My name is Michael Gao, and I just went through the college admissions process. The process was hard: too hard. Now, I want to help others applying for selective colleges by giving them the best and most recent advice possible. A lot of people have a lot of advice to give about college applications and test prep. Only a few have actually done it.

I now run Dewey Smart, a premiere college prep service. We take a near-peer model, which means our counselors are current college students. We’ve built a leadership team with over 50+ years of combined experience. We bring the best of both worlds: relatable counselors who just went through the process, led by admissions veterans.

I’m a junior at Columbia University, but I was also accepted to many other top schools including Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, Vanderbilt University, Emory University, Duke University, and Rice University. I was admitted to and received full merit-based scholarships to the University of Southern California, Swarthmore College, University of Texas’ McCombs Business School, University of Texas at Dallas, Fordham University, and the University of Virginia.

In high school, I was a National Merit Scholar Finalist and the valedictorian of my class. I played viola in my school’s orchestra and was a nationally-ranked debater. I was the president of my school’s National Honor Society and City House’s Youth Advisory Board. My diverse extracurricular, volunteer, and academic experiences will let me advise any student on how to capitalize on their accomplishments and activities.

As a recent high school graduate, I understand the difficulty of maintaining good grades, participating in extracurricular activities, carving out time for a social life, and also writing the dozens of essays the college application process may require. I’ll help my students maximize their time by focusing on what counts.

I know this process is hard because I remember the long and frantic hours writing essays and finalizing my Common App. Now, I want to make it easier for you.