Law students launch admissions prep company

When Noah Greenfield LAW ’16 and Joel Butterly LAW ’16 sat next to one another at their law school orientation in the fall of 2012, neither expected to leave the lecture hall with a newly hatched business plan for an admissions prep company.

Nearly two years later, the duo’s startup — an admissions consulting company called InGenius Prep — advises clients from all over the world and recently began a partnership with Teach for America. Launched last spring, InGenius Prep aims to get students who might otherwise not have access to specialized counseling into elite colleges and graduate schools, Greenfield said.

“We help people be more strategic and more ambitious in their applications,” Greenfield said. “We help give people the best chances when they’re thinking about their educational opportunities.”

According to Greenfield, Butterly and their business partner, David Mainiero, InGenius differs from other admissions prep companies in two important ways. First, the consultants InGenius hires are all former deans and admissions directors from the country’s top universities. Second, clients can access InGenius resources for a fraction of the cost they might have to pay elsewhere.

Greenfield said employing those most familiar with the application process only strengthens the legitimacy of InGenius’s services. He added that former admissions officers “have the best insight and can give the people the best advice because they literally designed the process.”

Divided into four divisions — undergraduate, law, business and medicine — InGenius conducts all of its consulting online. Butterly compared the model to Google Apps, where multiple users can review documents and host video chats simultaneously. The approach allows consultants to work with clients worldwide while acting as if they share the same room, Butterly said.

Greenfield said one of the key issues students face is that they are not given proper guidance early on and therefore are not always in a position to create compelling applications. For example, Greenfield said many pre-med students get rejected from medical schools because they lacked proper counseling during their undergraduate years.

Mainiero said 40 to 50 percent of InGenius’s clients are international students, and the company maintains a presence in China, New Zealand and Korea. Butterly added that last year, 97.5 percent of clients were admitted to one of their top two choice schools.

The company offers several packages with varying degrees of consulting, though every client is assigned to one former admissions officer and one “graduate coach.” Graduate coaches are either current graduate students or those who have recently received a professional degree.

Mainiero, a second-year law school student at Harvard, said InGenius is highly selective when choosing its graduate coaches. Coaches come from top professional schools themselves and go through a rigorous training process, he said.

Among the main objectives of InGenius is to target students with the potential to attend and succeed at the country’s top schools but who may not be able to afford similar admissions consulting. For this reason, Greenfield said the company will meet clients at their economic level, even handling some cases pro bono.

“A lot of these services are priced so prohibitively high that only the wealthy and privileged could afford them,” Butterly said. “[InGenius Prep] is really about being able to provide a service that is accessible to a much broader demographic.”

Greenfield and Mainiero spoke of a former client who grew up illiterate and had little formal schooling before college. Though the student did not have a remarkable GPA or LSAT scores, his compelling story earned him a place at Harvard Law School.

InGenius is also looking to expand through partnerships with other education initiatives around the world, most recently with Teach For America and the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance. Through Teach For America, the company aims to train teachers on how to effectively prepare students for college. InGenius’s work with the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance focuses on keeping students engaged in debate, which is often an expensive extracurricular, and empower at-risk students to seek higher education, Mainiero said.

After graduating from law school, Greenfield, Butterly and Mainiero said they plan to work on InGenius full time.

InGenius Prep launched in May 2013.

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