Overview: CollegeAdvisor.com Client Success Stories
In our CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories, we feature CollegeAdvisor.com students who achieved their college dreams. For each of this year’s CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories, we’ll interview our students and talk to them about their college advising experience. We will discuss how they built their college lists, aced their college essays, and which CollegeAdvisor resources they found most valuable. We’ll also share what they learned throughout the college application process.
Our CollegeAdvisor Client Success stories and the positive feedback we get from our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews remind us why we do what we do. At CollegeAdvisor, we’re proud to help students from all backgrounds maximize their college potential. We hope these CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories inspire you as you begin your own college application process, start your college visits, apply for merit scholarships, craft your college list, and more.
Introducing the Whitaker Family
For this CollegeAdvisor Client Success Story, we sat down with one of our favorite CollegeAdvisor.com families: students Ashby and Sebastian Whitaker and their mother Dana. Ashby is a current high school senior, while Sebastian is a first-year student at Notre Dame. After our team helped Sebastian through his college admissions process, the Whitakers trusted us to guide Ashby through her college journey.
This CollegeAdvisor Client Success story highlights Sebastian and Ashby’s experiences as they navigated the admissions process. It also shares Dana’s perspective as a parent supporting her children as they worked with CollegeAdvisor on their college applications.
The college admissions landscape is more competitive than ever, and Dana and her husband wanted to give their children as much support as possible.
Both Sebastian and his younger sister Ashby were high-achieving students with impressive profiles. However, if Sebastian and Ashby wanted to maximize their admissions odds at competitive “reach schools,” they knew that they needed expert advice.
How did the Whitakers connect with CollegeAdvisor.com?
“I’d been talking with my mom,” Sebastian said, “about how complicated college admissions has gotten. And my mom said, ‘you’re my first one. I have no idea what to do for you.’ I told her, ‘Well, I heard about this company. Maybe we should look into that.'”
Sebastian shared some of CollegeAdvisor.com’s free webinars with Dana. Both of them were immediately impressed. “[Sebastian] said, ‘These are really good. They’re very different. The advisors seem to be presenting something that’s a little more unusual than everyone else,” Dana told us.
Dana was pleased by how deeply Sebastian connected with CollegeAdvisor.com’s webinars. “You struck an eighteen-year-old’s attention. He was thinking, gosh, this is really something. He just had a connection. For your webinars to have such an impact on an eighteen-year-old—that speaks volumes.”
As they planned their college admissions process, Dana and Sebastian continued watching CollegeAdvisor.com’s webinars. “We watched several [webinars] for a good two or three weeks the summer before [Sebastian’s] senior year,” Dana said.
So, when it came time for Sebastian to start his college applications, the Whitakers were excited to meet with our team. “We were doing research on several [college advising companies], but [CollegeAdvisor.com] seemed to have something more unique that just struck us.”
The Whitakers connect for an initial consultation
After doing a bit more research, the Whitakers reached out to meet with our team for an initial consultation. During that meeting, they spoke with CollegeAdvisor.com Founder Brian Mitchell about the college application process and what it takes to succeed. As they spoke to Brian, the Whitakers learned more about how CollegeAdvisor.com could help students like Sebastian and Ashby who were interested in standing out to “reach” schools.
“We were really impressed with what you guys had going,” Sebastian said, “and we thought that it would be worth it.” And it was—both Sebastian and Ashby worked hard throughout the college admissions process, and that work paid off.
What makes the CollegeAdvisor experience unique?
Many families first seek college advising for help crafting their college essays. After all, learning how to write a college essay isn’t easy. While the Whitaker family initially came to CollegeAdvisor.com for help with college essays, they soon learned that a strong personal statement for college is only one part of a larger picture—namely, a student’s “application narrative” or “candidate profile.”
Initially, Dana told us, the Whitakers were mostly looking for help with their college essays. The family knew that a strong personal statement for college could make or break an application. “We really wanted to hone in on having good, strong college essays,” Dana told us. After an initial call and a follow-up meeting with CollegeAdvisor.com Founder Brian Mitchell, Dana and Sebastian met Sebastian’s new advisor, Zoe.
“The connection, I mean—she was excellent,” Dana said. “We felt like she was going to give Sebastian what he needed.” With Zoe at his side, Sebastian worked to develop a cohesive narrative for his application. “They brainstormed to come up with his ‘brand,’ so to speak, and develop a theme.” Dana told us. “Her guidance was really good.”
