I still remember dedicating hours of my senior year to perfecting my college applications.
From filling out tedious information about my extra-curricular activities to working to perfect my essays, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the whole process.
Former Early American Literature Professor Dr. Bernstein has now dedicated her time to helping young people get into the college of their dreams. Her mission is to transform the overwhelming college preparation and application process into a meaningful experience. As someone who has experienced the college application process recently, I understand her work is extremely helpful to both students and parents.
I truly believe her business is making a difference, one student at a time. I got the chance to ask her about the inspiration behind her work and some great advice about college admissions!
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and the journey that led to the development of Get Yourself Into College Inc.
Dr. Jennifer Bernstein: Get Yourself Into College Inc. emerged in response to a major turning point in my life.
The 15 amazing but ultimately exhausting years I’d spent in academia took their toll when I earned a senior research fellowship at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion.
I crashed. I was so burnt out that I couldn’t write. I knew that I had to figure out two things: What mattered most to me and where I was making the biggest positive difference.
What I discovered is that even though I loved my research and teaching, it was mentoring that really changed everything—for me and for my students. Mentoring allowed me to take into account the totality of my students’ lives—their aspirations, challenges, successes, failures, uncertainties, feelings, families, and values. I also realized how much I love helping students create interesting action plans, develop and implement passion projects, and craft application essays for graduate school, scholarships, and internships.
It was around this time that I began working with some high school students on their college applications.
What’s your company’s mission and what inspired you to create this movement?
JB: There’s a disempowering frenzy around the college admissions process, but the application actually provides you with an extraordinary opportunity to develop perspective on yourself and take charge of your future.
I’m on a mission to use my method to help students transform the overwhelming college preparation and application process into a meaningful, exciting, and empowering experience.
What have been some of the highlights of your work so far? What about challenges you’ve faced?
JB: My students have experienced a great deal of success getting into their dream schools and earning very substantial merit-based scholarships. Last year, they were awarded $1.9 million in scholarships. Nine of them were offered full-tuition scholarships. Obviously, their successes make me happy.
But the real highlight is being there with my students as they craft their personal narratives, see their own potential, and stretch past their limitations. There’s plenty of confusion and setbacks in the process, but they emerge from the process with a clearer sense of themselves and their power.
My big challenge is a personal one. Successful mentors don’t just talk the talk—they walk the walk—and that means that I’ve got to keep tapping into my own potential, addressing my weaknesses, and creating my own meaningful, exciting life. I’m a workaholic and love my work, so it would be so easy for me to spend my entire day and a big chunk of my evening working. However, I’m learning how to let myself chill out more, go on adventures with my husband and daughter, spend more time reading for pleasure, and get more involved in my community.
What advice would you have for parents whose students are gearing up to apply for college?
JB: My number one piece of advice is to have open-ended, supportive conversations with your children. Express curiosity about their interests and goals. Ask them about their hopes and expectations for college. Don’t be afraid to talk about the cost of college and the implications it has for your family. Embrace the way this experience can help you make a smoother transition into the next phase of your relationship with your child.
What are a few things students can do to set themselves apart and make their application unique?
JB: Don’t take the Common Application essay topics so literally. You need to come up with interesting angles on them in order to avoid saying the same basic things as everyone else. You have creative license with the prompts.
Anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes! You need to create very vivid, specific, and true stories that strike a balance between showing and telling. Help readers see what you’re describing and take them behind the scenes in your process of making sense of your experiences.
This is a stressful time of year for many high school seniors because they are starting to receive decisions from colleges. What is your advice to those students?
JB: The most important thing to realize is that your intelligence, value, and future are not determined by decisions made by admissions committees. You’re just at the beginning of the next exciting leg of your journey.
Personally, what has kept you motivated to continue your work and push your mission?
JB: What keeps me motivated is that I know I’m doing something more than just supporting students in the process of preparing for and applying to college. Lots of people focus on the “get into college” part of my company’s name, but it’s the “yourself” that’s most important.
What words of advice would you have for a young woman looking to start her own business?
JB: Go for it. Focus on creating the best possible product or service that truly meets the needs of your market. Connect with other young women who have started their own companies. Join local or online groups for young entrepreneurs and business people. Cultivate a network of supportive individuals and stay in touch with them by meeting in person or online. Share your mission, your “why,” with people. Take pleasure in the time and hard work that’s involved in launching, running, and growing your business.