A 4.0 GPA and perfect standardized test scores won’t get your kid from Horace Mann into Harvard. Christopher Rim had neither, yet was the only student from over a dozen at his high school that was accepted to Yale. “Don’t waste your time,” Christopher’s high school guidance counselor replied when he declared he was applying to the elite New Haven school. Christopher knew he lacked the perfect numbers Ivy League schools reputably desired, but he also knew that his unique extracurricular activities made him stand out among his peers. Perhaps Yale recognized Christopher’s entrepreneurial spirit, which led him to start a tutoring company in 8th grade, a global non-profit organization in high school, and, after Yale, Command Education – the nation’s leading educational consulting company.
How It All Started
The ambitious spirit that helped land now twenty-four-year-old Christopher in the Ivy League was apparent early on. In the eighth grade, Christopher placed out of mathematics and into a class where he was asked to work on a year-long project building a website. He decided to create a website for a math tutoring company. While his friends bagged groceries at Englewood’s local grocery store, fourteen-year-old Christopher grew his first business. That winter, the Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall was so impressed that they offered Christopher free ad space on the billboard in front of the mall’s Sephora.
Three years later, a family friend committed suicide as a result of severe bullying, and Christopher knew he had to take action. He started It Ends Today, a global non-profit organization with the aim of educating students on the harmful effects of bullying, and the ways in which students and teachers alike can improve school climate and culture. The organization made an impact on both a local and national level, expanding into over a dozen chapters across the U.S.
What Top Colleges Are Looking For
By the time Christopher applied to Yale, college admissions had evolved from admitting legacy students in the 1950s and stereotypically well-rounded students in the 1990s to recognizing passion and impact in the early 21st century. Schools were no longer looking for well-rounded students. They now searched for students with a singular focus, a “hook”, who would add unique value to their college communities.
The fall after he was admitted to Yale, underclassmen from Christopher’s high school asked for his assistance with their applications, and he obliged. Unbeknownst to Christopher, Command Education’s foundation was laid. The first student that he helped was admitted to MIT, the second student to Stanford. These acceptances built Christopher’s credibility among New Jersey and New York parent groups. During his sophomore year, Christopher successfully guided thirty students through the college admissions process.
By the time he graduated from Yale, Christopher noticed that students applying from elite private schools like Horace Mann or boarding schools like Deerfield were struggling with college admissions. One distressed private school parent came to Christopher this year to register their younger son. The year before, her high achieving daughter, who had near perfect GPA and perfect SAT and SAT II Subject Tests, was deferred and ultimately rejected from all of her top reaches. In the face of brutal competition, the students who tended to be offered the coveted spots at Ivy League and other top tier schools were athletic recruits, children of double legacy families, or minority students. Christopher wanted to help the students who fell between the cracks to stand out amongst their peers. He knew that the key to receiving admission to college was no longer just earning perfect grades and test scores, but making an impact within a student’s school and community.
Emotional Intelligence at Yale
Christopher’s mentoring philosophy was heavily informed by his college studies. At Yale, Christopher studied psychology under Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. As a research assistant, Christopher helped conduct a school climate survey of 44,000 high school students. The survey found that 75% of the words that students used to describe how they felt at school were negative. The most common words used were “tired,” “stressed,” and “bored.”
If this is how students felt at school, then Christopher knew they weren’t maximizing their potential. Christopher wanted his work with students to help them feel just the opposite. He knew acting on his passions as a high school student had led to his happiness and success, and wanted to help his students find their own interests. So, Christopher developed a highly individualized mentoring style by spending time exploring and developing each student’s unique passions and ambitions.
Today, this philosophy lies at the core of Command Education’s mentoring. Christopher says mentoring relationships are successful because students can relate to their hand-picked, near-peer mentors, who themselves are recent graduates of Ivy League and top tier colleges. Each mentor brings with them the unique experiences that got them admitted to their top schools. Though students receive one primary mentor, Christopher explains that the twelve mentors are always available for each student. If a student’s project may benefit from a second mentor with a different expertise, that mentor will be brought on to collaborate. Student writing is often edited by two sets of eyes and senior college application work is always reviewed by two mentors. So, each student has a full team helping them succeed.
