The New Rules for Elite College Admissions

Stanford Tower

Last spring, many parents whose children attend top private high schools experienced a shock. College admissions decisions began trickling out and the rumors started circulating: the all-American, well-rounded valedictorian of their child’s prestigious school was rejected from Stanford. 

For many parents of soon-to-be applicants, the experience results in hand-wringing and doubt: if that student can’t get in, then who can? 

The landscape of college admissions is undergoing a seismic shift. Ten years ago, the valedictorian of your child’s private school may have earned admission on the basis of their stellar grades and well-rounded resume — but that is no longer the case. “Top colleges are looking for more than just academic excellence,” says Christopher Rim, Founder and CEO of Command Education, a boutique college consulting firm. “They are seeking students with unique perspectives and a demonstrated commitment to bettering their communities through their singular passions.”

Christopher Rim speaking with a student.

This shift isn’t about diminishing the importance of academic achievement, but rather about recognizing that authentic passion, intellectual curiosity, and clarity of purpose cannot be solely quantified by numbers on a transcript. Recognizing this shift, Rim founded Command Education as a wholly distinct approach to the college admissions process. The Command Education philosophy is predicated upon helping students discover and engage with their distinct passions in ways that enact positive change in their environments. 

“Our team empowers students to become self-motivated learners, critical thinkers, and catalysts for change — and that’s precisely why they are earning coveted spots at the most competitive universities in the nation,” says Rim. 

One such student was Somesh Kaur, who had earned a spot at a prestigious San Francisco private school. Despite the school’s immense resources and rigorous curriculum, his mother Deepti felt that she needed additional support to set Somesh up for success in the application process to the competitive universities that he aspired to attend. During Somesh’s sophomore year, she employed the help of Command Education, and Somesh began working with Senior Mentor Wafa Muflahi to explore and develop his passions. 

“Somesh came to us with a general interest in science and technology, but he didn’t have a strong sense of how to hone and develop those passions, nor did he have a clear goal for how he wanted to use those interests during his college career,” says Muflahi. “I worked with him to craft a detailed plan for exploring and synthesizing his interests during his freshman and sophomore years, then deepening his engagement with his core interest through a passion project his junior year.”

Through clubs and extracurriculars, Somesh discovered that his true passion was for helping other students build technological literacy. Wafa encouraged him to apply to the UCSC Summer Internship Program during his sophomore year, and after being accepted, he attended in the summer before his junior year. At the start of his junior year, he worked with Wafa to develop a passion project based on the work he had conducted through the summer program, offering interactive online tutorials — both synchronous and asynchronous — for middle and high school students interested in coding and digital software development. 

The Standford campus.

Through his activities, leadership, and innovative passion project, Somesh demonstrated to admissions committees a clarity of purpose and depth of engagement with his specialized area of interest. He not only excelled at an elite private high school that offered a plethora of state-of-the-art academic resources, but he also went the extra mile to make real change in his community and bring his knowledge to those around him. By dedicating so much time and energy to his passion, Somesh  ended up with a college application that made him stand out from the crowd and ultimately gain admission to his dream school, UC Berkeley, where he is now studying Computer Science. 

The statistics prove that Command Education’s innovative approach works — in the 2021-22 cycle, 100% of Command Education students who applied early to Harvard University were accepted, and over the last five years 94% of students have been accepted to one of their top three schools. Given the firm’s highly personalized process and staggering results, parents are willing to pay top dollar for Command Education’s mentoring services — and many claim it is the best investment they’ve ever made.

“The college application process was so much more stressful than we ever anticipated—we had barely begun before my husband, daughter, and I were at each other’s throats,” says Marin County parent Angelina Taylor. “Command Education has helped my daughter find confidence and build an impressive resume — and saved my marriage in the process.”

What colleges are truly looking for is the young generation’s movers and shakers, changemakers and leaders. According to Rim, that’s exactly why Command Education’s distinctive approach is so successful. “Students who work with our mentors flourish into savvy business owners, innovative researchers, and leaders in their communities,” says Rim. “Parents trust us to not only help their child earn admission to their dream school — they trust us to set their child on the path of success for the rest of their lives.”

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of students and parents.