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Alums create EqualApp, an online admissions counseling program

Marc Zawel '04 and Stephen Friedfeld '95 have a mission: To give all students the support they need to successfully apply to college.

Mark Zawel

Marc Zawel '04.

Stephen Friedfeld

Stephen Friedfeld '95.

High school guidance counselors might be responsible for some 200 to 800 students, says Friedfeld, while private admissions consultants can cost between $4,000 and $40,000. So the pair launched EqualApp, an online college admissions counseling program, in August 2010. "We're an affordable, yet personalized solution for parents and students," explains Zawel.

EqualApp's program offers animated lessons on such topics as financial aid, essays and college visits; interactive application tools to help pinpoint the right schools, complete applications, and where to find scholarships; community message boards and live interactive webcasts for support; and on-demand private phone and video consultation provided by a team of former college admissions officers.

The fast-paced instructional videos, complete with cartoon explosions, will appeal to quick-fingered web-browsers and channel surfers; a summary at the end of each lesson ensures, however, that none of the crucial information is missed. Meanwhile, the tools utilize advanced algorithms to help students with the most challenging parts of the application process. "The idea is to communicate and work with students in ways that they're most familiar with," explains Friedfeld.

Zawel is adamant that EqualApp isn't about getting students into an Ivy League school. "It's about matching students with the right school and then helping them get into that school," he says. In fact, one of EqualApp's lessons delivers the reassuring message that there are "hundreds of great colleges" for students with "B" and "C" averages.

EqualApp screenshot

Screenshot of the EqualApp site.

"Having had the opportunity to attend Cornell has changed my life," says Zawel. "What we're doing with EqualApp is giving students a similar opportunity to get admitted to the best schools for them -- schools that will similarly impact them in positive ways."

In an effort to spotlight more accessible schools, the company recently published a ranking of the top 10 best colleges with acceptance rates over 70 percent. Ithaca College made the list; Cornell, unsurprisingly, did not.

EqualApp's greatest current challenge is breaking into a market filled with DVDs, guidebooks, consultants and other web resources, says Zawel. "But we have a differentiated solution, and the families that have used EqualApp love it, so we have validation that it offers real value."

EqualApp logo

EqualApp's logo.

Friedfeld and Zawel both have extensive admissions experience. Zawel was a student ambassador at Cornell and worked with admissions while in graduate school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; he is also the author of "Untangling the Ivy League." Friedfeld served as an assistant dean of Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences and then moved to an associate dean position in Princeton's graduate admissions department while also working as an independent college consultant.

Within EqualApp, Friedfeld serves as chief operations officer and focuses on product development, delivery of the program and the management of the company's team of former college admissions officers. Zawel, who recently earned an MBA, is the company's CEO and works on the sales/marketing side of the business. "We're a good team," Friedfeld says. "There's a lot of trust between us, and our skill sets are really well balanced."

For now, Zawel, Friedfeld and their counselors are running the company virtually, but they plan to open an office in Boston or New York City in the near future.



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