Throughout the college admissions process, Zoe made sure that Sebastian’s application narrative remained clear. She also helped him edit his college essays and refine his personal statement so that his identity shone through. “I loved Zoe,” Sebastian told us. “She was great. She gave me so much insight that was monumental in helping me figure out college admissions.”
The following application season, Ashby also immediately found a connection with her advisor, Lauren. “Lauren just helped me with everything,” Ashby said. “[She helped me] keep my essays on a schedule and not be super stressed about it.”
Standing out in the college admissions process is hard, and working closely with an advisor with extensive admissions experience can make all the difference. The Whitaker family benefited from CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of Admissions Experts from different colleges and universities.
CollegeAdvisor.com’s wide network of experts
Dana explains: “Something I learned through the process, is, for instance, say the kids were working on an application for Stanford. [Their advisor] would say, well, there’s another advisor in the company who went to Stanford. Let me reach out to them and say what they think.” This network helped both Sebastian and Ashby build their college lists and tailor their applications to each school.
At CollegeAdvisor.com, we’re proud to have a broad network of 300+ Admissions Experts and former admissions officers who can offer guidance to any student, no matter their needs. Click here to read our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews and learn more about how our network can help you achieve your goals.
What did the Whitakers hope to get out of CollegeAdvisor?
As high-achieving students, both Sebastian and Ashby had a lot of potential. However, they recognized that the college admissions process is now more competitive than ever. “[Both Sebastian and Ashby] were interested in high-level colleges and universities,” their mother, Dana, told us. “And they had the grades, they had the test scores, so we felt like they were reachable.”
Since today’s college admissions landscape is so competitive, many top colleges are “reach” schools for any student, no matter their grades and scores. With more students applying to college each year, standing out to admissions officers at “reach” schools takes strategy. In this competitive process, the Whitakers wanted to give their children as much support as possible. “My husband and I weren’t sure we could do that on our own, navigating through the whole [college admissions] process. It really [comes down to] how to prioritize,” Dana said.
Getting into “reach” schools
The Whitakers also sought support as Sebastian—and, later, Ashby—created their college lists. The college list process, too, came with a lot of questions. Dana and her husband knew that both Sebastian and Ashby would need a balanced list of colleges including reach schools, target schools, and safety schools.
The Whitakers live in Texas, where all state schools must accept the top 6-10% of students at any public or private high school in the state. So, Sebastian and Ashby felt confident about their safety schools. The reach schools, on the other hand, proved more challenging. “We wanted to see how to get to the reach schools,” Dana told us. “So, that’s why we started [looking for] a college advising company.”
What the Whitakers learned about how to write a college essay
Like many students, both Sebastian and Ashby needed help learning how to write a college essay. Throughout the process, our team was there to help as they refined and edited their college essays.
With Zoe’s help, Sebastian learned how to write a college essay the right way. He also received useful college essay editing tips as he crafted his personal statement for college.
“My first few college essays were basically like resumes,” Sebastian told us. “[They would say] all the stuff I’ve done, but I didn’t talk about how it affected me— my personality, things like that. I couldn’t really figure out how to get that across into words. You guys really helped with that,” he said. “Zoe did a great job teaching me how to write about myself in an engaging and introspective way.”
Foregrounding personal characteristics
Zoe’s guidance was instrumental as Sebastian drafted his personal statement for college and began the college essay editing process. With her help, Sebastian learned to foreground his emotions, experiences, and identity in his writing—qualities that are key to standing out in the admissions process.
Ashby also benefited from CollegeAdvisor’s support throughout her essay process. After Sebastian’s college process, the Whitakers learned how important it was to start planning early. So, in May of her junior year, Ashby connected with Lauren.
In these meetings, Ashby started brainstorming topics and drafting her college essays. Ashby and Lauren built a timeline to ensure that Ashby would never fall behind. “Especially going into my senior year, it [made things] so much less stressful to have someone to help me keep myself on track and really be prepared with my essays,” Ashby said.
Writing on a personal level
As they approach the college application process, many students don’t immediately understand how to write about themselves. In working with CollegeAdvisor, both Sebastian and Ashby learned how to write authentically about their own experiences.
