Applying to college is stressful. And it’s even more overwhelming when you’re facing the task alone, with no money to afford private tutoring sessions, SAT camps or college admission consultants.
Within the $6 billion college admissions market, new local startup IgnitED is trying to level the admissions playing field thanks to a simple premise: students who did succeed in their own college admission process can be a valuable resource for others with the same pursuit.
So, why not build a platform to connect their expertise with college applicants? Looks like a triple win-win: college students are paid for their time, applicants get affordable counseling and IgnitED takes home a fee.
As co-founder Mara Steiu pointed out, college admission counseling in the U.S. is very expensive. The average price for a private 1-hour tutoring session is $120. As for public schools, they do offer free college counseling services, but the demand for the average school counselor is overwhelming: he or she sees hundreds of students.
With the idea of offering personalized and affordable service, the company is building a network of college student mentors who are “the best students from the best schools in the United States,” Steiu said. “Mostly Ivy League, but also very selective schools.”
The three co-founders have a record of academic success themselves. Originally from Romania, Steiu was accepted into 11 international universities (including Bocconi University, University of Warwick and University of Richmond) with scholarships before enrolling to Babson. Fellow co-founders Larissa Moreira and Georgia Gabriela are on a full ride, respectively, at Babson and Stanford.
The company was freshly incubated in the latest summer batch of the Babson Summer Venture Program, the 10-week long program that accelerates the development of student ventures from Babson, Olin and Wellesley. The trio started developing the idea in March 2018.
Ideally, they hope to finance the company by charging students who need tutoring. During the summer, they tested the platform with six college students as mentors and 50 students as mentees, free of charge. This month, they started offering three pricing packages starting with a $60 hourly fee; mentors are paid $20 for each 1-hour session.
During their sessions, mentors and mentees mostly focus on writing and editing essays for admissions, from brainstorming ideas to coming up with evidence for their thesis.
“We’re also talking to a few school districts to see their availability to bring [our platform] to whole school systems,” Moreira said.