a University of Chicago application and UChicago essay that impressed the admissions team.

Looking for support as you create your college list? Read our article for helpful tips on how to research schools and build your college list. 

Gasser’s advice for other international applicants? Ask for help! 

So, how should international students approach the college admissions process?

“Ask for help if you ever need it,” Gasser tells international students. “Once you start asking for help from people who have more experience, he admissions process [gets] much easier.” The American college application process is hard to navigate for international students, Gasser told us. With Shannon and the team, Gasser was lucky to have support. 

Gasser also has practical advice to give, including some college essay tips. The first thing he recommends is to proofread your college essays as much as possible. As Gasser learned, your college essays should showcase you in the best possible light. To make your essays shine, start brainstorming early so that you have time to write multiple drafts. Then, edit for grammar, spelling, tone, and clarity. 

To maximize your essay strategy, Gasser says, international students—and all high school students—should seek feedback from others. “The biggest issue I see in students is that they don’t ask for advice from their counselor, peers or anybody, especially for reviewing essays,” Gasser said. Your essays should always represent your own work. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t discuss or edit them with advisors, parents, or other trusted adults. 

Finalize your college list early

Next, Gasser recommends finalizing your college list as early as possible. This means crafting a college list that has a well-balanced mix of “safety,” “match,” and “reach” schools. The earlier you start creating your college list, the better. This way, regardless of what happens during the Early Action or Early Decision process, you’ll have a college list filled with schools where you know you’d succeed. 

Don’t forget financial aid

Finally, the Gasser’s last piece of advice is just for international students. If financial aid is a factor in your college admissions process, look up each university’s financial aid policies. “Make sure that the university you’re applying to does [consistently accepts] students who request full financial aid,” Gasser advises. This means that international students should look for universities with need-blind admissions policies as well as merit scholarship opportunities. Many schools have different financial aid policies for domestic and international students, so do your research!

You should also make sure you collect all of your financial aid paperwork as early as possible. This will help minimize stress as you apply for aid and merit scholarships. 

Need some help finding scholarships? Watch our webinar about how to apply for merit scholarships. There, you’ll find useful tips to help finance your college dreams. 

Gasser’s favorite resources

Beyond his college advising sessions with Shannon, Gasser also used’s online resources to get ahead in the college application process. These resources gave him useful college essay tips, helped him build his college list, and allowed him to approach every aspect of the college application process with confidence. 

In particular, Gasser got useful college essay tips from our online essay guides. This included our UChicago essay guide. “The essay guides were nice to read before starting any [supplemental essays],” he told us. “[’s essay guides] allowed me to understand the approach needed to answer any supplemental essays.” The essay guides also gave Gasser more insight into the American college application process. This helped him know what admissions teams would look for as they read his UChicago essay. 

Before starting any of his supplemental essays, including his UChicago essay, Gasser would read our essay guides. “Reading them before starting to write helped me brainstorm better ideas to talk about in my essays, which refined my essays overall.” The college essay tips in our guides helped Gasser improve his UChicago essay. They also gave him the guidance he needed for his other supplemental essays. 

Gasser also enjoyed hearing directly from former admissions officers through’s webinars. In these webinars, Gasser learned more about how US schools review applications. This included details about the college application process he had never considered before. “[The webinars] gave me a perspective of how admissions works, which is quite ambiguous for an international student.” By watching our webinars, Gasser got an insider’s view of the college admissions process. This helped him learn how to stand out. 

Want more helpful tips on how to apply to US schools as an international student? Check out this webinar for advice from our college advising team. 

What’s next for Gasser?

The college essay tips Gasser received for his UChicago essay paid off! Next fall, he’ll be joining the Class of 2026 at UChicago. 

He intends to major in neuroscience within the pre-med track. After UChicago, Gasser is looking forward to a career in neuroscience research. He is also considering a double major in neuroscience and molecular engineering. 

Gasser is one of our many client success stories. We’re so proud of Gasser for all he’s accomplished throughout the college application process, and we’re excited to watch what he does next. 

Final Thoughts from

At, we believe that every student should have access to the resources they need to achieve their college goals. Through our Scholars Program, we provide free college advising to 100 students like Gasser every year. Applications will open for next year’s Scholars Program this summer. So, if you’re looking for free college advising to help you succeed in the college application process, stay tuned!

If you’re an international student like Gasser, you probably have a lot of questions about the US college admissions process. Here are some tips from our Admissions Experts to help make your college journey as smooth as possible. 

  1. Start early. If you’re only a freshman or sophomore in high school, the college application process might seem far away. However, to maximize your chances of success, start strategizing as soon as possible. Beginning in your freshman year, you should start planning your four-year class schedule, finding extracurricular activities that interest you, thinking about your college list, and more. That way, when application season comes around, you can put your best foot forward. 
  2. Do your research. There are thousands of schools in the US, and each one is different. While you might have only heard of Harvard or Stanford, you should keep your options open as you create a balanced college list with “safety,” “match,” and “reach” schools. Who knows—you might find a college you’d never heard of that’s perfect for you!
  3. Ask for help. Applying to college is hard, and no student should have to do it alone. As you build your college list and draft your essays, ask an advisor or trusted adult for support. A second pair of eyes can make a major difference! 

Why CollegeAdvisor? reviews and more

Wondering if is right for you? Just check out our reviews. There, you’ll find helpful feedback and reviews from students like Gasser who worked with our experts to achieve their college dreams. 

Our reviews speak for themselves. As you’ll discover, our students benefit from comprehensive college advising on every aspect of the admissions process. Plus, as you can see from our reviews, our students are regularly accepted to Ivy League and Top 50 schools. 

Whether you’re interested in joining the next Scholars cohort or looking for personalized college advising to help you navigate the college application process, we have a program that fits your needs. As one of the nation’s premiere college advising companies, we start working with students as early as freshman year to help them find engaging extracurriculars, build their course plan, craft a college list, and more. 

Want to hear from more students like Gasser? Check out our other Client Success Stories for more reviews. 

This Client Success Story was written by Abbie Sage, and based on an interview with Gasser Alwasify. Gasser reached out to us for college essay tips for his UChicago essay and to get one-on-one help building his college list. If you are also looking for assistance with your college applications and are interested in working with a Admissions Expert, register with today.