Overview: CollegeAdvisor.com Client Success Stories
Welcome to the next installment in our series of CollegeAdvisor.com Client Success Stories! In this series, we meet CollegeAdvisor students who gained acceptance to their top choice colleges with the help of our expert advisors. You’ll hear about which parts of the process concerned them most and how their advisor and other CollegeAdvisor.com resources guided them. They’ll also share the insights they learned along the way and the inspiring results they achieved.
College enrollment can feel overwhelming. Many students and their families feel anxious and apprehensive as they begin the college admissions journey. It’s no surprise—there’s a lot to do! You need to research colleges or universities that best fit your needs, create personal and compelling essays, and work out how to finance four years of higher education. And that’s only the start.
For this reason, students and families often seek help from experts like CollegeAdvisor.com, to make applying to college as smooth as possible. Time and again, our students say that working with our trusted advisors lifts their anxiety and builds their confidence.
Our Success Stories and the positive feedback we receive in our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews highlight the positive and meaningful impact of our work. We hope to empower students of all backgrounds to achieve their college dreams. Our team of expert advisors and former admission officers provides tailored, specialist support to every student we work with.
We hope that our Success Stories inspire you as you begin your college admissions process, start your college lists, write your personal statement for college, and research your financial options.
Now, let’s meet Ilham. We’ll hear about her background and interests and what attracted her to CollegeAdvisor. Then, we’ll hear how her advisor’s support helped Ilham gain multiple wonderful college admissions offers!
Ilham’s background and interests
From an early age, Ilham’s family emphasized the importance of service. “I grew up in a Muslim immigrant household,” she said, “[and] one quality that was really put into me from a very young age is volunteering and helping out other people.” Many of her family members, including her mother, work in the medical field. In addition, her family is very connected to their community and religion.
As a result, volunteering has been a way of life for Ilham since she was in middle school. “I volunteer at a lot of mosque religious centers,” she told us, “…for example, soup kitchens, anywhere that I have time and I can do it. I just go.”
Ilham has known since she was young that she wanted to pursue a medical career. Seeing her mother’s work “was just a great kind of inspiration for me,” she said. In addition, Ilham has suffered from a long-term medical condition—“for the past, I’d say decade, I’ve been going in and out of hospitals, in and out of surgeries and things like that.” “[This] gave me another perspective on the medical field, and it kind of deepened my love for it,” she said.
For these reasons, Ilham was keen to work in medicine. “I’ve always debated going into nursing or doctor or stuff like that,” she told us, “and going into my major, I had originally planned to be a nurse, but I switched it to healthcare administration.” We’re so pleased Ilham’s chosen a path where she’ll find challenge and fulfillment.
What attracted Ilham to CollegeAdvisor?
The pandemic began during Ilham’s sophomore year of high school. By the beginning of her junior year, she began feeling anxious about the college admission process.
“I’m the type of person where I need everything to be planned out,” she told us. All her classes were still online, and she didn’t feel like she was receiving the information she needed about how to apply to college. “My guidance counselor at the time wasn’t really giving us anything,” she said. It was also hard because “I’m the oldest in my household, so we were all confused!”
So, Ilham started with a simple Google search, hoping to find something that could “provide me some guidance and advice… That’s how I came across CollegeAdvisor.”
Ilham’s experience with her advisor
When Ilham reached out to CollegeAdvisor, she was quickly matched with Jordan, one of our college admissions experts. They met once every week or two at first. Then, she said, “once I hit my senior year and I got a lot busier, the meetings were further apart, but they were longer and covered more.”
The focus of their initial meetings was “kind of narrowing down, for example, what exactly did I want to do, why did I want to do it.” From there, they explored which colleges would best fit Ilham’s needs and goals, including identifying some safety schools to address Ilham’s worry “that I would not be accepted anywhere.”
One of Ilham’s specific worries was her grades, which she describes as “pretty good, A’s and B’s,” except for math, a subject she struggled with. She was particularly worried that this might limit her college choices because “I know math is a very large part of everything, especially in college.” Jordan helped her manage this anxiety. She asked Ilham what help she needed, and shared some ideas. For example, she encouraged Ilham to get a math tutor, “and then going from there, going to colleges, then choosing my major. Things like that.”
As she reflected on her partnership with Jordan, Ilham describes it as a process of “self-discovery.” She recalled, “I learned [about] myself and it was like, I stepped out of my body and was able to see myself and understand myself a lot better.”
As a result, she could choose high school classes that supported her goals. Meanwhile, she was able to “sift through [her] anxiety regarding college” as she learned more about how college worked and what to expect.
How Ilham’s advisor helped ease her college application worries
Ilham’s primary worry at the beginning of the college application process was that “[she] would not be accepted anywhere.” She wanted help understanding each step of the application and had lots of questions.
Jordan turned out to be a perfect match! Since Jordan was a recent college graduate pursuing her graduate degree, Ilham noted, “I was with somebody who was kind of still in the process.” She was “relatable” and understood the anxiety that so many students experience during this time.
Jordan had the knowledge and experience to guide Ilham step-by-step through the process. She acknowledged her concerns and answered each of her questions along the way. Ilham reported, “She’s amazing!”
Writing your college essay
One area where Ilham wanted the most help was with choosing topics and writing her college essays.
Originally, she wanted to write about her personal experiences, particularly those related to her health issues, to explain why she’s pursuing a career in the medical field. She worked on this idea for weeks, creating and revising her essay. Then, one night, she suddenly realized that this was not the essay she wanted to submit. As Ilham described that moment, “I just decided to erase everything that I’ve been working on for the past month.”
So, she wrote an entirely different essay focused on gratitude. When she showed it to her advisor, Jordan responded, “This is the best! I can see this is coming from you.”