In one of his college essays, for instance, Sebastian struggled to engage with his experiences on a personal level. “I wrote a whole college essay about when I went to a leadership conference in China,” Sebastian told us. “And the first time I tried to write about it, I barely made it to 150 words. I was just like, yeah, I went to this leadership conference in China. It was a good time.”
Under Zoe’s guidance, Sebastian learned how to write college essays that taught admissions officers more about who he is—not just his experience. “[After reading that draft], Zoe was like, well, describe it. Talk about your experience meeting people there. Give me specifics. So, I did that.”
This guidance took Sebastian’s original essay to the next level. “It got to the point where I was [almost exceeding] the 200-word limit, [adding] actual examples that made it engaging and interesting and fun to read. Without her help. I probably would’ve struggled to do that.”
Addressing sensitive topics
Sebastian also shared how Zoe helped support him as he wrote about personal and sensitive topics for his college essays. With some topics, he said, “I thought, ‘I don’t want to talk about that.’ I thought, oh, this feels invasive. But it also makes for a compelling and engaging essay that actually tells the admission committee about you, which is what they want”
With Zoe’s guidance—and a lot of hard work—Sebastian ended up with college essays that represented who he was and helped him gain admission into selective “reach schools.”
Making suggestions, not corrections
Ashby also learned these skills in her weekly meetings with Lauren. Her sessions focused on college essay editing—she would write or edit one of her college essays, and Lauren would return it with feedback and tips on standing out.
“[They] never made changes [to Sebastian and Ashby’s college essays],” Dana said about the college essay editing process. “[They] made comments. [In some college advising settings], some people think, oh, someone’s writing your essays, and that’s not true.” Instead, Sebastian and Ashby’s advisors focused on making suggestions for how to make each student’s individual voice shine through—which is the key to standing out at top schools.
Both Ashby and Sebastian also worked diligently to write and rewrite their college essays, meeting regularly with their advisors to share feedback. “It was pretty busy [toward the end],” Dana said. “And that’s really on the student. The kids were really good about keeping up with their deadlines.” While Dana met with Sebastian and Ashby’s advisors at the beginning to introduce herself, the work rested on them—and they rose to the challenge, always staying on top of their work and communicating with their advisors as questions arose.
“That’s critical,” Dana said. “[Each application] is only as good as what the student puts into it and how much work they give.”
College essays: The challenge of “putting your personality into words”
In today’s college admissions landscape, college essays can make all the difference, especially at competitive “reach” schools. Many students will have similar grades, scores, and even extracurricular activities—your personal statement for college, then, is the key to standing out at top schools.
However, writing a personal statement for college proves challenging for most students. The Whitakers were no exception. Like many of our students, the Whitakers came to us for help writing and editing their college essays. With our advising team behind them, Sebastian and Ashby worked through multiple drafts so that their college essays would shine.
Ashby worked tirelessly with her advisor to write essays that showcased her strengths. While most college essay prompts aren’t published until the fall, Ashby started writing as early as May and June. This helped her learn how to showcase her identity and accomplishments in her college essays. For Ashby, starting early paid off. By working with Lauren to hone her voice in May, she felt prepared to tackle every essay prompt once they were formally released in August.
A different kind of writing
For Sebastian, on the other hand, the most valuable part of his CollegeAdvisor.com experience came from Zoe’s support as he crafted his personal statement for college.
“I’m a pretty good writer about things that aren’t myself,” Sebastian said, “but I’m not great at putting my personality into words. I can write [an academic paper] really well—I don’t have a problem with that. But when it comes to being introspective, talking about myself and about my life experiences, that’s something I really struggled with.” However, with one-on-one coaching from his advisor, Sebastian was able to hone the skills he needed to stand out.
Dana was struck by the kind of writing that her children’s college essays required. “You know, we’ve taught our children, don’t brag about yourself, be modest,” Dana said. “And then, all of a sudden, when you’re working on college applications, you have to do the opposite. You really have to talk about yourself. Breaking into that can take a while. It just takes practice.”
Wondering how to start your own essay editing process and write college essays that showcase your unique story? Check out our essay guides.
Building a college list
For any student, creating a college list is a challenge. After being matched with Zoe, Sebastian got to work crafting a college list that met his needs.
At first, Sebastian wasn’t sure what his college list should look like. He knew that he needed a balance of safety, match, and reach schools, but it was hard to know which kinds of schools would meet his needs.
