Case Study: How College Counseling Helps San Mateo Students Get Ahead

[fa icon="calendar"] 5/21/20 9:00 AM / by Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine Karydes

The city of San Mateo, located in the intellectually vibrant Bay Area, is an incredibly well-educated community. The US Census Bureau reflects an idyllic picture of a typical Northern California “brain hub” hotspot: geographically close to the Silicon Valley, residents bringing in a high median income (approximately $994k annually), homes boasting nearly universal internet connection, and of course, the classic mild California climate. 

Yet with a launchpad as great as this one, students are still feeling lost facing the college admissions process. With only cookie-cutter in-school support resources, where else do they turn for help?

Road and view of fog over the San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in San Francisco, California.


To make full use of the advantages within reach, students from San Mateo seek advice from the experts: independent college counselors who are well-versed in the art of standing out from similarly well-positioned peers. Because even in ideal situations like these, the pressures are skyrocketing. With a host of great opportunities available, high schoolers suffer from a paralysis of choice—with a limited number of hours in the day, it seems impossible to out-achieve your peers and gain an edge for steadily-increasing competition for elite college admissions. 

Let’s take a look at a few real-life examples* of San Mateo students who benefit from working with an independent college counselor for advising through the admissions process.

*Names have been changed to protect student identities.


Student 1: Raveena P.

High School: Notre Dame High School
GPA: 3.58
Test Scores: SAT - 1430
Activities: Independent science research, soccer, chess.
Case Brief:

Raveena is clearly a driven, academically-focused student, scoring well on the SAT and engaging in self-led research in her area of study as well as organized sports and competitive chess. Her extracurricular activities reflect this, but her GPA isn’t top tier—elite universities demand 3.7 or higher. An advisor would be able to coach Raveena through writing powerful personal statements to make the most of her experiences and overcome the gaps in her average transcript.

EMPOWERLY TIP: Be sure to leverage your extracurriculars to your best advantage, especially if you want to demonstrate ability to succeed in college life.

Student 2: Christopher A.
High School: Aragon High School
GPA: 4.0
Test Scores: Not reported.
Activities: Sports (swim team); working at a local science camp; 2-week long externship at a medical clinic; marine science internship; high school science educational volunteering.
Case Brief:

Christopher has a stellar GPA and strong extracurricular activities. However, his test scores are not reported here, indicating that they may represent a “wild card” on the application. Since standardized tests may be largely discounted in the Fall 2020 application cycle, Christopher must make the most of his essays and GPA in the absence of a reliably strong test score. A college counselor could help this San Mateo student shine, thereby standing out among other hard-working students with similar interests.

EMPOWERLY TIP: Keep an eye on the changing news and landscape surrounding test cancellations, but also have a back-up plan in place.

Student 3: Henry L.

High School: Atherton High School
GPA: 3.90.
Test Scores: ACT - 34
Activities: Interest in Computer Science.
Case Brief:

Henry is evidently a very intelligent, book-smart student who on paper demonstrates that he would thrive in an academically challenging environment. His interest in Computer Science seems to predict interest in applying to programs such as MIT, Stanford, or CalTech. However, Henry doesn’t report any extracurricular activities. Considering that many standard activities and programs have been canceled for the coming months, Henry will be in a uniquely difficult position of attempting to fill out his extracurricular resume with enough strength to live up to his GPA and ACT score. A college counselor would be able to research San Mateo programs that are still available, help Henry apply, and make the most of the activities he is able to write about on his application to ensure that his entire application reflects his strong potential.

EMPOWERLY TIP: Avoid placing too much emphasis on any one part of your application. A well-rounded profile demonstrates resilience.


As you can see from these examples, college counseling provides enormous benefits to students in the San Mateo area who want to level-up their college application. Organizations like Empowerly can provide tailored, individualized advice to coach students through the entire process from start to finish with minimal stress along the way. And since the student-to-counselor ratio of working with an Empowerly college counselor is so much lower than that of standard high schools, our students benefit from that magical ingredient that other students miss out on: the attention of a team of experts working directly on your personal case. 


If this sounds like what you need, be sure to schedule a time to consult with one of our enrollment experts to discover how we can help you!

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Topics: High School Academics, College Applications

Madeleine Karydes

Written by Madeleine Karydes

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