Conquering the College Essay

submission by mariawv

About Your Application

Organization(s) name(s):


Organization(s) website(s):

Organization(s) twitter handle(s):

Organization(s) facebook handle(s):

Describe Your Organization(s)

Non-profit organization

For-profit organization


Other (please specify below):


Woman & minority-led software startup

In one sentence, please describe what your organization does.


Leveling the admissions playing field via an online series of interactive tools that guides individual users through a customized path to write great college essays, get strong recommendations, etc.

In one to three sentences, please describe your proposal.


The ApplicantLab essay-writing software tool is currently live for MBA candidates, but my dream is to expand it for college applications also. This money could help me "pivot" my existing tool to adapt it for high schoolers; I could offer it for free for LAUSD students and thus help expand pathways to college. "Admissions Consultants" charge thousands to help with essay-writing; ApplicantLab can level the playing field!

Where will you be working? Please be specific (e.g. Third Street Middle School; Boyle Heights; LA County).

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA


South Bay

Antelope Valley

County of Los Angeles (countywide)

City of Los Angeles (citywide)


Other (please specify below):

How do you plan to use these resources to make change? (check all that apply)

Conduct research

Engage residents and stakeholders

Implement a pilot or new project

Expand a pilot or program

Mobilize for systems change

Advocate with policymakers and leaders

Implement and track policy

Other (please specify below):

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics? (check all that apply)

Percentage of children enrolled in early education programs

Percentage of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years

Youth unemployment and underemployment

District-wide graduation rates

HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math

Academic Performance Index* scores

College matriculation rates

Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher education institutions, and the workforce) (Dream Metric)

Suspension and expulsion rates (Dream Metric)

Truancy rates in elementary and middle schools (Dream Metric)

Students perceived sense of safety at and on the way to school (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.


This grant money will help me adapt the product and test it out -- I would then offer it to LAUSD students for free. This would give them an advantage in college applications vs. their peers from other cities who face similar resource constraints (e.g., dire counselor-to-student ratios), but who would not have accesss to advice like this.

I think the college essay intimidates kids and totally stresses them out -- and I see repeated, common mistakes in essays that might be keeping kids from being accepted to the best college possible. Students need a tool to teach them how to tell their story in an effective, compelling way that will make college admissions officers (and their scholarship-granting counterparts) take notice.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.


I envision the project unfolding over three key phases in 2016:

Phase 1: basic research, spring of 2016 -- meet with LAUSD counselors / English teachersto learn their tips for college essays. We will thus amalgamate "best practices" from LAUSD's finest. Meet with students who have recently completed the college process to learn which challenges they faced.

Metric of success: a product plan with concrete deliverables.

Phase 2: development, summer of 2016 -- take the feedback from Phase 1 back to my developers and UX designer and iteratively create the new product, getting constant feedback along the way. Hire LAUSD students to help (internships!).

Metric of success: software developed & delivered to LAUSD

Phase 3: launch, autumn of 2016 -- make the product available to help with the UC and "Common App" essays. View this as a prototype/pilot: get feedback & iterate!

Metric of success: successful pilot + tons of feedback + college acceptances!

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed? (check all that apply)

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)


Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)

Community outreach

Network/relationship support

Quality improvement research

Other (please specify below):


Acccess to LAUSD

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Submission Began
Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Submission Ended
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
at 07:00 PM UTC

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Voting Began
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Voting Ended
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
at 08:00 PM UTC

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Winner Announced
Tuesday, December 08, 2015