Applihood: College Counseling

When Catherine didn't get into her top school early action in high school, she panicked and applied to 17 schools during her winter break. She asked college friends at top schools for help, but most were too busy and few gave meaningful advice. Her parents tried to help by hiring an essay editor who claimed to have years of experience of helping students get into top schools, but he ended up editing Catherine's essays so much that they had lost Catherine's voice, losing her family hundreds of dollars.

One day, Catherine brought her essays to a friend's sister who was a Harvard grad to ask for feedback. Her friend's sister immediately dismissed one of her essays about learning how to delegate as the Student Government Association president. "Why are you writing about this?" she asked. "There are over 30,000 high schools in the U.S. and they all have a student government president." Only through hearing the Harvard grad talk about her friend's backgrounds did Catherine finally understand how to put together an effective college application.

Robert was a first-generation college student who decided in 8th grade that he wanted to attend MIT. Unfortunately, Robert's high school rarely sent students to top schools and he incorrectly assummed that doing well in jazz band and getting good grades would help him get there. In late sophomore year, Robert found an ad in the newspaper about a local science fair and entered using a music-related idea. After placing 4th in California that year, Robert was able to meet like-minded, ambitious students from competitive areas, including a friend that got into MIT who finally gave him perspective on what he needed to do to get into a top school.

There are so many misleading myths about what it takes to get into top schools, like the idea that you need to be "world-class" and prove it to get into schools like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. When working towards getting into top schools in high school, you are constructing a story about yourself that stands out to admissions counselors. You achieve to create experiences that help support this story using anecdotal evidence in your essays. Only students with the best stories or are the most outstanding in their background pool get in.

College counselors charge thousands of dollars and often give mediocre service - most of them have never actually attended a top school and don't have the perspective for what it takes to get in. Most students that qualify for top schools don't need grammar coaches and SAT tutors, they need straight-forward, honest feedback from an accomplished friend at a top school that can provide perspective about what to do in high school. By personally writing a 2-3 page response to your form submission on Applihood, our mission is to help you:

  • Gain perspective about what worked for our friends at top schools
  • Craft your narrative so that you have a unique story for your application
  • Gain perspective on how to make the most out of high school in the context of your life

Going to MIT changed our lives, and we want to help others get into their top schools so that they can share similar experiences. Our goal is to make college counseling cheaper and more efficient by helping students in the most critical way at the most critical time.


Catherine Zeng

Catherine studied CS at MIT, and she and Robert are currently living in San Francisco. She went to a performing arts high school in West Palm Beach, Florida and was a nationally acclaimed classical pianist. She was the state AP scholar of Florida, passing 22 AP exams. She applied to 19 schools, getting into MIT, Princeton, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, Wellesley, and more.

Robert Henning

Robert also studied CS at MIT. He was a first generation college student from San Diego, California who won a grand award in the embedded systems category at International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in high school. Robert was also active in First Robotics, Academic team, boy scouts, and played saxophone in band. He was accepted to every school he applied to: MIT, Caltech, Berkeley, and UCLA.