FARGO—Two friends learned a lot about the college admission process as their kids got into elite American universities.
That's why they're putting that insight to use with a new business that aims to share those lessons with other parents and students.
Paula Mehmel and Tammy Goerger held two informational sessions earlier this month for GPS College Navigation Consultants: Guidance for Parents and Students. They'll have another free meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 29, at Elim Lutheran Church, 321 9th St. N., Fargo.
Their own family experiences involve highly competitive schools. Mehmel's two children are now at Harvard, while Goerger has a child at Princeton and two more who graduated from Stanford and Yale.
They got to know each other through their children, who became friends after winning similar awards and following similar academic paths.
"As we were talking, we came to a realization that you learn a lot in the process for applying for competitive schools," Mehmel said.
Goerger, an educator and student counselor advisor, said it can be hard for parents of students around here who aspire to go to an Ivy League institution far outside the Midwest—especially because they might not have officials in their schools who can tell them about that process.
While their own experiences involve some of the nation's top colleges, she said the basics of their business could apply to anyone who wants to make sure their college applications and extracurricular background will give them an edge as they get ready to head to campus.
Mehmel said they can also help parents and teens understand their scholarship options and navigate the financial aid process.
But she said the goal isn't to make prospective students into something that they aren't. That means they won't be writing essays for students or doing work for parents, she said.
"We're not going to say, 'Oh, do this to pretend to be somebody you aren't,' " Mehmel said. "We really want them to be who they are and be successful with who they are." Their advice can start to be used as early as eighth grade, she said, and some of it might not even seem like a big deal before clients learn why college admissions officers might turn a cheek to a seemingly minor decision in high school.
For example, Mehmel said selective universities often frown on applicants who took a study hall rather than a full course load. She advises students to always take a full slate of classes, a sign that they're maximizing their opportunities.
Their work can also help students throughout high school, even in their senior year, as they make decisions about finances, apply for scholarships and pick a school.
Mehmel and Goerger charge $50 per hour for their services. They offer a free consultation to start the process.
Goerger said the response has been good so far, especially because there aren't other college consulting businesses like this in the area.
"I think that they view it as a valuable resource to have because I think neither of us really knew what to expect going into it," she said.
Mehmel said her main goal is to help students figure out what fits their own passions and career goals.
"I've known over the years that there are students that just didn't have the information and so they had doors closed that they didn't even know were doors," she said. "If we can help them see where there are open doors they can walk through, that's the most important thing."
What: GPS College Navigation Consultants: Guidance for Parents and Students