college advising

Overview: Client Success Stories 

Our Client Success Stories feature CollegeAdvisor students who successfully navigated the college application process and achieved their college dreams. In this series, we will interview our students to learn more about their college advising experience and the college admissions process. 

We will talk about how they used the CollegeAdvisor network to ace the college admissions process, including how they prepared their personal statement for college, and built their college list. We will also share their college admissions advice and college interview tips as they reflect on their college advising experience throughout the college admissions process. 

Our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories and the positive feedback we receive from our reviews remind us of the importance of our efforts. Our mission is to empower students of all backgrounds to achieve their college dreams, and our reviews show the impact of our work. 

We hope that our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories motivate you as you begin your college admissions process, start your college lists, write your personal statement for college, and more. 

Introducing Sophia Steck

For this edition of our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories, we spoke to one of our favorite students: Sophia Steck. Sophia joined for personalized college advising help from our network of experienced advisors. 

This article focuses on Sophia’s college advising experience with It also highlights Sophia’s first year of college and the college admissions advice, including college interview tips, that helped her the most during her college admissions process. 

Because the college admissions process has become increasingly competitive for students, Sophia understood how important it was to get expert college advising support as she started her college application journey. That’s why she turned to us!

What attracted Sophia to CollegeAdvisor? 

We asked Sophia to describe what initially attracted her to “Well, obviously, my mother works there, so that was a big plus,” Sophia joked. Family ties aside, Sophia registered with CollegeAdvisor to gain access to our personalized college advising services. 

When students join CollegeAdvisor, we match them with the perfect expert to fit their background, interests, and goals. With a network of over 300+ Admissions Experts and former Admissions Officers, CollegeAdvisor regularly pairs students with advisors who are currently attending or recently graduated from students’ top choice schools. 

“I got paired with Carolyn who goes to Stanford,” Sophia told us. “And my dream school was Stanford. I was really excited that she had the inside scoop.” 

Sophia’s advisor, Carolyn Herrera, had recently navigated the college admissions process herself. She was able to provide the college advising expertise and college admissions advice that Sophia was looking for.   

Getting college admissions advice from someone who understands the college admissions process is crucial. With a college advising expert in her corner, Sophia was ready to work one-on-one with Carolyn to begin the college admissions process and achieve her college goals. 

What was it like working one-on-one with an advisor? 

Sophia started her college advising sessions with Carolyn at the end of her junior year in high school. We asked Sophia to describe what it was like working one-on-one with an advisor, including how often they would meet at the beginning of the college admissions process. 

“It really depended,” Sophia told us. “When deadlines were close, [we] would meet more. Generally, [we met] once a week. And then when the deadlines became [even] closer, it was maybe two times a week, three times a week.”

In their one-on-one college advising meetings, Carolyn provided personalized college admissions advice to help Sophia build and finalize her college list. Carolyn also assisted Sophia in staying organized and on schedule to complete her personal statement for college. 

Regular check-ins

Outside of their scheduled college advising sessions, Carolyn checked in regularly with Sophia to help keep her on track. “I did some procrastinating, I’ll be honest,” Sophia shared. “[Carolyn] was good about accommodating that and holding me accountable for my work.” 

Procrastination happens, and it can become even worse during the college admissions process. With so many steps to consider, the college admissions process can be a stressful landscape to navigate alone. Working one-on-one with an expert advisor can make the college admissions process much easier, especially because there’s someone to hold you accountable each step of the way. 

Sophia continued to work closely in her college advising sessions with Carolyn to revise and perfect her personal statement for college. A unique and well-crafted personal statement for college can be the best way to distinguish yourself from other applicants and stand out in the college admissions process.

Sophia develops her personal statement for college 

Like many students, Sophia needed help learning how to write a personal statement for college. Throughout the writing process, Sophia’s advisor was there for support as they worked together in their college advising meetings to refine and edit her personal statement for college. 

We asked Sophia to walk us through what it was like to develop her personal statement for college. “I started things during the summer,” she shared. “I had written a whole draft of the Common App [essay] before I started with Carolyn. I was so proud to show [it], because I [thought] this is a pretty good essay. And then she read it and [said], ‘There could be a lot more here.’” 

Sophia explained that at first, it was tough to determine what to showcase in her personal statement for college. “It’s also hard figuring out which things about yourself to highlight,” Sophia said. 

“I was writing essays to prompts I had barely seen or could barely understand. My advisor who was helping me would be like, no, you should go in this direction.” 

Carolyn helped Sophia understand what college admissions officers were looking for in a personal statement for college. They worked together to develop Sophia’s final draft of her personal statement. 

“We worked [on the topic] together,” Sophia shared. “I wanted to write about swimming. She helped me go through my experience with swimming and water polo and find little bits that I could expand on a lot more and write about in more detail.” 

