Learning is a way of life for Angela Choy.
The 35-year-old entrepreneur and Earnest client has already picked up two engineering degrees from top universities: a BS from University of California, Berkeley and an MS from San Jose State University. She also earned an MBA from Santa Clara University in 2013.
But her real education, perhaps, was in learning to navigate all the twists and turns of the application system on her own.
“When I was high school I didn’t have anyone helping me plan for college,” she recalls. “I was lucky to have a teacher who saw my potential and offered to help me.”
Now Choy wants to help other high schoolers, who, like her, don’t have access to good college counselors at school or to paid consultants. She started online platform Edmission in 2016 to help provide personalized and affordable college admission advice to students across the country.
Edmission—which she is building as a side project while she works full-time in project management in the healthcare industry—isn’t just about helping others achieve the dream of higher education, it also represents her own path to success.
An Entrepreneurial Spirit
Choy arrived in the United States with her family in 1999 from Hong Kong. Her English language was limited—and instead of attending high school immediately she had to work in a bakery to help support the family.
While that first year transitioning to life in a new country was difficult, her hunger for knowledge prevailed. She made it through one of the most competitive applicant pools to gain entrance at Berkeley. Last year, for example, nearly 79,000 students applied for the UC Berkeley freshman class and only 16% were offered admission, according to the university.
Getting into a top school has never been so competitive or anxiety inducing even compared to just a decade ago. Meanwhile, quality college counseling, especially at cash-strapped public schools, is getting scarcer.
There is only one counselor per 470 students on average in public high schools in the United States, reports the American Counseling Association. And even when a student does get face time, he or she receive only 38 minutes of advising per year, according to the National Association of College Admission Counseling.
Parents who can afford private counselors might pay between $5,000 and $40,000 to help their student select colleges, write essays, take the SAT, and more.
Helping Students with Admissions Profiles
Edmission’s goal is to ensure that every student can access a higher level of college counseling.
Using the platform, which is free, high school students will be able to “build an admissions profile starting in ninth grade and then they can track their progress and celebrate milestones. Based on their profile data such as GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, interested colleges, and more, Edmission will generate personalized recommendations to help these students reach the goals,” she says.
“Students are applying to more and more schools these days, and some even apply to as many as 40 to 50 schools,” she says. “It’s so competitive they want every advantage; they are studying hard and then there are extracurriculars.”
Students, Choy says, too often only use rankings to apply for schools because there is so much information and it’s overwhelming to navigate. Edmission, she says, will reduce the noise so that students can pinpoint exactly which schools are the best fit. “We created the product with busy students and parents in mind,” she says.
Meanwhile, there’s another reality after the acceptance letter: paying for school. Finding scholarships and grants, identifying the right loans, and then budgeting carefully—all services Choy hopes will eventually be part of the Edmission platform.
After graduation, refinancing can help with cost control too, which Choy knows about personally.
Choy herself is still paying off student loans from her MBA degree and refinanced her loans with Earnest in 2016. With two young kids and a new startup growing on the side, improving the terms of her monthly payment brought peace of mind.
“Knowing I can get my student loans paid off within five years makes me feel that I am making progress.”
“The interest payment is a lot less now,” she says about moving from 6.8% federal loan rates to less than 4% on her new loan after refinancing. “Knowing I can get my student loans paid off within five years makes me feel that I am making progress.”
While the Edmission site is in early days, Choy’s vision is clear: for every student to pursue higher education and for Edmission to empower them during the college admission journey.