When she was 12, Katie Fang left China to study in the United States. From there, she went to Australia, to continue her English studies, and she has since lived and studied in the United Kingdom and Canada. Along the way, she learned a thing or two about applying for colleges and private schools, and now, she’s running a company calledSchooLinks, a site designed to help students navigate the rather confusing world of college admissions and scholarship applications, hoping to make life easier for the rest of world’s students.
The service invites students fill out a profile outlining their academic history and goals, and using this data, it recommends schools that they might be interested in and scholarships they might be qualified for. Students can then add schools to a “wish list,” which feeds application deadlines to their online calendar. Student profiles aren’t open to the public, but they’re visible to college recruiters, who can pay to search for students based on their academic background.
For years, parents and students who want more support in making educational decisions than an overworked high school guidance counselor can provide have turned to educational consultants and admission coaches. For a fee, these consultants advise students on everything from what high school classes to take and which extracurricular activities to participate in to be competitive when applying for colleges, which schools to apply to and how to to write their application essays. These consultants can be expensive—some charge tens of thousands of dollars. Fang wants to turn this businesses on its head, providing access to high quality information about education options without the exorbitant fees.
“Families are paying between $2,000 to $10,000 for consultants, but a private university is paying around $2,600 per student acquisition,” she says. “That’s insane. What if they were putting that back into the educational experience?” That said, consultants will be able to pay SchooLinks to market their services, which could bring a more human touch. “When students have questions they’re embarrassed to ask an admissions counselor, they’ll be able to ask a consultant,” Fang says.
She started building SchooLinks last May, shortly after graduating from the University of British Columbia. Fang came up with the idea while advising friends and family about what schools to apply to, what they looked for, and how to succeed once they were accepted. At first, she offered her advice for free, but eventually she started accepting referral fees from schools. “I thought: ‘I know how to code, so what if I built a site that did this automatically?'” she explains.
Fang is the CEO, but she calls herself a “full stack” entrepreneur, handling everything from user experience to programming to financial planning. “I love coding,” she says. “If I didn’t know how to code I doubt I would get this far.”
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