Transforming Sophia’s essay

With Carolyn’s help, Sophia’s essay transformed from a piece about her love of water and swimming into an original, comprehensive exploration of how the community she found in swimming changed Sophia and allowed her to grow into herself. 

“[My] Common App statement was about swimming, because I was on the swim team and it was the biggest thing I’d ever done,” Sophia told us. “I wrote some story about how I love water and then it turned into me writing about my swim team and the community aspect of it instead.”

Sophia continued, “My freshman year, I was a shy little mess. And then I got forced to dress up as Shrek and walk around the school all day with green paint on my face. And the subsequent days of doing stuff like that with my teammates made me a lot more confident, and that’s what I wrote about.” 

What is the most challenging part of the college admissions process? 

Now that Sophia is on the other side of the college admissions process, we asked her to share some college admissions advice and explain what the most challenging part of the college admissions process was for her. 

“The essays were definitely the worst, I think,” Sophia said. “Like, not necessarily molding yourself into what the college wants to see, but like answering what they want.” 

Sophia’s right. In addition to a personal statement for college, colleges and universities often require supplemental essays or short answer responses that are unique to that school and can vary in length. It’s important that your response answers the question (or questions) posed in the prompt. Additionally, you want to write honest, genuine responses for each of your college essays. 

Too often, students write about what they think colleges want to hear. Instead, you should use these essays to add insight and depth into your overall application narrative, so that the admissions committee has a better understanding of who you are and what is important to you. 

“That was my big thing,” Sophia continued. “Staying true to me and going as deep as I needed to, instead of just like surface level, like differentiating myself in that way.” 

Sophia’s advice for high school students just starting out 

It’s easy to get lost along the way if you are just starting your college admissions process. We wanted to hear more about what worked for Sophia as she reflected on her own college admissions process and college advising sessions. We asked her to share her college admissions advice for high school students that are just starting out. 

First up – essays. “Honestly,” Sophia shared, “it might be helpful to set hard deadlines for yourself. So you cannot procrastinate and, you know, [be] more leisurely with it if you want to be.” 

In Sophia’s college advising sessions, Carolyn helped her create those hard deadlines during the writing process and held her accountable for her work. 

In terms of building a college list, Sophia recommended doing your research upfront. “You can whittle down, like where you want to be. Location-wise, who has your major? I personally looked at course plans because different colleges will have different course plans for the same major, and sometimes it won’t be as focused on what you want it to be,” Sophia said. 

Narrowing down a major

We asked Sophia to elaborate more on this piece of college admissions advice. “I personally am interested in water,” Sophia told us. “So, I looked at the course plans and determined which ones were more focused on water treatment or water quality issues. And USC happened to be one of those. That was a really good way to narrow things down, ‘cause there are a lot of colleges, with a lot of majors.” 

Doing college research is such an important step of the college admissions process, especially if you are just starting out. There are lots of things to consider as you build your college list and begin the college admissions process. 

Sophia thought about each of these factors as she finalized her college list. “Do I like the course plan? Did I like the location? How about the professors there? Research opportunities? Just balancing kind of all the factors, ‘cause they all play in at the end,” Sophia shared. 

Finally, Sophia has a special bit of college admissions advice for high school students as they receive their admissions decisions. “Your college acceptances don’t define your worth,” Sophia pointed out. 

“I remember taking things so hard and being so nervous. I was so focused on [getting] into a good school. I have to, otherwise, it means I’m stupid,” Sophia elaborated. But she eventually realized, “It doesn’t mean you’re stupid. You’re going to get through it.” 

The most competitive application season on record

Sophia is exactly right. This past year was one of the most difficult application seasons for students going through the college admissions process. With more students applying to college than ever before, it is important to remember that your college acceptances don’t define your worth. 

“They have to reject a lot of people that are just as qualified [to] go to these schools,” Sophia observed. “Sometimes other people just write better essays, and there’s nothing you can do about some of those things. You did the best you can. And if they’re not taking you, that’s their loss.” 

Sophia’s favorite CollegeAdvisor resources

Aside from her one-on-one college advising sessions with Carolyn, we wanted to know what other resources Sophia utilized during her college admissions process. We asked Sophia to share some of her favorite CollegeAdvisor resources with us. 

“I believe I went to a couple of webinars,” Sophia said. “I think one might’ve been about essays, the Common App specifically. I went to that one first and then I [went to] one about interviews.” 

Besides getting college advising help or college admissions advice, offers an extensive catalog of live and recorded webinars. Our webinars cover each aspect of the college admissions process, from identifying and applying to merit scholarships for college to college interview tips. 

“I had two interviews and I was really nervous,” Sophia said, “’cause I didn’t want to mess it up. They were with my top two schools.” 