Beyond College Consulting
Command’s team of mentors spend time getting to know their students to provide an individualized mentoring experience. In a process Christopher calls “finding a hook,” mentors work with students to identify and develop their passions, which they are encouraged to explore in the classroom and community. They guide their students to focus and excel academically, boost their confidence, and excite them about potential lifelong passions. Work with students often includes helping them to pick courses and decide where to volunteer, research, or intern. They help students develop, their passions through summer programs, like researching their interests with professors, graduate students or postdoctoral fellows at local universities and attending programs tailored to their interests.
Mentors and students meet regularly, discussing big picture hopes and dreams, upcoming summer plans, and plan long-term standardized test schedules and college visits. They also discuss day to day matters like study habits and grades, the importance of time management, stress management, and a healthy balance of work and fun. One student Kevin, who asked not to use his last name, said of his Command experience, “My mentor coached me to improve my writing skills immensely & provided me with sincere emotional support during stressful periods. By far the best form of counseling I’ve had in my life!”
In exploring their passions, students also work with Command’s full-service in-house marketing team, which includes designers and a web developer. This team helps students expand their projects by building a website, developing branding and social media strategy, and recruiting press for student accomplishments. The team has helped students develop websites, magazines, publications, brochures, and much more.
A Formidable Team
Command has grown since Christopher founded it in his Yale dorm room in 2015, and is now comprised of three partners and twelve mentors. Christopher met Wafa Muflahi when they were both students at Yale. She was a gifted writer and easy to talk to, so Christopher knew Wafa would put high school students at ease and asked her to come on board as his partner. In 2017, Christopher met Roberta Seiler, start-up consultant, and two became three. By then, Command found its headquarters in Midtown East, above the men’s Bergdorf Goodman on 5th Avenue. Command now occupies Jimmy Choo’s former headquarters, an 8,000 square foot office at 750 Lexington Avenue.
At Command, there’s a mentor every student can relate and look up to. There’s a former US Open record holder and two-time Olympic Trials competitor for the student athlete navigating the complex recruitment process, a medical journal-published author with international experience in healthcare policy, infectious diseases, and drug development for the future doctor or scientist, an amici curia brief contributor of the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges for the ambitious writer or future lawyer, and Congressional Award Gold Medalists and Donald Kennedy Public Service Fellow for the avid philanthropist.
How Command Education Works
Command Education only takes 24 students per grade level at any given time to ensure that students are getting the individualized attention they need. Presently, students can work with mentors in many different ways. Most commonly, they choose to work through hourly 1:1 mentoring or through a package that includes unlimited hours, meaning that they can meet with their mentors as frequently as they need. Such mentoring options are separated into various packages. Designed for high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, The Premier Roadmap Package™ is a 12-month package that includes extracurricular and leadership development, non-profit development, resume and cover letter assistance, standardized testing timeline, assistance with applications for contests and awards, and course selection. Services include feedback via videocall, text and email, edits and suggestions on essays and other documents. For seniors, Command offers the Premier Senior Package™ designed to take high school seniors through the college application process, from choosing the perfect schools to writing the most compelling college essays and acing the college alumni interviews.
Command offers specialized options, too, like CommandMed™ and CommandCreative™. Command Med™ is a specialized program designed to offer individualized assistance to high school students interested in applying to combined Bachelor’s/Doctorate of Medicine (BS/MD) programs as well as Bachelor’s/Doctorate of Dental Studies (BS/DDS) programs. Command Creative™ offers guidance and individualized assistance to high school students interested in fiction, poetry, playwriting, screenwriting, or creative non-fiction. The program is catered to each specific student’s needs, from help developing ideas and editing portfolios, to writing query letters and applying for jobs in the industry of their choice, to getting published and winning competitions.
In addition to these various packages, Command has developed a tutoring service. If a student is struggling with a class or with a standardized tests, their mentor will refer them to Command’s tutoring team. Though Command emphasizes passions and projects, they don’t underestimate the importance of excellent SAT or ACT scores, and the demonstration of expertise in a specific subject through high SAT II scores. Students will work with a team of tutors, receive individualized tutoring and improve their grades. Mirroring the team of mentors, students often have more than one specialized tutor: one for each specific SAT or ACT section, SAT Subject Test or class.