“When we were getting started,” Sebastian told us, “I wasn’t totally sure what colleges I wanted [to attend].” Zoe helped him refine his college list to include schools he hadn’t initially considered. “I knew I wanted to apply to Georgetown, University of Virginia, and Notre Dame, but Zoe was also like, ‘Why don’t you consider Vanderbilt?’ I ended up applying to Vanderbilt because of that.”
Working with Zoe on his college list also helped Sebastian learn more about what he actually wanted in a college experience—even when it meant certain schools didn’t fit the bill. “She definitely broadened my horizons. I also wanted to apply to Rice, and [Zoe told me], I’m looking at your college list. Rice doesn’t really make that much sense relative to the others.”
This made Sebastian think more about the kind of school culture he was looking for. “[Zoe said], it seems to me like most of your colleges are high-level universities, but they also have larger communities and athletic departments…”
With Zoe’s guidance, Sebastian thought more about whether Rice belonged on his college list. “You know, maybe Rice’s culture isn’t exactly what I’m looking for in a college,” he told us. “So, because of that, [Zoe’s advice] saved me one application and got me to apply somewhere else that would have fit me better. I was appreciative of that.”
Ashby finds programs that meet her career goals
Ashby also worked with Lauren to create a school list that reflected her needs. Since Ashby is interested in international studies and foreign relations, it was important that she found programs that met her career goals. Her college list included Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins, Pepperdine, University of Virginia, and Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, among others.
Throughout the process, Ashby and Sebastian’s advisors took the time to get to know them and their needs. This made a huge difference when each of them built their college list. “Zoe was really good about [helping Sebastian] if he was going back and forth on a school. And Lauren did the same for Ashby. Because by that time, these two advisers really knew my kids,” Dana told us.
This meant that Zoe and Lauren could tell when a school would be right for the Whitakers. With each college, Lauren and Zoe encouraged Ashby and Sebastian to think about all the individual factors: size, location, school culture, academic offerings. This advice “really helped guide [Ashby and Sebastian],” Dana said. It also relieved a lot of stress from the college process. “Ashby will be exactly where she needs to be,” Dana said. “And Sebastian ended up exactly where he needed to be as well. So, that’s awesome.”
How Ashby chose her school after acceptance
As a current senior, Ashby was faced with the challenge of choosing where she’ll spend the next four years. However, because of the hard work she put in with her advisor, Lauren, the acceptances came rolling in.
“I’ve gotten into Notre Dame and Pepperdine, University of Virginia, and Hendrix [so far],” Ashby told us. Since speaking with Ashby, we learned that she also received acceptances to Texas A&M and Georgetown, and was waitlisted at Johns Hopkins.
After weighing all these incredible options, Ashby narrowed her decision down between Georgetown and Notre Dame. Since then, Dana has let us know that after much deliberation, Ashby has decided to join the Notre Dame class of 2026! Ashby is interested in studying international studies or national relations.
Life after CollegeAdvisor: Sebastian’s first-year experience at Notre Dame
For Sebastian, too, choosing a school wasn’t easy. However, he’s thrilled with the decision he made, and he’s found a community at Notre Dame that suits his needs and goals. For students choosing a college, he suggests, “Take a step back. Don’t stress so much.” Wherever you land, you’ll make the most out of your experience.
Sebastian is loving his time at Notre Dame. “It’s a Notre Dame family here,” he told us. “It really is a family.”
On both an academic and personal level, Sebastian has made a home at Notre Dame. There are many Notre Dame majors available, and Sebastian has certainly found his niche—namely, politics and economics.
“I’ve always been a big news and politics person,” Sebastian told us. “I love watching the news, and I worked on a congressional campaign in Texas. I also worked for the US Senate.” So, when it came time to select one of the many Notre Dame majors, Sebastian knew the field that most interested him. Sebastian is currently a first-year student at Notre Dame, where he’s double-majoring in political science and economics.
Carving out a plan
With so many Notre Dame majors to choose from, some students might be overwhelmed. However, Sebastian has a clear plan for how his Notre Dame majors complement each other and will form a strong foundation for his future career.
“I thought [studying both political science and economics] would be a good way to learn more about world events,” Sebastian said. “Then, I felt [studying economics as well] would be a good pair because so many world events are driven by economics. So, I felt like that would be another useful tool.”
