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Sierra Admissions Client Stories

No two of our students are alike. Every year, we help clients apply to programs across the country in STEM, Humanities, and Social Sciences disciplines. Again and again, our work comes back to the same question: how can we help create a cohesive narrative from the diverse details of an applicant's experience and resume? A narrative that is both honest to the student's life and resonant with admissions officers?

To give you a sense of the diversity of our work, we've selected a few illustrative stories from recent clients. The best part of our job is the puzzle of working out a strategy from scratch. You can see that on display here. If you want to see our clients' feedback in their own words, or their results, head over to our Wall of Love


Aarush M.
Despite having a stronger resume in computer science, Aarush wanted to apply to engineering or pure math programs. We helped him develop a strong strategic narrative that looked past the lack of engineering experience and earned him a place in some of the top engineering programs in the country. 

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Aarush was a thoughtful, skilled writer who came to us believing that he needed to write about his extracurricular achievements repeatedly to make up for what he saw as a deficit in his resume. He suffered from a crisis of confidence, fearing his CS-oriented resume would disqualify him from engineering / math admissions pools. 

Our first goal was to understand the story behind the resume. After numerous sessions with Aarush, he told us about his years-long project of keeping a detailed daily journal about his life and his intense childhood experiences with health issues.

Along with his experiences building robotics applications as a kid, these personal stories allowed Aarush to weave together a story that balanced his academic and extracurricular passions with the unique personal values and experiences that made him shine as a candidate.

Marina S.
Marina was uncertain about what she wanted to study in college. We helped her assemble her personal background together with a standout extracurricular experience to craft a balanced narrative. 

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Marina had a strong (but less-than-perfect) academic record and extracurriculars that straddled psychology and social justice. However, none of her extracurriculars were at a national or international level. One organization, however, seemed promising: a volunteer arrangement with a social justice organization that we encouraged her to turn into an internship.

As her work with the organization deepened over Fall, we worked with Marina to craft several essays focused on her extracurricular work and newfound interest in prison abolition. Several colleges that admitted Marina sent her personal letters acknowledging that her interest in this important field was a strong motivating factor for her acceptance. 

Marina's powerful personal statement about a challenging family experience and her purposeful supplemental essays about her internship led to a powerful, well-rounded application that garnered wins at more than a dozen amazing schools. 

Nelly P.
Nelly worked with us to craft a more honest and powerful personal statement that reflected on her achievements in a vunlerable, human light. 

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Nelly wasn't sure if she wanted to study business or political science in college. Her resume strongly tilted toward the former, having started a successful small business and led the investing club at her school. 

However, when we started meeting, Nelly was fixated on parts of her application that we were less taken by. She told us how meaningful her small business was to her, yet felt compelled to write about her club leadership position in her personal statement. 

Nelly took a leap of faith and wrote about her business and the challenges of being a sustainably-minded entrepreneur. Her personal statement was open-ended and honest about not having all the answers. We worked together to also tell the story of her extracurricular involvement in her supplemental statements.

In the end, Nelly had a set of essays that showed her intellectual honesty, her commitment to "doing the work," and her desire to connect seemingly disparate areas of her experience in her college education.

Driv B.
Driv was a high-achieving student with national accolades in research, debate, and volunteering. We worked with him to apply to 20+ highly-selective institutions with a focus on BS/MD admissions. He was accepted to several of the most competitive programs in the country. 

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Driv's resume spoke for itself. The problem? He was unsure how to craft a personal statement and set of essays that emphasized his outsized resume achievements while remaining personal and human. 

It was also challenging for him to decide what to write about. He had equally impressive accomplishments in debate, music, research, and community involvement. He felt sure that each item on his resume had a place in his application. And with over 20 applications to submit, there would be ample space to write about each of them. 

Our job was to help him triage his topics into a manageable, strategic narrative framework. Our goal was to help him showcase his natural brilliance and high achievement in a way that portrayed his thoughtfulness and genuine spirit of care. 

We also had to help him craft answers to the extremely lengthy BS/MD applications - programs with the most competitive acceptance rates in the country. Ultimately, he was able to strike a powerful balance in his application that emphasized his commitment to research, his artistic sensibility, and his grounded interest in committing to the life of a physician. His results speak for themselves, and he is now attending Stanford as an undergraduate. 

John S.
John was divided between studying business and literature. He wanted to attend a well-known school that offered curricular flexibility and an unparalleled liberal arts education.

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John's engagement in high school was all over the place.

He was deeply engaged in his humanities coursework and particularly passionate about his English and World Literature classes. 

On the other hand, he had multiple business-focused internships and knew his way around a mechanics' garage. 

John also didn't know exactly what he wanted to study. Given his eclectic interests, we helped him make the decision to focus his application on World Literature, connecting his diverse family heritage up with his work in the classroom. His personal statement talked about his family milieu, while his supplemental essays expanded on his various academic and extracurricular interests. They all came back to a common theme -- his passion for language as a tool to explore the world. 

Apolline B.
Apolline was a precocious academic who had completed multiple internships in comparative literature with leading professors around the US. She was intent on studying literature at Yale.  

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Apolline's file showed a unique combination of advanced academic apprehension and community service. During the pandemic she created a program that helped foster literacy in her community after libraries shut down. She had also worked under a leading classicist at a mid-Western university, helping her translate the work of a classical orator from Latin to English. 

Our work focused on bringing the threads of her application together into one impassioned narrative about the power of words. Her personal essay was focused on her experiences in the debate arena, reflecting on the parallels between her verbal sparring and the classical thinkers she was interested in studying. 

We also helped her develop essays about her volunteer work, focusing on the power of community to create open spaces for reading and learning. 

Lucian R.
Lucian was not a sure thing for Cornell Engineering. He had a strong engineering resume but needed a narrative edge to help define who he would be on campus. 

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Our work with Lucian focused on helping him show admissions officers that his commitment to engineering went beyond his technical skills. 

A skilled athlete, Lucian brought together his soccer accolades with his engineering stories to show a common theme of teamwork and mutual support for his peers. 

His application focused on his engineering chops - but also his lifelong quest to innovate, and the struggles and self-doubt he faced when he came up short of his own high standards. We knew his top choice was Cornell Engineering, so we pushed him to reflect on his role as a utility player and good teammate. Our goal was for Lucian to shine as not just a great future bench engineer, but as a strong member of a collegial community. 

Shilah P.
Shilah combined student government work with CS internships and a focus on creating more representation in the CS field for women and minorities. 

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Shilah had her focus set on some of the most competitive computer science schools in the country. And while she had the grades to hit the mark, she was floundering when it came to her essays and narrative strategy. 

We worked with her to develop a truly unique personal statement that combined her activities in student government with her work as a programmer. She highlighted the two sides of her problem-solving: one, in student government, was focused on creating solutions to the problems that hindered her classmates; the other, as a computer scientist, tackled more abstract and intellectual problems with CS itself.

The parallel helped her stand out as a community-minded problem solver who was both deeply committed to academics and would make a vibrant addition to any university community. 

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