College Interview team

In addition to watching our college interview webinar, Sophia met with Zoë, one of our advisors who specializes in providing college interview tips to our students. “I also did an interview meeting with Zoë,” Sophia told us, “to talk specifically about how to approach [interviews].” 

In fact, Zoë helped Sophia practice for her upcoming college interviews and gave her advice about how to answer some common interview questions. 

“[Zoë was] giving me advice about how to address the questions, like the ‘tell me about yourself’ question, which is always a doozy,” Sophia said. 

Because of Zoë’s support, Sophia felt more comfortable and prepared when it came time to interview.

“It made me a lot more confident going in,” Sophia shared. “I made myself almost like a cheat sheet of things to look at… things I could resort back to talking about.” 

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Sophia’s College Admission Results! 

After completing her college advising sessions with her advisor, Sophia submitted college applications to 12 schools. When the time came, she was proud to share her admission results with us. 

“I got accepted into [University of] Minnesota, [University of] Florida, [University of] Michigan, [University of California] Irvine, [University of California] Davis, Carnegie [Mellon University], 

Northwestern [University], and USC,” Sophia told us. 

We wanted to know more about Sophia’s admission results, and whether any of the schools she applied to awarded her any scholarships 

“USC gave me the full-tuition scholarship as well as a Viterbi Fellowship, which is a research fellowship through the engineering school, that provides me $3,000 a year for housing. And then I can also get paid for research, which is really cool,” Sophia said. “I got some money from Minnesota, and then I got $5,000 from Florida in academic scholarships.” 

USC Merit Scholarship

The full-tuition scholarship that Sophia is referring to is the USC Merit Scholarship. In fact, USC awards this scholarship only to the most qualified of applicants. The USC scholarship makes USC one of a handful of private, elite universities that offer such generous funding. 

In order to be eligible for this USC scholarship, students must submit their college application before the regular decision deadline. “I remember going into the application cycle and seeing that I was going to apply to the USC deadline for scholarships,” Sophia said. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to get to the interview thing. I don’t have to worry about that one.’ And then I did!” Sophia chuckled. 

The USC scholarship committee places special emphasis on your personal statement for college, as well as your extracurricular activities. With all the hard work Sophia and her advisor put into her college essays, it’s no wonder that Sophia earned the USC scholarship! 

Sophia’s first year at USC

After successfully navigating the college admissions process and completing her college advising sessions, Sophia is now a first-year student at USC. 

“So, it’s been a really great year,” Sophia said. “I’ve taken two engineering courses, basic intro courses. Next semester I’m going to be taking some more civil engineering courses, like statistics and probability.” 

Academics aside, Sophia has also gotten involved in research. “I basically had research coming in, because of my fellowship,” Sophia told us. “I got to apply to this program, through the Center for Undergraduate Research. And I got matched with a lab.” 

Specifically, Sophia’s research is related to her love of chemistry and her love of water. “My research is focusing on how a contaminant in our wastewater can transform into something more harmful after we treat it,” Sophia said. “I’m trying to attribute the initial concentrations of the chemical with [the] final concentrations of the carcinogen.” 

Sophia also joined the men’s rowing club team as a coxswain. “I’ve gotten quite good at it,” Sophia told us. “I actually raced at the regional championships on one of our top boats and we placed second overall. And now, I’m going to the actual national championships for the rowing clubs.” 

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Sophia’s tips for women interested in STEM

We were so impressed with how Sophia handled the college admissions process, and how well she was doing in her first year at USC. We asked her to share her tips for other women interested in pursuing STEM. 

“I took a lot of science classes in high school,” Sophia shared, “and I kind of thought about which ones I was most interested in. And it happened to be chemistry, which was what led me to chemical engineering. So, think about what you do outside of science. What are your interests in general? And how can you apply that to [STEM]?” 

Sophia elaborated on her answer. “Be confident about it,” she said. “You’re not any less. Still, people might discount you, but you got to show them every time.” 

Final Thoughts – Why CollegeAdvisor? 

“Overall,” Sophia told us, “[it’s] the experience of getting help from someone who knows what they’re doing.” 

If you are wondering how to get into USC or any other top school, we’ve got you covered. When you register with, you will receive personalized college advising support on every aspect of the college admissions process. This includes college interview tips, college admissions advice, how to write your personal statement for college, and so much more. 

Curious if is right for you? Our reviews speak volumes. As our reviews show, our students clearly benefit from personalized college admissions advice and are regularly accepted to Ivy League and Top 50 colleges and universities. To read more reviews from previous clients, please visit our website.

This Success Story was written by Claire Babbs, and based on an interview with Sophia Steck. Sophia reached out to us for college admissions advice and help writing her personal statement for college. If you are looking for assistance with your college applications and want to work with a Admissions Expert, register with today.