Overall, Sebastian is having a great time at Notre Dame. “I’m really enjoying the classes,” he told us. “They’re interesting. Economics is a bit harder to get into at the beginning because there’s a lot of introductory stuff. I love all the political science classes here, though,” Sebastian said.
For Sebastian, Notre Dame’s political science classes are a perfect fit. “They’re great, and they’re so relevant to world events. I just finished my second [paper] about comparing possibilities for peace in Ukraine and Russia to the possibilities for peace in Israel, Palestine.” Once he graduates, Sebastian is looking forward to a career in law or politics.
Sebastian has also enjoyed the personal feel of his classes at Notre Dame. “I have classes with like 70 people and I still feel like the professors have gotten to know me,” Sebastian told us. “So, I was kind of impressed with that.”
Finding fun activities in college
However, Sebastian doesn’t spend all of his time in the classroom. He’s also engaged in some of the many Notre Dame clubs available for students.
With hundreds of Notre Dame clubs, there’s room for students with every interest. One of Sebastian’s favorite Notre Dame clubs is the sailing team. “The kickoff for the Midwestern sailing year is [at Notre Dame],” Sebastian, “so a lot of teams come out.”
Sebastian also spends his time with other Notre Dame clubs, including the pre-law society. He also serves as the Freshman Representative in one of Notre Dame’s political clubs, where he helps bring different speakers to campus.
Creating your own Client Success Stories: The Whitaker family’s advice for future college applicants
“Definitely start early. It helped so much, [for both] Sebastian and me,” Ashby said.
Also, Ashby told us, make the most out of your relationship with your advisor. This can make a huge difference when you sit down to write your college essays. “Being yourself to your advisors is definitely the most important thing you can do throughout the process,” Ashby said. “It sets your application up for success.”
At the beginning of her journey with CollegeAdvisor.com, Ashby took the time to ensure Lauren understood her needs and goals—and her advisor was ready to listen. “When you first [meet] with your advisor, they give you [a worksheet] where you describe the activities that you’ve done,” she said. “It helps them get to know you. But I think the [most important] part of that process is to be yourself and write in a way that you would normally write.”
This worksheet helped Ashby a lot once it came time to write a personal statement for college. “I remember going back [to that worksheet] months later and finding something I had written, and it was perfect for [an essay prompt]. It just took a [few] adjustments, but it was in my voice, and it was perfect. So, be yourself in those first few weeks of meeting your advisor.”
“Be honest and authentic”
So, throughout the college essay editing process, Ashby advises that every student be honest and authentic. “You get to know each other really well,” Ashby told us. “And then, you can have this voice that is already set up for your college essays. You [can look at a phrase] and you both know, ‘well, that’s not a word I would use, so it doesn’t fit in my essay.'” This honesty helped Ashby remain authentic as she drafted each personal statement for college.
“Don’t stress too much”
Sebastian’s key piece of advice? Don’t stress too much. “I would definitely say, take a step back,” he told us. “Know that there’s not really a bad decision. I personally, even now, don’t believe that there is one perfect college. I think there’s multiple that could be the right decision. [At the beginning], I was totally indecisive.”
However, as Sebastian says, being indecisive is okay. “Even if I had picked the other way, I would have been fine.”
Client Success Stories: Final Thoughts—Why CollegeAdvisor?
“My kids have been very lucky to have found CollegeAdvisor,” Dana told us. We’re so proud of both Sebastian and Ashby for all they’ve accomplished, and we’re excited to see where they go next.
If you’re wondering how to get into Notre Dame or any other top school, we’ve got you covered. When you register with CollegeAdvisor.com, 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 CollegeAdvisor.com is right for you? Our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews speak for themselves. As our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews state, our students benefit from personalized guidance on every aspect of the admissions process. Plus, as you can see from our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews, our students are regularly accepted to Ivy League and Top 50 colleges and universities.
Check out some other CollegeAdvisor.com reviews and CollegeAdvisor Client Success Stories to hear more from the thousands of students who have benefited from CollegeAdvisor.com.
This Success Story was written by Abbie Sage, and based on an interview with The Whitaker Family. The Whitakers reached out to us for guidance through the college application process. If you are also looking for assistance with your college applications connect with a CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert today.