North Star turns three next week, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has collaborated along the way. I truly appreciate your trust, guidance and support.

I have also been reflecting on why my clients get into top colleges and MBA programs. (98% of my comprehensive clients have been admitted to at least one of their top choice schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Dartmouth and more, with over 5.3 million in scholarships.)

In 2013, just a few months after launching North Star, I wrote this blog about the top characteristics of admitted applicants. I still believe that all of these qualities are crucial. Inherent in this original list is the premise that it’s important to display some fundamental traits that ALL schools are looking for, and that are correlated with future success.

In other words, by approaching the application process thoughtfully, diligently and honestly, my clients demonstrate that they, personally, have qualities that will enable them to contribute and excel. It’s not just about what you have done or accomplished, but who you are as a person.

What are these qualities?

  • Resilience
  • Humility
  • Perseverance
  • Discipline
  • Integrity
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy
  • Kindness
  • Perspective
  • Humor 

There is so much written about how competitive it is to get into elite schools, and while that is undeniably true I believe that the competition is about much more than grades, test scores or brand name academic and professional pedigrees.

This should be extremely reassuring to those of you who are wondering whether or not you have what it takes to get into your dream schools. Many of my clients have low GPA’s, below average test scores and entirely non-traditional backgrounds. Others bring above average credentials, from a numeric perspective.

In either case, they succeed because of their willingness to get personal in their applications, and to tell the schools WHY they have made certain choices, what really matters to them and how they will enhance the community.

I feel truly privileged to hear and curate these stories, and to help you translate what you bring into successful applications. Thank you for an incredibly gratifying three years, and I look forward to many more.


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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
North Star Admissions Consulting