By listening to her instincts and trusting herself, Ilham had created a truly authentic essay. It reflected her unique and personal insights. Personal statements and college essays that capture the writer’s authentic voice and personality are what admission officers are looking for. Ilham created an essay that hit the mark.
Students very often change the focus of their personal statement or one of their essays. Sometimes, thinking and writing about one topic can spark ideas about others, resulting in a desire to rethink the initial plan. For students in this position, our “Rethinking Your Personal Statement” webinar will help you out a lot!
Choosing a major
If you know which career you want to pursue after college, choosing a college major can be fairly straightforward. On the other hand, if you are not yet certain about your career path, or if you’re considering multiple options, choosing a college major can be harder.
Keep in mind that some schools allow students to apply as “undecided,” and most schools allow students to change their major. In fact, up to 50% of students change their major while in college.
Ilham knew the general career field she was interested in, but wasn’t quite sure about the job she wanted in that field. If you’re in the same boat, there are many resources available to help.
Research different careers online so you understand education requirements, average pay, and general working conditions to narrow down your preferences. You can also consider job shadowing programs or reaching out to professionals in different fields for an informational interview.
In short, there are lots of resources available to help with this part of the process, including your college advisor!
Tips on preparing for admissions interviews
Another step on Ilham’s path to college was preparing for an admissions interview. The high school she attended organizes an event called “Instant Decision Day.” On this day, “administrators from different colleges would come and they’d look over your records, they’d look over your transcript. And they basically decide there and then if you get accepted to the college. It was basically an interview.” Ilham told Jordan she was very interested in taking part, but wasn’t sure how to prepare because she had never been in an interview before.
To help Ilham prepare, Jordan connected her with College Advisor’s interview prep team. This process was extremely valuable for Ilham. It gave her techniques for “finding confidence within yourself, not panicking.”
Most important, Ilham’s interview advisor told her to “be knowledgeable.” She suggested Ilham do “a little bit of research on every university that [she] applied to, in case any questions were thrown [her] way.” She also advised Ilham to “look at the news for the past two weeks” so the interviewers can see “how knowledgeable you are about the world.”
Ilham found the interviewer advisor’s help invaluable—“the pointers that she gave me, I feel like I can use those for the rest of my life.”
Ilham’s admission decisions and the road ahead
Ilham wanted to apply to schools that were close to her home – “I applied all local for me.” She knew a school would be a good fit for her, “as long as it was near, as long as it had a good program, there was good enough diversity.” She also looked for a school that would offer her good scholarships and financial aid.
By the end of the application process, she received acceptance offers to each of the eight schools she applied to. This is quite a success story for a student who was worried she might not get accepted to any school!
What was the most challenging part of the college application process for Ilham?
For Ilham, the hardest part of applying was understanding financial aid. Since she is the first in her family to attend college, trying to understand how and when to apply for financial aid was daunting.
“It was kind of confusing at first,” she recalled, adding that “the FAFSA thing can be quite intimidating.” The thought of finding her family’s tax returns and filling in the right information in the right places seemed confusing at first. However, once she began the process and had someone to help guide her, the actual process “was just fill out your information and call it a day.”
Ilham is not alone—understanding need-based scholarships, merit scholarships, loans, and other types of financial aid can be confusing. Further, many families aren’t familiar with common terms like “FAFSA,” “cost of attendance,” and “expected family contribution.” This can add additional anxiety to the college application process.
For this reason, we’ve created a variety of resources to make each aspect of financial aid as clear as possible. A good starting point is our free online webinar, “Financial Aid and Scholarships 101.”
Ilham’s advice for future college applicants
What is Ilham’s primary advice to future college applicants? “Don’t panic!” she said, adding, “be calm and collected and always ask for help, honestly. The greatest people in the world, they had someone to help them. Always ask for help, humble yourself as well. And just go for it.”
In addition, Ilham suggested that as you begin thinking about career paths, majors and schools, you “do your research, ask around, be open-minded to different ideas.”
This is great advice. Thank you, Ilham!
The journey through the college admissions process is different for every student and family. Some students already have a basic understanding of the process. They may have a specific area, like college essays, that they need help with. Others, like Ilham, are looking for more thorough information and personalized guidance through each step in the process. At CollegeAdvisor, our admissions experts customize their approach to the needs and goals of each student.
In addition to providing 1-on-1 advising sessions, we have a library of resources to help you master admissions. It includes a collection of guides, articles, and webinars. For students like Ilham who’d like to pursue a career in the medical field, we have created articles like “7 Questions to Consider Before Choosing a Pre-Med Track,” and “The Pre-Med Student’s College Application Process.” These will help you decide whether pre-med is the right plan for you.
CollegeAdvisor resources for pre-med
If you’ve already decided to pursue the pre-med path, check out the “Summer Opportunities: Medical Shadowing” webinar for ideas to help you gain work experience in the field.
We also have a collection of “How to Get Into College Guides” for a huge array of the most popular schools in the country.
At CollegeAdvisor we’re proud to help so many wonderful students achieve admission to their top-choice schools. Our team of over 300 admissions experts and former admissions officers has a wealth of expertise. They can give highly effective guidance to college applicants from around the world with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests.
We are also proud of our students and enjoy sharing their college application journeys. We hope you have enjoyed reading about Ilham’s CollegeAdvisor experience and success.
To read about more students’ inspiring journeys to their dream school, visit the CollegeAdvisor success stories page.
This Client Success Story was written by Lori Dunlap, and based on an interview with Ilham Tamale. Ilham connected to us for help with her college applications. If you are also looking for assistance with your college applications and are interested in working with a CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.