School-advice startup CollegeVine gets $3.1m
By Curt Woodward GLOBE STAFF NOVEMBER 02, 2016
Billionaire investor Gerald Chan has already made his mark buying up much of the real estate in Harvard Square. Now he’s backing an education startup that took root in a Harvard University dorm.
Chan’s Morningside Technology Ventures is leading a $3.1 million investment in CollegeVine, a Cambridge company that recruits college students to serve as mentors and admissions coaches for high school students, the companies announced Wednesday.
CollegeVine will use the money in part to expand the software programs needed to manage a network of student counselors that will soon number 300, and for more robust training and curriculum materials to standardize the advice they give.
The company, founded by four young entrepreneurs, recently hired education-tech entrepreneur Jon Carson as chief executive. Carson said the startup’s success selling parents early versions of its service convinced him there was a significant business.
“They were running this business out of their dorm that was doing almost $100,000 in revenue a month,” Carson said.
Counselors are recruited from campuses around the country and paid about $20 per hour to start, with wages topping $30 per hour for more experienced counselors. High school students provide CollegeVine with information about their educational goals and possible areas of study.
CollegeVine then assigns mentors who help with basics, such as developing a list of target schools and completing application paperwork. For more money, counselors can provide personalized coaching, which may include recommendations about which high school courses to complete and practical examples of work required for a particular college major.
Carson said the focus on college-student mentors has been the key to CollegeVine’s early success. “It’s someone close enough to their age that they can relate to them, but also far enough ahead that they respect them and listen to them,” he said.
CollegeVine is hoping to fill a niche that was once the domain of the school guidance counselor, but now relies much more heavily on private advisers.
Federal officials reported in 2014 that one in five high schools nationwide lacked any guidance counselor on staff. Meanwhile, the Independent Educational Consultants Association, a trade group, said the number of private counselors in the US grew to about 7,500, from 1,400, between 2005 and 2015.
CollegeVine charges students and their families for its services, ranging from about $60 for review of a college-admissions essay, to $4,000 for an “all-you-can-eat, all-year-long mentorship package,” Carson said. The company has already served about 1,100 customers and expects to reach 1,500 by the year’s end.
CollegeVine also pitches its mentorship jobs as a good opportunity for college students looking to go into consulting, finance, and similar professions to add to their resumes, Carson said. “Those kids have a lot to give in the high school mentorship relationship, and those kids are otherwise going to the cafeteria and working for 12 bucks an hour,” he said.
Curt Woodward can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @curtwoodward.