Christopher believes his most successful students are those who start their work with mentors at a young age, as early as eighth or ninth grade. He explains a domino effect: students identify their passions early and explore them through classwork and extracurricular activities. Passions shift and change as students grow, allowing them to determine where they truly lie, and to think about their future ambitions. Long-term work with mentors allows students to excel in their passions over time. These are the students who make an impact in their schools and communities. Of course, many students begin their work with Command Education later in their high school careers. This just means mentors and students must accomplish a great deal in a shorter period of time.
THE 5-DAY APPLICATION BOOSTER® CAMP
Many students begin their work with Command the summer before their senior years of high school in preparation for the college application process, attending Command’s week-long Application Booster® Camp. Students fly from all over the world to Command’s NYC headquarters to attend this program, which sells out every year.
At Application Booster® Camp, students work one-on-one with mentors to write their Common Application essays. The benefits of attending the camp are numerous; those who attend finish the Common Application personal statement—the most time consuming portion of college applications—before the start of their senior years. This allows students to focus on the remaining standardized tests they may have to take and earn high grades on their senior year courses, which they send to colleges that winter. Lastly, parents write that checking this off of the to-do list relieves stress on their end as well.
At the Application Booster® Camp, students receive continuous rounds of feedback daily from their mentors, allowing them to accomplish in a week what can take months to finish alone. One student, Amy, who preferred not to use her last name, said that “the best part of Camp was watching the transformation my essays went through to earn me acceptance to Dartmouth. My essay’s first drafts were plain and nondescript, but my instructors showed me what would catch the eye of an admission officer. At the end of Camp, I had become a much better writer.” She was admitted to Dartmouth later that year.
Command’s team of experienced mentors is aware that the personal writing required for college essays can be difficult for students to approach. As such, they take care to walk students through the introspection required for a successful application. David, who asked not to use his last name, was admitted to Harvard after his work with Command. He said, “The guidance I received at Camp writing my Harvard supplement helped me understand the nuance required in crafting a concise, authentic essay. Dan’s commitment to individualized instruction really helped me grow as a writer.”
Between individualized tutoring and 1:1 mentoring, the majority of Command’s students have gone on to achieve their dreams and so much more.
One NYC-based student’s passions lay in environmental sciences and debate. In addition to studying for the SAT, she spent her summers between debate camps and a Black Rock Forest internship in upstate New York. In school, she spearheaded eco-friendly initiatives, raising money through a metal straw sale. Recognizing the importance of discussing issues she was passionate about, she founded a zine at her school with the aim to provide a platform for students to voice issues that were important to them, such as college, social issues and academic pressures. Command’s in-house designer collaborated with the student on both the zine logo and designed the zine itself. This student received an offer of admission from Dartmouth University.
Another student was fascinated by linguistics and philosophy. She spent her summers researching emotional intelligence and language with a Columbia professor. At school, she started a bilingual poetry magazine, for which Command’s in-house designer also completed the design work. She’s received a letter of admission from Columbia University.
By the time students apply for college, Command’s team have helped students to shape unique and interesting resumes and strong transcripts. The process works — 94% of Command’s students are accepted to one or more of their top three schools.
Parents are known to fork over $2,500/hr to work with Command Education’s Senior Mentors and up to $5,000/hr to work with the CEO, Christopher Rim, himself or his Partner, Wafa Muflahi. Yet despite the high price tag, families find the growth they see their students achieve worth every penny. Christopher shared the elated messages he has received from parents and students saved on his phone. “Selecting Christopher and his team to help my daughter apply to the perfect college has been one of the best investments I have made. I want to pass on the good news that my daughter will be joining Wharton. We are over the moon!” wrote the parent of one University of Pennsylvania admit.
Command mentors often receive thrilled messages from their students. At the end of a Premier Roadmap Package®, students have completed countless hours of hard work with their mentors, and more often than not, it pays off. Another email to Christopher shared from the parent of a Stanford admit read, “We were and still are in shock. I honestly can’t thank you enough for everything you and your team did to support [our daughter]. Your guidance is what nailed it.” This is just one example of the many thrilled notes Christopher and his team receive.
Looking forward, Christopher and his team are looking to expand globally. Though they currently work with students from all around the globe, formal expansion into Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Dubai, and the United Kingdom are in the works.
Twitter | @christopherrim @commandedu
Instagram | @chrisrim @commandeducation
Mary Hubbard for Angelo David | The Flex Brush | @Gammaplusna