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I graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude, in 1995.  I went to an under-performing school in Southern California.  My SAT score back in 1991 was 1320 out of a total maximum of 1600 (highest English: 560, highest Math: 800).  It was always a mystery to me why I got in while many who had much better test scores and went to much better high schools didn’t make it to Harvard.

For 14 years I interviewed applicants for Harvard and witnessed many mistakes that students make in their high school planning and college application process.  I learned a few things and began to understand how the whole thing works.  I started College4.us as a website to help students about five years ago.

At the same time, I saw the rise of the college counseling industry and found many to be misleading.  They over-emphasize the importance of the test scores of standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT.  They do not teach students how to best utilize their time spent on extracurricular activities so they can gain knowledge and experience while becoming more attractive to the elite schools.  We end up with unhappy and over-stressed kids spending many hours trying to boost their SAT scores by another 100 points and running around trying to become more “well-rounded.”  And when they don’t get into the schools of their dreams, they blame themselves for not having tried harder.

There may be several reasons for why such misinformation are common among these companies.  Perhaps they really don’t understand how the top schools evaluate the applicants.  Or maybe they just want to push students towards test preparation because that’s how they make money.  No matter what the real reason is, our students are the ones who suffered while the parents waste tens of thousands of dollars trying to help them.

So I decided to resign from interviewing for Harvard and create a new kind of college counseling service.  Much of what I learned will be published online so all students regardless of their socioeconomic status and geographic location can benefit from it. They are being hosted on the website of Achieve Goals, an educational non-profit I started in 2014.  Over the next few months, I’ll add more content to the website.

For students who live near me, they can choose to subscribe to my college admissions counseling services.  I’ll create curriculum for a variety of topics to help them with school. I’ll teach them key learning, writing, and presentation skills so they can become better students and persons regardless of their college plans.   I’ll help them design extracurricular activities that will help them become better persons and students while having fun.  These activities will help them learn about the world, explore their interests and careers, and make them look more impressive on their college applications.  I’ll guide them in the high school planning and the college application process.  All at a price much lower than the other counseling services.  Why?  Because going to college isn’t everything.

I won’t be doing test preparation for standardized tests.  There are plenty of books and free or paid classes out there.  “No need to reinvent the wheel,” as people say.

I hope what I share on the website of Achieve Goals will get the attention of students, parents, and the college counseling industry.  My sincere hope is that people will see what really matter in the whole process and stop putting undue stress on our kids.  They need to know that they can be great students who go on to great colleges but still have fun and life outside of classrooms while in high school.

                                  George Huang

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