Applying to Highly Selective Colleges & Universities

An On-Demand online video course for high school students and families
Led by Tom Campbell (former Pomona College admissions officer) 

Learn More and Register

This past summer, we asked our community: “What area do you most need support with?”


The top answer? Highly selective admissions. By a landslide.

However, less than 1% of U.S. high school graduates enroll at the most selective colleges (the Ivies, MIT, Stanford, UChicago and Caltech, etc.) 
At the same time, these realities don’t stop students from applying in droves, despite this being just one of many paths students can take when applying to college.

So we thought: wouldn’t it be great if we offered a course that empowers and informs students with their sights set on selective schools, with an “inside look” at how these admissions decisions are made? And how to best advocate for themselves in the application process?

And so, the "Applying to Highly Selective Colleges" mini-course was born.


Led by Tom Campbell, this course covers all things highly selective admissions. Students and families will leave with a clearer understanding of the current selective admissions landscape (and what’s changed in recent years), an inside look at how admissions officers read applications, and case studies of successful applicants.


We'll help you:


Demystify the highly selective admissions process and gain clarity around what these institutions are looking for.


Learn how to demonstrate your unique skills, qualities, values and interests to highly selective institutions – and why that matters.


Bring more ease, purpose and joy to your college process – especially if you have your sights set on selective schools.


Applying to Highly Selective Colleges & Universities

An On-Demand Online Video Course by Tom Campbell of College Essay Guy


This course covers all things highly selective admissions: what these institutions are, what they offer, why you may consider applying, what they’re looking for, and how the process works.


We'll also cover:

  • Data that helps illustrate the reality of applicant pools at highly selective institutions
  • Visuals and analogies to help better understand the nuances of the competitive college landscape
  • Case studies and examples of students who’ve been successfully admitted to highly selective institutions (as well as examples from competitive applicants who were rejected)
  • A “behind the curtain” look at the most common reading process and workflow at highly selective colleges (called Committee Based Evaluation)
  • Brainstorming exercises and writing techniques to help you crush one of the things you have the most control over when applying to selective colleges: your story
  • Lots more
Register | Applying to Highly Selective Colleges and Universities

We'll help students and parents answer questions like:

  • What are admission officers looking for?
  • Who typically attends these types of schools?
  • How different are the application processes and priorities at these schools? Why are they so competitive?
  • How much do the different application components (courses, grades, test scores, activities, recommendations) matter?
  • Is it possible to “chance” myself at these colleges?
  • I’m an international student with high financial need, and highly selective institutions tend to be the only ones with aid policies that would fully fund me. How does my process differ?
  • What are the biggest myths about highly selective admissions?
  • How much do “hooks” matter at highly selective colleges? And if I don’t have a hook, what should I do?
  • Is applying to highly selective colleges even worth it?
  • What types of scholarships are available at highly selective colleges?
  • What role do essays play at highly selective colleges?
  • How many of these schools should I apply to, and how do I juggle all the work that comes along with it?
  • What do successful applications look like and what do these applicants do differently?
  • If I started thinking about this relatively late, is it “too late” for me to be competitive—and how can I know?
  • How many highly selectives should I apply to (if I do decide to apply)? How many schools in general?
  • Is test-optional legit?

What folks are saying about our online courses:


“CEG is undoubtedly the best resource for anxious college applicants. They make the process exponentially easier, less stressful, and rewarding to go through. If you're on the fence about it, go ahead and commit. Every person involved genuinely wants the best for their applicant and will do their best every time they meet with you."


- Brandi F.


“Starting these courses, I thought I was prepared to put together a good application, but I'm able to recognize now that my application and essays would have been pretty lifeless. Now I have strong, unique essays and a cohesive application that I hope will help to make me a much more competitive applicant at selective schools.”

- Natalie

"I had no idea how to structure my essays, what content to use, and the appropriate language to include before using Ethan's course. I would definitely recommend these courses to anyone during any stage of the college application process! The videos were very professional and surprisingly enjoyable, and he includes several handy resources and guides to jumpstart your brainstorming and finish your essays!"

- Gwynn


Meet Your Facilitator

Tom Campbell has reviewed thousands of college essays and applications and interviewed countless students as an admissions officer at Pomona College and the College of the Holy Cross. He also works on CEG's internal college essay review committee where he provides insight and practical feedback on college essays and applications. He has also worked as a college counselor at a selective independent high school and understands how challenging writing about oneself can be and how high stakes it can feel — you’ll find nothing but empathy and solidarity from him as you craft your narrative.


Watch a preview of the course

In this clip, Tom covers what students can do when they don't have a 'hook' or meet one of a college's institutional priorities.


Discover what colleges are looking for and how to stand out.

One Time Payment

Access to the Full Course

Recordings of Live Sessions & Q&A 

PDF Resources

Register - $297.00

Payment Plan

Access to the Full Course

Recordings of Live Sessions Q&A 

PDF Resources

Register - $99 x 3 months

“College Essay Guy reduced our family's stress, increased my daughter's confidence, and kept her on schedule while helping her create fantastic essays that reflected her personality and future goals--priceless!”

  -Sarah, parent

This course is pay-what-you-can.

Access is really important to me. In fact, it’s at the heart of most of everything I do. It’s why I’m offering pay-what-you-can spots for any family who can't afford the sticker price.

If that’s you, request a pay-what-you-can spot.

Don’t be shy; we’d love to have you.

Request a pay-what-you can spot

Frequently Asked Questions