Justin Lafazan started doing college research in 9th grade, setting his eyes on his dream school, The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He spent hours meeting with deans of programs and finding out how to get his application noticed. His hard work and diligence paid off and he was accepted into Wharton.
But something still bothered Lafazan. While he had gotten into his dream school, his equally talented, intelligent peers were getting rejection letters.
“I noticed that kids hiring college advisors were getting into better schools,” Lafazan, a Syosset resident, says. “Kids hiring expensive advisors were getting into better schools and those who couldn’t afford them weren’t getting in, and that didn’t sit right with me.”
Lafazan started building up a network of high school seniors across Long Island who had a great understanding of the admissions process and wanted to give back. Along with nine other seniors, he started Students4Students, a full service college admissions group that helps students focus their college search and get into their dream schools.
The advisors are comprised of about 70 students at top schools such as Yale, Dartmouth, University of Michigan and Harvard. Some students are freshman and sophomores, who have been through the admissions process while others are juniors and seniors who intern at admissions offices at colleges and get to see what happens behind the scenes.
“Our advisors are students at college who know about academic life and have a good knowledge of that college. We also have students interning in the admissions office, which is as close as we can legally and ethically go. These students get a background look at exactly what advisors are looking for,” says Lafazan.
One such advisor is Erin Gross from Plainview. Gross is currently a student at Cornell and says she got involved with Students4Students because she wanted to share all she had learned about the application process.
“I love that I can take what I learn and help people get into their dream school,” Gross says. “Our advantage is if a student applies to schools, we are there or we know people there. We have access to information like student life and what the campus is like.”
Students4Students is currently working with about 40 students, who range from sophomores in high school to college freshman. The clients come from both private and public schools, with most of them coming from Westbury, Syosset, Jericho, Plainview, Roslyn, and Dix Hills. The process starts with an intake meeting, where a Students4Students advisor will meet with the student and according to Lafazan, “get a holistic view of what the kid is like.”
“We talk about their passions, activities, analyze their grades, and get a feel of the kid and what makes them unique,” he says.
After that, the advisor works with the student to set up a college list of safety schools (which will be easy for them to get into), target schools (on the student’s level) and reach schools (which would require an exceptional application). They talk to people at colleges and take tours of campuses nationwide.
Lafazan says one of the most important components of any college application is the essay. Students4Students advisors will work with the students to brainstorm essay topics and then help them edit it to make sure it stands out.
“We have students send it in and then pass it around our team. If a student wants to go to Cornell, we have a student from Cornell look at the essay and then we send it back with edits and recommendations,” says Lafazan. “We do it as many times as it takes to get that perfect college essay.”
Advisors work with a maximum of three students at a time, and Lafazan says the process isn’t over until the student is settled into their freshman year.
“Our job does not stop until you’re happy in your freshman year. We stay with you full service, from the day you sign on until you’re happy in your freshman year,” he says.
And while college advisors can typically cost a family thousands of dollars, Lafazan says the goal with Students4Students is to keep it affordable for families. The base fee is $800, which includes common application essays, college search and the intake meeting. Additional fees are charged per school, which varies on how much time and work is required.
“College advising is a new field,” says Lafazan, who graduated from Syosset High School this past June and is on a gap year to try to grow Students4Students. “We have relevant, real experience that we want to leverage to help kids understand the process.”
Find out more at www.S4SCollegeAdvisory.com